A close friend of mine who I met travelling in Australia is from Dortmund in Germany, and she enthusiastically told me I must visit. After much saving, I booked a ticket to stay with her in her flat in Bonn, the former capital of West Germany and home to the most famous composer in the world, Beethoven.
The city is small but due to its large university campus, the streets, cafes and bars, are overflowing with fresh faced students that create the atmosphere of the city to be young, vibrant and energetic. My friend being a student herself and living right next to the “strip” of bars, meant that we were incredibly close to the action. Just steps away from beer gardens and bratwurst, it was hard to ignore. People gathered outside under heaters sipping large steins of beers and chatting enthusiastically about assignments, the future and love, whilst bars and clubs played noisy tunes from their speakers forming a constant hum of background noise. As you can imagine, we spent most of our time in Bonn either outside in the area of Nordstadt late at night, or trying to recover hidden from natural light inside my friends flat. Although the attractions we saw were clubs such as Blow Up and Drei Raum Wohnung, there are actually sights to see (other than ones with alcohol in) in the city of Bonn.
A visit to Beethoven’s town house should really be made as it shows an insight into the composer’s life, with scribbles, song sheets and even his last piano. There is a media show nearby where you can learn about his journey as a composer and the struggles he faced. Cycle around this historical area of Munsterplatz taking in breathtaking views of basilica’s before you race past the glistening lavish building of Kurfürstliche Residenz on the way to the Deutsches Museum to learn about what creations Germans have come up with. Visit the Arithmeum for a blend of science, technology and art, or Kunstmuseum Bonn to see 20th century works of art.
We left the small town of Bonn behind us and couch surfed with fellow German students in the city of Cologne for a few days. The city is a historical haven; remnants of Roman life are embedded into the city, stunning architecture clings to churches and post war buildings, whilst real nonchalant vibes float around the city, making all that visit feel incredibly comfortable straight from the start.
Cologne’s Dom is at the heart of it all, taking the centre stage and being known visually as what Cologne looks like. The original landmark of Europe, until the Eiffel Tower was built, the Kolner Dom stands prominently and proud on the horizon. Soaring twin towers ascend to the sky and the pointy spires that line the building looks as if made out of matchsticks. The design is intricate and Gothic, contrasting to the horizon and an obvious homage to historical and traditional Cologne. Wander inside to marvel at Germany’s largest cathedral filled with airy light and stunning stained glass windows that are specifically designed by renowned artists. Similar beauty can be found in the traditional 12 Romanesque Churches that also have stained glass windows, although not on par to those at the Dom. You can learn more about medieval religious art and sculpture at the Museum Schnutgen, and there are many museums in the city that are filled with exhibits on the Roman history that thrives here.
Art is embedded into the city of Cologne as well, whether if it is a trip to the Museum Ludwig to explore modern art from the likes of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, or simply wandering through the city, or should I say “Veedel”– city quarters. The one area that stood out to me the most was the laid back area of Agnesviertel, it had a bohemian vibe to the place as my friend and I wandered street corners taking in funky street art, snacking on pizza and passing independent bookshops and art galleries. I would really recommend spending some time here exploring around at your own leisure, as this area of the city is a real gem to the culture of Cologne. Heading to the historical veedel of Sudstadt is where most of the tourist attractions are and gives you a lovely view of the Rhine, and there are numerous Kolsch (beer) gardens to choose from. Keeping your beer fresh is a priority here, so waiters will always keep your glass topped up with local brew, which can be a little dangerous! Remember that the waiters use your coaster as a bill, putting a line when you have received another beer so be clear when you don’t want another one. As well as this, many of the bars (and clubs for that matter) are extremely pro active with recycling and enhancing the environment, (and the UK should follow this as well) by giving the partyer a token when you buy a bottled beer, if you bring back the beer bottle when empty and the token you receive money- a great concept to push recycling!
There are a number of wonderful parks to stroll around and the university campus is situated right by one of them. If the weather is good, grab your picnic gear and head to your nearest park, it is popular with many students and there are a number of barbecue points you are welcome to use throughout. Another wonderful place for a walk is along the Hohenzollern Bridge where love padlocks have been attached. Row upon row of padlocks, all shapes and sizes, are attached to the meshing of the bridge, acting as a symbol for couples (or friends) love for one another. It truly is a heart warming sight to see, and creates a wonderful image that encapsulates the hope and dreams of many, as well as highlighting what really makes life worth living for, love, and what ever or whoever you might have that for.
Cologne, like Bonn has an eclectic range of night-life, which catalyses and grows on the energy and enthusiasm that merrymakers pour into drinking, partying and socialising. Cologne has a vast type of music scene here, although I would say there is a particular emphasis and interest on punk, indie and rock music (unlike Berlin which focuses heavily on techno and electronic music). We found ourselves being led to an upmarket edgy bar by our couch surfers for overpriced mixers in a basement where the DJ played trance music, and then ending our night in the rock bar- Club Underground where beers were 4 euros and I moshed so much in the crowd, I fell over. Well if you can’t beat em, join em right?