By Jenn Wetli
It has been a long family tradition to give up chocolate for Lent (the 6 weeks leading up to Easter). So, when my middle daughter, who is 16 years old, figured out that Easter Monday is a German national holiday, and that there is a chocolate museum in Cologne (Köln in German), she suggested a day trip.
“There’s a chocolate museum in Cologne!” says my 16-year old daughter.
Just about a two-hour drive up the autobahn from Frankfurt, is Cologne – Germany’s fourth largest city – which is a great day trip. We decided to keep it simple for the afternoon: The Cologne Cathedral (called the Kölner Dom in German), the Lindt Schokoladenmuseum, and Hard Rock Café for lunch.
Our original plan was to visit the Dom in the morning, eat lunch at Hard Rock Cafe (for a taste of American restaurant food and free refills), and then go to the Chocolate Museum. However, we left late so we enjoyed lunch first at the nearby Hard Rock Cafe and then headed to the chocolate museum.
The Köln Cathedral
The Kölner Dom is huge, the largest cathedral in Northern Europe. It’s over 472 feet long (144 m), over 282 feet wide (86 m) and has a spire that reaches 516 feet (157 m) into the air, once the tallest building in the world. Construction took over 600 years.
Originally, the cathedral was built to house the relics of the Three Kings taken to Cologne in the 1200’s, and the relics are kept in an ornately decorated box which is encased in glass. While it is a beautiful box, you will not actually see any bones or other body parts. It is still cool to see the beautiful box prominently displayed behind the altar and think about being in such close proximity to the Three Kings’ remains. You can also climb 533 steps to the top of the bell tower for a small fee (€3 per person), but in the interest of time, we skipped this.
There is convenient parking located right at the base of the cathedral. However, as in all parking garages, choose your parking space carefully. We thought we had a nice spot on the end of the row, near the exit. But we came out to new black marks on our white car where someone cut the corner and drove on. Still, it was a convenient place to park and explore the city on foot.
The façade of Kölner Dom looks dirty. However, it is just the reaction of the sandstone with the sulphuric acid in the rain that changed the color over the years. You can see areas that have been replaced that are lighter. If you look closely, you can see places where it was hit by debris in World War II. The cathedral survived 14 bombings in WWII.
The Chocolate Museum
The Schokolade Museum is owned by Lindt, maker of delicious Lindor balls. It has a self-guided tour on the first floor in both German and English. We learned the history of chocolate, how it is harvested, and how it is processed. There is also a small but very cool green house that shows cacao plants growing in their “native” habitat. You can also see banana plants and other plants not commonly seen outside of the tropics.
Upstairs is a small chocolate factory so that you can see how the chocolate is packaged, taste chocolate from a 3 meter (9 feet) tall chocolate fountain, design your own chocolate bar and see memorabilia from a variety of chocolate companies. As we left the museum, we were each handed a bundle of 4 pieces of chocolate candy. This seems quite a bonus for the family price of €34.
Of course, no visit to the chocolate museum is complete without a stop in the chocolate café. We enjoyed a nice relaxing snack while looking out over the Rhine River. Unfortunately, it hadn’t been more than a couple of hours since lunch, so we were too full to try more than a few chocolates. They all looked delicious!
Traffic was terrible on the way home, which is a common here, but we all agreed that it was a delicious way to spend Easter Monday.
Contributor: Jenn Wetli and her husband have 3 teenage daughters (ages 19, 17, and 13). The oldest daughter goes to college in the US, and the rest of the family lives in Germany on a three-year ex-pat assignment. While in Europe, they hope to see as much of the world as they can and go from novice to world travelers.