Walking up the east bank of the Rhine, we enjoyed good views across the swollen river towards the centre of Cologne. The cathedral dominated the skyline in the distance. The Rhine itself was flooded, to the extent that the water’s edge lapped at our feet some 300 feet away from where it should have been. I think the red and white pole in the picture marks the river bank.
Over on the west bank, in the heart of the city, it seemed almost as if English was spoken as much as German. It was different here on the east bank. It felt like we were experiencing the “real” Cologne, rather than just the parts in the tourist books. As we walked we saw a couple of dog walkers, but very few other people. Eventually the kids decided they were hungry and wanted something to eat. We stopped off at a bakery, where the schokoladen muffins grabbed their attention. The shop staff didn’t speak English, and our German was rudimentary at best, supplemented by hand signals. We enjoyed the exchange; the woman serving us did too, and the line of customers smiled at the show. Some even bid us farewell with a smile and a wave as we left.
We sat down outside. The kids ate their muffins, then we headed off again.
Our walk took us north, into the Rheinpark, a large 40-acre park which was built for the 1957 Bundesgartenschau (Federal Garden Exhibition) and which was voted Germany’s best park in 2007. In mid December it was not at its busiest or best, though it was still pretty and it is easy to see why this would be a popular place in the summer.
Our main reason for coming to the Rheinpark was to take the cable car back over the river, and to enjoy the bird’s eye view that this would offer. As we wandered through the park we couldn’t see any cable cars in action. I decided to check our guide book (the one I should have read before setting out) which confirmed that the it only operates from March to October. My wife and son do not have a good head for heights and breathed an audible sigh of relief (we last took a cable car in San Diego, when we went up over a massive body of inland water. As the car swayed in the wind, my white-knuckled son said, “At least if the ropes snap we’ll land in the water and be rescued by the boats”. My wife tightened her grip around the metal bars of the cable car, leaving dainty dents in them as her terrified fingers crushed the steelwork, as if it were no more than aluminium foil).
So it was that instead of taking the cable car we had to walk across Zoobrücke, the bridge that stands right next to it.
We got some more good views of the city centre. It was from here that we were able to put the size of the cathedral into proper perspective.
We also got some more perspective on just how flooded the Rhine was. The entire promenade was underwater. Observation posts lined the banks, together with boats fitted out as restaurants, but the gangplanks up to them were flooded. How long before they could open for business again, I wondered?
Looking at inaccessible restaurants made us feel a bit hungry, so went off in search of a cafe that didn’t require us to tread water as we read the menu…
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Südbrücke: N 50° 55.034 E 006° 58.422
- Eating Muffins: N 50° 56.225 E 006° 58.301
- Rheinpark: N 50° 56.959 E 006° 58.488
- Cable Car Station: N 50° 57.004 E 006° 58.830
- Zoobrücke: N 50° 57.272 E 006° 58.528
Walk Statistics (the entire walk, of which this forms the first half):
- Date of Walk: 19 December 2012
- Total distance covered: 8.64 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!