After leaving Munich, Abbey and I took a train across Germany to reach Cologne. The train was the busiest we had been on and we got a taste of what travel will be like in the high season. We had planned ahead and made seat reservations for the journey, but the booking system made a mistake and double booked our seats. Luckily there were a couple seats available in the compartment, so we didn’t have to stand for the entire journey,
In all honesty, Abbey and I didn’t know much about Cologne before visiting. We were only visiting for two reasons. First being that it was a good mid-way point from Munich to Amsterdam so we didn’t have to spend an entire day on the train. Secondly, because a band we liked, The X Ambassadors were performing in Cologne on the night of our arrival. Aside from the concert we didn’t plan to do much and just take it easy while in Cologne.
We arrived in the early afternoon and checked into our AirBnB which was conveniently located just next to the train station. We were unable to book a completely private apartment, but the location made it worth it. We were unsuccessful in buying tickets for the concert online, so our first course of action was to head to the concert venue and hope it wasn’t sold out.
The venue location was very far north from where we were staying in the outskirts of Cologne. We went to the closest metro station and purchased our train tickets. Not all local transit stops have ticket machines, so I decided to purchase two additional tickets that could be used for our journey back home just in case. In other cities we had been in you purchase transit tickets and then validate them upon boarding the train where they become active. I reasoned that we could just validate the additional tickets on our journey home. When we got on the tram to take us north I noticed there was no validation point, but I didn’t think much of it (which I would later regret).
We eventually made it to our train stop north of the city. The area was very residential and did not look like a place for a concert. Nonetheless we followed our Google Map directions through a small neighborhood and a public park and sure enough there was a concert venue on the other side. I don’t know why, but I assumed that the venue would be open during the day (perhaps functioning as a bar or restaurant?) and we could go in and buy tickets. However, this was not the case. The venue was very much closed and the only people around were employees getting things set up for that night. We asked a couple of the venue’s employees about buying tickets but they couldn’t help us and told us to just come back when doors open.
We had arrived very early (in fear of tickets selling out) and doors didn’t open for about three hours. Luckily, there was one restaurant open nearby, so we made our way there to get some food and kill time until we could return to the venue. When we did return a small line was already forming to be let in. We got in line, but I still didn’t see a ticket booth, so my hopes were not very high. Eventually they started letting people in and we made our way to the doors. We asked the person checking tickets if any were still available for purchase and to my surprise he waved us through to the ticket stand inside where we were able to buy two general admission tickets for the concert.
The concert itself was fantastic. Abbey and I had previously seen X Ambassadors live four times in two different states and three different cities and this was theirw best performance yet. The venue was also great because it was small, energetic, and intimate. After the concert we made our way back through the park and neighborhood to wait for the tram back to the city center.
Due to it being so late the tram was not running often and the next one wasn’t going to come for over 20 minutes. Instead of sitting around at the tram stop, Abbey and I decided to pop in the bar just next door for a quick drink before the train arrived. We met some locals in the bar and began chatting them up as we sipped on some delicious local Kolsch beer. The locals were very friendly and one beer turned into several. We eventually realized how late it was getting and decided to leave before tram service stopped for the night. However, the people we met were kind enough to pay for our drinks as a parting gift.
We sat on the train and made the long journey back towards our accommodation. Unfortunately, as we neared our stop, we ran into a problem. On the stop just before ours some ticketing agents boarded the train to preform random ticket checks (the first time we had experienced this). I showed the ticketing agent the two additional tickets I had purchased beforehand and explained my reasoning, but he told me things worked differently in Cologne. Instead of validating pre-purchased tickets at the start of your journey, you are to just buy the ticket when you board the train with no validation required. Since my tickets had been purchased earlier in the day at a different station they were not valid for the journey we were currently on. They took us off the train at our stop and explained everything in a friendly matter as they seemed genuinely understanding. They did make us pay a 60 EUR fine, but it could have been worse as the standard fine is 60 EUR per person.
After a very interesting night, we were very tired the next day. Again, we didn’t have much of anything planned in Cologne, so all we really did the following day was find tasty vegan places to eat and hang out around the AirBnB. The weather was nice but still a bit cold. We didn’t have the energy or money (due to the fine) to do many activities, so a day of rest was about our only option.
The following day (and our last full day in Cologne) was pretty much more of the same. We did go out exploring more and went to the beautiful Cologne Cathedral. I even climbed to the top for some great views of the city. The city of Cologne has a very modern (and almost American) vibe to it just with an enormous gothic cathedral looming over everything. Overall Cologne is a very nice and clean city, but maybe not a great destination for vacationing. However, for our needs (the concert and stop between Munich-Amsterdam) it was a perfect visit.
Oh Cologne. For such a short stay, we had an eventful one. There were a lot of ups and downs that first day with us unsure if we’d even be able to get into the concert, then getting in and getting good standing room, to then realizing the tram was a long wait, to then meeting fun new people and learning German and some German customs, to ending the night with a 60EUR fine. While I wouldn’t necessarily suggest Cologne as a vacation destination, it’s not a bad one or two day stop to add onto a journey.