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Der Anfang vom Ende

A (Ful)bright Future

Der Anfang vom Ende

Olivia Wilkins

With the end of our life in Deutschland drawing near, Alex, Günther, and I are taking a whirlwind tour of NRW, going to places in and around Köln we’ve wanted to visit (or re-visit) before moving back to the States. With the arrival of my mom (Günther’s Oma) on 13. Juni, we’ve gotten to share these experiences and our city.

Brühl

Brühl is a town neighboring Köln, easily accessible by public transport. It first received town privileges in 1285, and from 1567, it was the official residence of the Prince Bishops of Cologne. In addition to the Augustusburg and Falkenlus palaces, which were erected by the Prince Bishops in the 18th century, die Stadt Brühl is home to Phantasialand (an amusement park), the Max-Ernst-Museum (featuring works of the surrealist painter, who was born in Brühl), and other attractions featuring local history and pottery.

 

Less than ten minutes after exiting the number 18 from Köln, we found ourselves in an early afternoon rain which had had been forecast for several hours later. Dodging rain drops, we wound through Brühl to Schlossburger—a burger restaurant showcasing variety ranging from standard hamburgers to specialty gourmet burgers. (I strongly recommend the BBQ burger.) By the time we left the restaurant, the rain had mostly stopped, and we proceeded to the nearby Schloß Augustusburg.

Schloss Augustusburg

As we walked around the large palace, the rain heightened from a drizzle to a steady downpour, so we meandered under relatively-dry tree-cover to the Max-Ernst-Museum. Max Ernst was a painter, among other things, born in Brühl, who dabbled in various media while living in Köln, Paris, New York, and Arizona. His media included watercolors, oil painting, sketches, rubbings, and sculpture, giving the museum a nice spread of artwork.

 Max-Ernst-Museum (photo from  Max-Ernst-Museum )

Max-Ernst-Museum (photo from Max-Ernst-Museum)

By the time we left the museum, the sun had come out and the sky had cleared to blue with large puffy white clouds. We headed back to the Schloß Augustusburg and walked around the beautiful grounds featuring colorful gardens, large fountains, and a lush forest. From the Schloß we walked about 2,5 km to Schloß Valkenlust, a hunting lodge on the edge of the grounds.

Schloss Valkenlust

Schokoladenmuseum

The Rheinland is known for its Kölsch—a clear, all-barley pale ale brewed in Köln—, but I was surprised to learn that it is known for its Schokolade too. Since the 1800s, 120 chocolate factories (only a few of which remain open today) have existed in Köln, making the city a great place to host ein Schokoladenmuseum.

 

The museum, located on the Rheinauhofen peninsula in the Altstadtsüd, is sponsored by Lindt chocolates, and upon entrance to the museum, each patron receives some Lindt milk chocolates made onsite. The museum exhibits included an overview of manufacture, from bean to bar, and even shows visitors the actual production of the chocolates they enjoyed upon their entry. The experience isn’t limited to visual exhibits; patrons are given several opportunities use their smell and taste with ingredient aroma pumps and vanilla wafers dipped in a chocolate fountain.

Güni in front of the chocolate fountain at the Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum in Köln

The museum also showcases the cultural importance of chocolate, starting with its use as a “drink of the gods” in religious rituals in central America and a sign of social status in a world where sugar and other ingredients were afforded only by the highest bidder. Visitors were shown how hollow chocolate figurines are made (including those that are multi-colored) in mold as well as the evolution of packaging and marketing.

Das Schokoladenmuseum at the end of the Rheinauhofen peninsula

We ended our trip in the café, and left feeling quite sick after drinking Eisschokolade (a drink in Germany that is chocolate milk on steroids: chocolate milk with scoops of Vanilleeis) and sharing Dreikönigstorte (a layered torte of dark, milk, and white chocolates) and Mousse au Chocolat.

Bad Münstereifel

Bad Münstereifel is one of Alex’s and my favorite places, and we have been there several times. The first time we visited Bad Münstereifel was in 2014 when Alex visited Europe while I was studying abroad at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. We originally visited the small bath town because of its proximity to the Radioteleskop Effelsberg, but it has come to mean so much more to us. Bad Münstereifel is where we fell in love with Germany. It is also where we bought our Lederhosen and Dirndl (traditional Bavarian clothing, stereotypical garb in American representations of German culture). The town has a lot of the appeal of places like Harpers Ferry, West Virginia—it is very much stuck in older times through its architecture and isolation from the hustle of modern life, making it a great place for a short escape.

 

Visiting Bad Münstereifel was at the top of the list for my mom’s visit to Germany. Rainy weather heralded her visit to Köln, but thankfully the wet weather held off until the evening for our trip. After an hour-and-a-half train ride via Euskirchen, we arrived in Bad Münstereifel, immediately enchanted by its half-timbered houses and running water winding through the city. We meandered through crooked cobbled streets to das Hotel-Restaurant Wolfsschlucht where we enjoyed Schnitzel and goulash. After lunch, we walked around the town and along the old stone walls. Visitors are able to walk atop one of the walls at the top of the town and overlook the city from the pinnacle of a corner tower. After circling through the town, we finished our trip with Kakao at Café am Salzmarkt before heading to der Bahnhof just as der Regen began to pour.

Walls surrounding Bad Münstereifel with the town in the background

der Rhein

 

We finally took a boat ride along the Rhein, giving us a great vantage point of various castles and the mountains that support them. We departed from Bonn, which lies south of Köln along the Rhein and is the former capital of West Germany. We boarded das Schiff Loreley (operated by KD and headed south, passing die Siebengebirge, Bad Godesberg, Rolandsbogen, Königswinter (home to Drachenfels, Bad Honnef, Unkel, and Apollinariskirche before stopping off in Remagen.

 

Remagen is about an hour drive or a two hour boat ride south of Bonn. There, we enjoyed some Eis and walked along der Fluss toward the remains of an old stone bridge. The bridge—named Ludendorff-Brücke—was one of the two bridges left to straddle the Rhein in World War II, allowing the Americans to cross the river in 1945. That year, the bridge collapsed just ten days after its capture by Allied forces, taking 28 American soldiers with it. Today, one end of the bridge houses the Peace Museum Bridge at Remagen.

Remains of Ludendorff Bridge across the Rhein from Remagen.

After about two hours in Remagen, we reboarded das Schiff Loreley on its way back downstream toward Bonn and Köln. Again, we watched as idyllic half-timbered houses, castle ruins, and flourishing towns drifted by before docking at Bonn and returning to Köln, just in time for stormy weather to set in.


In addition to exploring the areas around Köln, my family and I also spent plenty of time in the city we love so much, walking down Venloerstraße from Ehrenfeld to Stadtmitte, meandering between Neumarkt and Rudolfplatz, gazing up at the Kölner Dom, admiring the Rhein from Rheinpark, and sitting on our balcony in Ehrenfeld, listening to the birds and just enjoying the lushness outside our home.

While the last couple of weeks in Köln have been sad, they have been the perfect way to enjoy my last days in Deutschland (for now).