First Stop: Cologne!

I first stayed with my family. My friends from high school and I pretty much live in the boonies. Or country-ville. Call it whatever you want. And Saturday was my first big event: My friend’s bachelorette party in Cologne. She had planned on taking five of her girlfriends with her and having a good time in Germany’s media capital. The plan was to rent out a room for all of us, so that we could party until the morning and then ride home after having slept and eaten breakfast somewhere.

Since none of us wanted to take a car, we decided to rely on Germany’s transport: Die Deutsche Bahn (see more stories on this “reliable” mean of travel here). So we took a train from the small town of Bitburg to the big city of Köln. Because of miscommunication, the girls failed to mention to me when exactly this train was taking off from Bitburg. All of a sudden one of my friends calls me in the early afternoon on Saturday, my second day home. “What do you mean you are still having breakfast?,” she practically yelled into my ear. “Don’t you know that our train is leaving in half an hour?” The bun I was munching on fell out of my hand and I didn’t know what to grab first. Completely jet-lagged from the night before I hadn’t communicated with anyone yet aside from my family and thus was not in the clear as to when everything was going down. I had a good 15 mins to take a quick shower, throw a decent party dress and make-up into an overnight bag, and to look halfway awake until my friend’s car held outside of our house. So much to having a good welcome back home!

We still made it all on time to the probably smallest train station ever invented in history and nothing else too eventful happened aside from the RE being only 2 minutes late. Two short minutes sound like a joke to other countries, I know. But times to transfer are very tightly defined in Europe; therefore we were lucky that we did not have to switch trains at any other station.

Two hours later we made it to Cologne’s main train station.There is nothing too extraordinary to see inside the station but once you step outside you’re almost hit with the epitome of this city: the one and only Dome. The Kölner Dom is a roughly 800 year old cathedral symbolizing Roman Catholicism. Its impressive height and black color are the two features that stand out as it towers over the Midtown Köln. I was once “forced” to walk up all of those 533 steps to the top when we did a school trip to this wonderful city and cathedral. I know it took us quite a while until we stood at the very top, completely out of breath, but we had a nice view over the town. It supposedly is the third highest church building in the world and it well deserves this title.

The six of us made our way to the hotel the best friend of the bride-to-be had booked. One thing I found after living in New York for so long is that getting around in other cities becomes less and less difficult. It didn’t take long at all to navigate through the small streets of the city. Distances on the map looked further apart than they actually were. So 7 minutes later we looked up and were in another typical place for Germany: A Turkish Viertel. Yup, our country has a high percentage of Turkish immigrants who all came here from the 60ies on. Initially they were supposed to help out the Germans during the economy bloom that happened in the late fifties, but of course most of the Turks decided to stay for good (not surprisingly, coming from poor parts of Turkey they had a much better chance to raise their families in a healthy and wealthier way than in their home country). Cologne has the reputation of being the city with one of the highest population of Turkish immigrants. We ran across a good amount of them during our stay. I guess my friend had not really considered the “foreign” names of shops and stores surrounding the hotel as “awkward” or out of the ordinary when she booked the rooms. Well, it was a decent spot to be as the rooms offered enough space, enough bathrooms, and even a TV in one. Looking at the cost-product relationship, we had made a pretty sweet deal.

After getting ready and pre-gaming a bit, we made our way towards the inner city of Köln. Past the Dom again. Stopping for some pictures and laughs. Then right into the pedestrian zone, which offers one store next to another. One girl was convinced that we ALL had to wear red roses in our hair, so the rest of us four bachelorette party helpers stopped at an accessories boutique to get some overpriced cute-looking red flowers to clip on our heads. There, first mission accomplished!

Us at dinner

Since the bride was in the mood for Chinese food (for whatever reason I do not know), we wandered around and found one in a small side street away from the commercial zone. The food was good, the portions were huge, and they were served on a wheel, which made everyone want to spin it and try each other’s food. One girl had come up with funny games she wanted everyone to play. One of mine was to dial a random cell phone number and tell the person who picked up about the wedding. After three tries I got a tired male voice on the phone who hung up after ten seconds without saying another word. Fail!

My second role was to convince the bride-to-be about how great her husband-to-be is – constantly. Another friend had to find a total of ten guys throughout the night who were willing to take a picture with her. Both of us got a chance to improve during the game, since we ran across a bachelor group roaming the streets of Cologne. One of the guys humorously proposed to our bachelorette, causing a lot of laughs and giggles from both sides and also forcing me to interfere, as I had to convince her how great her fiancé really was. The other girl shot six guys at once, which was good from her side.

Then we strolled on to the subway station and took it two stops down to an area called “Friesenplatz”. It is here where you will find most of the bars and clubs, one next to another. After a quick hop into a bar where we waited almost forever for our drinks (but we weren’t the only ones, the staff had everyone’s order confused, it appeared) and cheering the group up, we ended up in a club called Club einundfünfzig (Club 51). Here, another girl fulfilled her chore: Buying a cute guy a drink. A different friend had to constantly accompany the bride to the bathroom whenever she felt like she had to go. The music was good, the crowd was fine, and we spent a good 2 hours over there.

Around 2 AM we went to a joint next door called Klapsmühle, roughly translated to “nuthouse” (in the sense of mentally disturbed). Half of the group did not enjoy the time there, as we were first rudely pushed out of the way by the employees who were trying to dump some empty glasses at the bar. And then some other guys just pushed another girl out of their way without even a word of excuse, which really ticked her off. So it happened to be a bad start and only the bachelorette found some good entertainment in the music and the people. Which was fine, it really was her night. At the end, around five o’clock, they started playing old school German songs which only exist during Fasching and that’s when we started rocking the dance floor. I hadn’t had so much fun in a long time. It really makes you appreciate another country’s culture when at least the music is not overgeneralized English trash but simple folklore in native language. We snuck out afterwards and had a late-night snack at a Kebab house. Döner for us, before we took the subway back to our hotel. Supposedly it starts running again at 5:30 in the morning, and we were just in time to catch it. After a couple of hours of sleep, we had a decent German breakfast consisting of yogurt, buns called Brötchen, and delicious cheese before it went back to the Eifel via train.

Kölner U-Bahn aka Subway

An eventful first weekend with a fun bachelorette party had passed and it was one more week to the big wedding.