Travel and Culture

A Touch of Cologne

When I was a little girl, I remember my grandmother, Narnie using the Eau de Cologne 4711 and later at the age of 13 I started using it too. I would dab it on my wrists and sprinkle it onto my hankie and I thought I was the bee’s knees. Look out boys! Much later, in my 60s I visited the German city of Cologne, the place where this Eau de Cologne originated.

Cologne, or Köln as it is known, is one of Germany’s largest cities populated by over a million people and situated on the Rhine river. It is also one of the country’s oldest cities – nearly 2000 years old and got its name from the Romans who founded the Ubii (a tribe) village on the Rhine and called it “Colonia”. Although very old, I found Cologne to be a very modern city with high rise buildings and apartments, due to the fact that 95% of the centre of Cologne had been destroyed during World War II and then later rebuilt.


First, my travelling companion and I went on a tour of the Augustusburg Palace which was about a 20-minute bus trip to Brühl, just south of Cologne. This palace, built in the Rococo ornamental style was the summer residence of the prince-bishop, Clement Augustus.  Apparently, it was his favourite residence and no wonder with its beautiful decorated ceilings, walls, staircases and elaborate rooms. It has fabulous gardens and a hunting lodge as well.  One could imagine snorting horses and their exhausted riders including Clement, galloping into this area after a hunt.

Later I bused from my cruise boat moored on the Rhine into the city centre and visited Cologne Cathedral, St Peters. This was not bombed during the war because it had two tall spires and was used as landmark for navigational purposes. These two 515 feet tall spires give the Cathedral a very distinctive look and I heard it was the third tallest twin-spired church in the world. Inside, it was amazingly decorative and beautiful. I was also told that the bones of the Magi, who according to the New Testament were the three men who visited Jesus not long after his birth, were held in this cathedral. There was a most elaborate shrine apparently containing these bones and dedicated for this purpose.cologne_grandparents-nz


Like many Cathedrals it had a crypt containing the bodies of past bishops. As I walked down the steep steps to this crypt, I heard a little boy whisper with shivery excitement to his father, “Come down here, dad. There’s dead people.” I laughed quietly to myself.

There are many Cathedrals in Europe and one gets to visit many of them on a river cruise.  This one, and the one in Budapest were my favourites.

Before I left the city of Cologne, I bought some little bottles of 4711 Eau de Cologne for gifts on my return to New Zealand. And of course, I bought some for myself. Thanks, Narnie.

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