The autobahn experience could be described as long periods of boredom intersperced with short bursts of extreme terror. I was glad that in the planning stages of our trip we had quickly discarded the thought of renting a car and driving ourselves around. Actually, it was probably a pretty laid back driving day because there were no trucks to contend with. They have to stay off the roads in Germany on Sundays.

The famous cathedral came into view quite a distance from the city. Its size is really quite impressive.

It took over 600 years to build. Construction began in 1248 and continued until 1473. For awhile there, when the French captured the city, it was even used to store grain. Work did not begin again until the 19th century, and it was finally completed in 1880, but less than a century later it was heavily damaged during the second world war. It wasn't restored completely until 1956.It is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe, and it has the second-tallest spires and the largest facade of any church in the world.

When we arrived in the city, there was some sort of marathon going on, and we kept encountering detour after detour. Just as it seemed we would never reach our destination, we happened upon the entrance to an underground parking garage. Much to our amazement, we were quite close to both the cathedral and our hotel which turned out to amazingly close to each other. Not only that, the train station was right there, too. The hotel is the building with the red lettering to the left of the train station.

We checked in and headed to a friendly little bar across the mall where we consumed several large mugs of German beer. The hotel was another Ibis. These inexpensive hotels manage to exist in the most amazing places. There was actually one right on the edge of the Grand Place in Brussels, and now here was one within shouting distance of one of the most heavily visited tourist destinations in Germany.

It was late afternoon by this time. Jack and Aniko were planning to drive back to their current home in Bitburg from here, and we were planning to catch a train to Munich around noon the next day so after the beer and a visit to a Mr. Bot sausage stand in the railroad station, we said our good-byes. We would see them again at the end of our trip.

We took a little walk up to the cathedral, but the rain began to pour more heavily and we soon returned to the warmth of our room. The weather was dismal, and the area was, to be honest, a bit scary. There were a lot of strange people hanging around the train station, and taxis packed the street across the mall. We expected a noisy night because they were endlessly beeping their horns, but suddenly, about 10:30, they all fell silent.

This was the view from our hotel window.

The weather wasn't much better in the morning, but we wandered around outside the cathedral taking pictures. The tourist information mentioned several interesting museums, but it was Monday so they were all closed.

We strolled down past the train station and across the Hohenzollern Bridge. You can catch a Rhine River boat tour from here, but considering the weather, it wouldn't have been a pleasant experience.

The fence between the sidewalk and the train tracks is covered with locks known as love padlocks. Lovers put their initials on the locks and secure them there to ensure everlasting love, and then they throw the key into the river below. Deutsch Bahn threatened to remove the locks at one point, but there was a huge public outcry so they abandoned that idea.

This is a view of the cathedral and the inevitable scaffolding looking back from the bridge.

Eventually we wandered back to the cathedral and ventured inside.

One of the reasons why so many religious pilgrims visit the Koln cathedral is that it houses a reliquary which is said to contain the bones of the Three Wise Men. The relic was given to the Archbishop of Cologne in 1164 by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

Outside the cathedral there were people dressed as angels.

The history of Koln dates back to 38 BC, and several Roman ruins still exist in the city. This is the remains of a Roman gate which is next to the cathedral.

This is the corner tower of the Roman city wall. The building behind it is a museum.

It was soon time to check out of our room and make the brief walk to the train station.