I closed out my European adventure by visiting the German cities of Cologne (Köln) and Marburg.
I woke up relatively early and hit the road for Cologne. I was able to get there without incident (which was, as you know if you’ve read my other blog posts, a miracle in and of itself). Because I’d had issues with parking in nearly every city I had visited, I had done research the night before on the parking situation in Cologne. I was NOT going to be caught unaware again and end up stuck up another alley. Nope.
Cologne is home to many Christmas Markets. Thanks to my handy German Christmas Market website, and the City of Cologne’s website, I knew where the three markets that I wanted to check out were. They were all relatively close by one another, so I figured I’d try and park in the middle of all three. The Parkhaus Heumarkt looked like it was perfectly in the middle of all three markets, according to my Google Maps!
I entered that into the GPS, and was able to get into the lot with no trouble. Also, there was a TON of available parking. Not only was I able to get a prime spot, but I was also able to pull through, negating the issue of having to back my car out in tiny European parking garages.
I walked up the stairs to exit the parking garage and walked out to realize… Parkhaus Heumarkt is the most conveniently located parking garage to ever exist. You exit the garage and find yourself in the center of the Wiehnachtsmarkt! It’s perfect! As it was not yet 10a.m., of course the “Old Market Christmas,” where I had emerged, was still shut down. That was totally fine! My plan was to first check out the Lindt Schokoladen Museum. It opened right at 10, so by the time I walked down there, it should be open! I headed that way slowly, taking my time checking out the empty market.
The Old Town Market is known for their gnomes. According to the Cologne website, “Legend has it that the Heinzelmännchen (house gnomes) performed all sorts of different jobs for the locals of Cologne: they prepared the sausages for the butcher, sewed the clothes for the tailor, and baked the bread for the baker. And so the winding alleys of the “house gnomes Christmas market” are differently themed, just like the guilds of days past.” The Old Town Market was totally and completely gnome-themed. It was spectacular!
From there, I made my way down to the Schokoladen Museum. I walked along the river, enjoying the near perfect weather. I was at the museum about 2 minutes before it opened. Something I found interesting was that I wasn’t the only one! No, people were outside waiting for the doors to open well before 10a.m. I found that interesting.
Once inside, I paid for my ticket, which was I believe 9EUR for students. They offered coat check, but it was 1EUR, and I was feeling cheap, so I skipped it. And I didn’t feel too hot in my coat, or uncomfortable walking around in it. One review on TripAdvisor had said that the museum was uncomfortably hot. I definitely did not think that was the case! I wore my coat and was fine, the whole time.
The museum is very cool! When you get your ticket, you’re given a small piece of chocolate with it. I received a strawberry cheesecake chocolate. It’s not anything I ever would’ve bought myself to try, but it was surprisingly delicious! I’m glad they gave me something different, it was the perfect first piece of chocolate for my day.
The museum walks you through the history of chocolate and where chocolate comes from. The first few rooms you walk through detail how chocolate grows, where it is grown, and how it is brought from where it grows to where it is sold. It’s really fascinating.
Then, you get into the machinery. You’re able to see the chocolate making process. At first I just thought the machines were pretend, or for show. But no. They’re legitimately making chocolate, and it’s amazing to watch!
At one end of the room, they have a giant chocolate fountain. Now, the website does make it sound like you can dip whatever into it and have as much as you want. In actuality, this is not the case. There is someone standing there (actually, the fountain itself does not open right at 10a.m. No one is there to set it up/serve people until 10:20a.m., and a posted sign explains this). This person dips wafers into the chocolate and hands them out to anyone who wants to try! Of course I tried one. Delicious!
The machinery is also super cool. I could’ve watched the chocolate-making process all day. At one point on the machines, they have it set up so you can push a button, and a robotic arm will grab you a piece of chocolate off the assembly line! Amazing! I may or may not have done it more than once… But no one else was around, so it was fine.
From there, I headed upstairs. In this area, you can see them making chocolate by hand, instead of watching the machines turn the cacao beans into chocolate, as you do downstairs. At one station you can watch them make intricate molded chocolate. It’s very cool. They also kind of explain the history of chocolate molds.
Here, you’ll find another one of their main attractions. You can have a chocolate bar custom made for you! I was really tempted to do it, as it is quite affordable (4.95EUR per bar), and I thought it would make a great gift for my brothers. However, it takes about 40 minutes for them to make the bar! I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be in the museum for, and I didn’t want to commit to that. I decided to raid the chocolate store on the first floor instead.
From there, I checked out a few more exhibits that delved even further back into the history of chocolate. This area explained about the Mayans and the Aztecs and their relation to chocolate, as well as discussing how piracy had to do with chocolate. So much fascinating history!
Then, I found out, that wasn’t even all! There was a third floor to the museum. I headed further up the spiral staircase to check it out. I’m so glad I went up there! This is where you can learn about the different chocolate brands. They have information on Milka, Kinder, and even things like KitKats upstairs! They also feature a Lindt Easter Bunny display, which I loved because every year I get at least one Lindt chocolate bunny. Makes me think of VeggieTales!
Finally, it was time to head out of the museum. On the way out, of course I had to raid their chocolate store! I left the Schokoladen Museum about 22EUR poorer, but I did have a ton of chocolate to bring home with me for a chocolate tasting party. My brother had told me, “I expect some high quality chocolate to come home with you,” and I hope I didn’t disappoint.
I really think half of my suitcase on my return trip was chocolate… The other half of it was comprised of the mugs that I bought at each Wiehnachtsmarkt I visited! In Cologne, I knew that I was going to be visiting three Christmas markets, and I wanted to choose the best mug out of the three. I knew that I didn’t have space for a mug from each individual market, and by this point in my trip, I was running low on Euros.
My first stop post-chocolate museum was the Harbor Market of Cologne. This is a newer attraction. I was super excited when I was researching it because they have pirate ships that serve the glühwein, cocoa, and sell mugs all out of the ship! I knew it was something that I wanted to check out while I was in Cologne.
The Harbor Market wasn’t too exciting, though! I felt that it was very small, and the mug was terribly disappointing. I knew right off the bat that I did not want that mug to be my souvenir from Cologne. I continued checking out the market for a little bit before deciding to walk up to the market at the Cathedral (Dom). It was really easy to walk to the Dom without using Google Maps, because the building is GIGANTIC. It is Germany’s most visited landmark, and it towers over all of Cologne.
I simply walked north along the river until I seemed to be close to the church, then turned down side streets until I found myself in the Dom Market. Holy smokes. This was probably one of the busiest markets I visited. It definitely did not help that it was a Friday. Maybe it would have been better to visit on a Tuesday or some other random weekday.
It seemed that a lot of people were starting their weekends early. For some reason, there were literally hundreds of British teenagers running around and being obnoxious, so that made me not want to stay for long. I wandered through the market slowly, and the minute I saw the mug, I bought one because the mug was super cute and pictured the Dom, which I feel makes it even more souvenir-y. After I got my mug, I made my way to the base of the Dom.
This is one HUGE church! The Strasbourg Cathedral was massive. Even the church in Wiesbaden had been impressive, but the Dom in Cologne is simply unbelievable. I knew that I had to get a picture of myself in front of it, so I lurked around until I heard someone who spoke English, then whirled around and begged her to take a picture of me!
Once I had my picture, I headed back into the crowded market. There was an artist sketching these flags in front of the Dom. It was really neat! You could approach him and ask him to do your countries flag, and he had a little list he would consult and then he would draw it! Passers-by would drop change onto their country’s flag. I absolutely would have left some change, but he hadn’t done the US, or even the Philippines, so I just kept walking.
Once back in the market, I stumbled upon this little area where you could have pictures taken for charity. The girl working was super sweet! It was 2EUR to have pictures taken either with the professional camera, or with your phone. She offered to do both for me, and I gladly donated 2EUR. Unfortunately, I was unaware that the camera would take so long, so my first picture is far from glamorous! Instead of 3 – 2 – 1 – FLASH = picture being taken, it was 3 – 2 – 1 – FLASH – 3 – 2 – 1 picture! It was really slow.
Luckily, there was no line, so I donated another 2EUR (I needed to start getting rid of my Euros, I didn’t want to have to exchange them), and took a better picture! Then the girl also snapped a few with my phone. She was so sweet.
I wandered around and made my way back out of the crazy crowded Dom Market. As soon as I was away from the crowds, I felt like I could breathe again! It was just so packed in there, it was insanity.
From there, I headed back to the Old Town Market, where I had parked. I figured I would grab some food and head out. It was so much better at the Old Town Market! Less than half of the crowds that the Dom Market had, and it was literally less than 3 blocks away (although I’ve learned, a “block” is not really a valid measurement of distance in Europe–the streets are all too weird for that!).
I had a blast wandering around the Old Town Market! There was so much to do and see. They had ice skating and all sorts of other fun attractions, but I kept it simple and just got a bite to eat and then walked around. My lunch was absolutely amazing!
After lunch, I noticed that the mugs at the Old Town Market were also amazing… And of course I caved and bought one. As I mentioned above, the Old Town Market is known for it’s gnomes! The Old Town Market is unique because they sell many different mugs. Each mug has a different story and a different gnome pictured on them. I took my time and chose the ice skater princess of Cologne. I wouldn’t know that she was the ice skating princess until later, of course, as it was all in German. But I liked the mug and she was the one who caught my eye first!
With my mug in hand, I went and watched the ice skating for a bit, just taking in the day. I decided to get a waffle for the road and call it a day. The waffles in Cologne, oh. my. goodness. Deliciousness! I got a waffle with chocolate drizzle and whipped cream, and it did not disappear. After inhaling it, it was time to hit the road for home.
I almost left the parking garage without paying–I don’t want to think about what a nightmare that would have been! Luckily, I quickly realized I needed to pay and threw the car back into park, got back out and went to find the kassenautomat (where you pay). Once I paid, I was on my way home!
I couldn’t figure out what was up. My car GPS (a boy), was saying very contradictory things to what my phone GPS (a girl), was saying. I finally got irritated and followed the girl, trusting her to guide me home. I’m cruising down the A3 towards Frankfurt, thinking, “huh… Weird that it wants me to take the A3 so far south! I would’ve thought I needed to take B49 to get back home.” Finally, once I’m seeing signs for Limburg, I realize. Something is truly not right. I shouldn’t need to be this far south to get back to Wetzlar! I pulled over at a gas station and it turns out, the reason for the contradictory instructions is because the girl was taking me to the same address in a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TOWN. Oops! Added about 45 minutes to my return trip, but it was still an easy drive flying back up the A3.
Once I made it home, we hit the road for Marburg, which was about a 35 minute drive. I was grateful to not have to drive into Marburg myself, as Marco had mentioned that parking in Marburg could be a headache. I’d had enough parking headaches during my trip!
We actually did experience parking headaches once we got into Marburg. The garage that we had wanted to park in only had 3 spots left as we reached it, and of course, three cars were pulling in. So we drove around for quite awhile before finding parking! Once parked, we decided to go check out the light show that they were advertising for. This was the opening night of their Wiehnachtsmarkt, so there were tons of special things happening, such as this light show.
We got there about 10 minutes early and just waited for the show! It was interesting… I was expecting a Christmas light show, like the kind that are all over in the States! It was definitely not a Christmas light show, but an interesting, thought-provoking light show about the concept of time. It was really enjoyable, but not what we were expecting! We had a dinner reservation for 6:30p.m., so we headed that way next.
Marburg reminds me of Seattle. If you read my Seattle post, you’ll know that Seattle is built onto a hill. Pike Place literally is on a hill. There are 6 stories of the market. Marburg is similar. You can climb the stairs to get to the next “level” of the town, or there are elevators that people will wait in line to take to the top because the city is literally built into a hill. It really did remind me of how Pike Place is set up in Seattle.
We took the elevators up and then walked to dinner at kostBar. This restaurant was SO COOL. And absolutely delicious! You get to eat in an old wine cellar-like area, and it has the greatest ambiance. A great dining experience.
After dinner, it was time to check out the Christmas Market! Because it was opening night, the market was absolutely SLAMMED. So many bodies crammed into one small area! It was hard to keep track of the kids, it was so busy. We rode the ferris wheel, and that was really neat. The ferris wheel does not charge riders, but a donation is appreciated.
After the ferris wheel ride, we went and got the mug from the Marburg market and made our way back to the car. Luckily, our car was parked right next to a grocery store! I was able to stock up even more on chocolate (I’m not even kidding, I think Kinder chocolate is my favorite thing on this planet). Once I had all the chocolate I could handle, we headed home!
And so ended my whirlwind European adventure. I had the absolutely best time and can’t wait to go back!