Misconceptions Abound

In the past, whenever anyone mentioned Germany, my mind instantly formed a negative picture. Images of war-torn cities, concentration camp victims, and hoards of David Hasselhoff fans played like trailers in a movie theater. I just couldn’t understand why anyone aside from frat boys wanting to raise their steins at Oktoberfest would ever want to vacation there. Needless to say, Germany was never on my travel radar of places I must visit.

But I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.

After the delightful and surprising Amsterdam, our cruise ship, the Amacello, brought us to Köln, or Cologne. It was my first experience of Deutschland and I was immediately in awe.

Clockwise from Top Left: Cologne's Town Hall, wood carvings outside of a Christmas market, Cologne's coat of arms, travel buddies for life

Clockwise from Top Left: Cologne’s Town Hall, wood carvings outside of a Christmas market, Cologne’s coat of arms, travel buddies for life

Bundled in our coats and scarves, Mom and I made our way to the tour group for a short walk through the city. Our tour guide—I unfortunately didn’t catch her name—was a quirky, petite woman with a beanie pulled so tightly over her head, I wondered if she had any hair at all. We strolled through alleyways with her jumping from topic to topic covering everything from the architecture to the politics of the city.

Within minutes, I disliked her.

As someone who is very keen on order, I felt as confused as a chameleon in a roomful of Skittles. I didn’t know which tangent I should follow. Eventually, I gave up trying to make sense of how she was telling us the facts and just listened. Once I did that, I found out how funny she was.

Nearly every sentence ended with a quip that you would miss if you weren’t paying attention. She joked about everything: Germany, France, beer drinkers, politicians. It was hilarious and I felt bad that I originally dismissed her.

We walked through Christmas market after Christmas market until we reached one that had the most beautiful location of all.

Kolner Dom Exterior

Kölner Dom, or Cologne Cathedral was absolutely breathtaking. Though it was the first of many cathedrals we would visit, I found this to be the most beautiful, particularly because of its history.  The largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, it took more than six centuries to complete after initial construction began in 1248.  Talk about commitment.  Unfortunately, World War II came along and the cathedral suffered considerable damage from aerial bombs though it was not completely destroyed.

Cologne Cathedral

After straining our necks to try to get a top-to-bottom photo of the twin spires, we made our way inside the place of worship.  Even though it felt colder inside than outside, particularly after sitting in the pews, the cathedral was just as beautiful inside as out.  For someone used to Southern California buildings that are nothing out of the ordinary, the architecture of Kölner Dom was incredible.  Tall, arched ceilings and dots of vibrant color shining through dozens of stained glass windows were everywhere to be found.

Kolner Dom

One of the most spectacular sights was the Shrine of the Three Kings, which is thought to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men (though our guide told us that no one ever really knew who they were so take that information with a grain of salt).  The shrine is covered with gold, silver, and semi-precious stones.  As with most beautiful pieces of art, the pictures don’t do it justice.

Shrine of the Three Kings

How had I not known about Germany’s splendor?  Before I had traveled there, I had never even considered that I would enjoy it.  I was too focused on everything I thought it was to consider that it would be nothing like I had ever expected.  The people were friendly, the architecture was remarkable, and the bretzels, or pretzels as we know it, were delicious.  Had Germany not been included on our river cruise, who knows how long it would have taken me to discover how incredible it is?

The truth is, every country has sordid historical moments.  Beauty and humor can be found in places that were once tarnished and defiled.  You shouldn’t disregard a potentially amazing place—or person—because of an unfavorable past.

You could really miss out on some wonderful adventures if you do.

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17 thoughts on “Misconceptions Abound

  1. Audrey says:

    Beautiful shots! I felt in love with Germany too. There’s something about the warmth of the people, the rich culture, and the stunning architecture that draws you in. I’ve only been to Dusseldorf for a few hour layover to explore the city so I loved getting to hear your thoughts on Cologne and an extended stay in the beautiful country.

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks, Audrey! Germany is a spectacular place with all the castles and culture. If you ever get the chance to return to Germany, which I highly recommend, be sure to check out Cologne. Though, I have a feeling you’ll want to see much much more. Stay tuned for more adventures in Deutschland.

  2. Truth and Cake says:

    Beautiful photos, Jessica! I’ve never visited Germany either and have to admit (even though I’m part German) that it’s never been at the tippy top of my list. There’s no particular reason–it’s just never held the same intrigue as the Czech Republic or Austria or Italy. It looks gorgeous and I’m definitely more inclined to pay a visit after your glowing account. P.S. I found your frustration with your tour guide so funny! I’ve been doing a lot of personality typing lately, and those tangents would have been right up my alley, since that’s exactly the way I think 😉

    • Jessica says:

      Oh Rian, you must check out Germany! I’m part German as well and even though my grandmother just raved and raved about traveling through the country of her ancestors, I just never had any interest. It’s a remarkable place and I can’t wait to share more stories of the other towns I visited. P.S. She really was a pretty funny guide even though I had a hard time following her in the beginning.

  3. Trying to be Conscious says:

    Great post and beautiful photos, Jessica 🙂
    Before living in Switzerland, I wasn’t very much attracted to Germany either. But when I could go to Constance in just an hour train ride, I gave it a try. Since then, I’ve also visited Berlin, Freiburg, and Munich. I enjoyed all of it: the rich food, the beergartens, the friendly people, the old cathedrals, the History. It’d be a miss to visit Europe without going to Germany.

    • Jessica says:

      Why thank you, Cécile! There is so much to be enjoyed in Germany and I’m so glad you got to see a lot of it while you lived near. I think it would be amazing to live a train ride away from another country. It’s funny how I’ve probably seen more of the rest of the world than I have of the States when it would be a train ride away. Stay tuned for the upcoming post about Freiburg (our last stop in Germany) and see if maybe your take of the town was similar to mine.

  4. Rustic Recluse says:

    Germany is absolutely beautiful! I love the small towns just along the Romantic Roads too … more of Bavaria than Germany. And the hopeless war buff that I am, I love visiting Germany for its culture and history 🙂

    • Jessica says:

      As a war buff, I bet you had a fantastic time touring the country. There is so much history in an older place like Germany and I really enjoyed that they do a great job preserving what once was.

  5. filbio says:

    I am so looking to go to Germany, as I have not been there. Terrific pictures and post. Sounds like you had a great vacation.

    • Jessica says:

      I can’t recommend it highly enough. I really recommend checking it out when you get the chance. I would love to go back in the spring or summer when the temps are a little warmer.

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