I’d considered booking a hotel breakfast for today, but had supplies of my own to use. This meant I could go back to getting out for a morning run, and then showering and having breakfast whilst getting ready for the day ahead. I wouldn’t need to fit my day around their breakfast schedule. Today, my plan was to explore Köln, hike to Drachenfels, and then embark on the four hour train journey to my final destination: Hamburg.
I’d set my alarm for 06:00, just as I had for most days of this trip. Though I was awake long before this, and had found I’d forgotten to put my phone on charge. Today’s run was across the Hohenzollern bridge, past the Köln Dom, and then around the surrounding area until I crossed back over on the next bridge and ran back to the hotel. This was the start of a new week. This week, I’d be running a marathon in Manchester, and I’d need to think about my runs and time on foot carefully.
With no train to catch until this afternoon, my morning wasn’t rushed. I took my time getting ready to go out, but knowing that the sooner I could get out, the sooner I could get the photographs I wanted, and the more time it’d give me for Drachenburg Schloss, and getting back to Köln for food before the train journey on to Hamburg.
Just after 08:00, I was on the move and travelling light. I’d left my backpack and luggage at the hotel, and had a warm layer, my waterproof jacket, some water, and a snack packed into a light-weight bag I could sling over my shoulders. I headed back to Hohenzollern bridge and crossed it for the second time today. I made stops on the other side to see the Ludwig museum, and then the Köln Dom. I noticed that belfry access opens at 09:00, so decided I’d come back later.
I started with St. Gereon church, which was the farthest in that direction I needed to go. From there I could also see a tower as well, and wondered if it was one people can go up. Considering I was planning to go up the Köln Dom there was no need to find out. On my way back from there I found the Stadt Museum which had a winged car on the roof, painted gold, and has window shutters patterned with white and red triangles. To get to the next sight, I found I was passing the cathedral again, and the belfry had not long opened, so I decided I’d go up now. This was €5 to go up, and has many steps so you have to be prepared for that.
What I thought was about halfway up, but in truth it was hard to tell, there is a room you can enter where you can walk around the bells of one of the spires. Just as I passed one, it struck once for 09:15. They’re not as loud as you may think.
I then continued up the stairs and they lead into a room above the bells. Already at this point it’s a long way above ground, but in the middle of this room there are metal stairs with a cage around them which you can then ascend through another ceiling. I wondered how much higher they could possibly go. These ones took me outside, so that all that was left of the tower was the spire itself. Here, you can go outside properly where there are more stairs, protected by a metal cage, and you can see for miles in every direction. For those that are inclined, there’s also telescopes to look through in a couple of directions.
For this part of the descent there is a one way system back down, but from the room above the bells you then return down the way you came, which although can’t be helped, it’s not the best for COVID-19 safety, and must get quite busy during peak season.
When I finally reached the ground, I headed to the Heinzelmannchenbrunnen fountain, and remembered seeing this when I’d been out on my run earlier. Just as it was earlier, there was no water in there at all. Several minutes further south from there is another sight to see, the St. Maria im Kapitol. From where the entrance is located it almost looks like the entrance to some flats with a courtyard, maybe like a hutong in China. Through there is an open-air courtyard like many you’d see in others such as Salisbury cathdral in the UK. At the back is a door to go into the cathedral itself.
The inside of the cathedral was completely empty of people, so I walked quietly so that my footsteps wouldn’t echo in this vast space. It wasn’t that impressive, but as I was there I took photographs of most of it, and then headed over the road to the Rewe. I’d decided to visit so I could get some supplies for today and tomorrow - I wasn’t sure what I’d find at Drachenfels later, so would want something cold whilst there, or for my long train ride.
With that brief interlude in sightseeing done, I found my way down narrow cobbled sidestreets, ones that almost wouldn’t have been out of place in York if it hadn’t been for the buildings lining them. At the end of them was the Groß St. Martin which is another of the large churches in Köln. The sun was also coming out now, and was promising to be yet warm, sunny day - completely the opposite of my time surrounding Frankfurt.
Everything today was going so well, I was also considerably ahead of schedule. I decided this gave me enough time to look around the cathedral itself. On the way in you have to show someone dressed in red, looking a bit like a cardinal but not, your proof of vaccination or negative test result. They then let you in, and there’s a one way system around the inside.
In the UK I think Lincoln cathedral might just be the best cathedral in the country, but even that has nothing on Köln Dom - it is incredible. Everywhere you look there are vaulted ceilings, and pillars with the roof varying in height between the sides and cavernous middle.
When I’d finished there, I made my way to Köln Hauptbahnhof and bought a ticket to Königswinter for €8.20. It was a shame they didn’t do a two-trip ticket to save money as this is what it’d cost to return as well. Whilst this train was heading back in the direction of Koblenz, where I’d changed trains yesterday, I was only on this one for 42 minutes, so wasn’t on this for as long.
Once out of the station there is a sign that points to Drachenfels, so I followed this, and found my way to an information building with a special train engine outside for climbing steep railways. Thinking this might be fun to have a go on I decided I’d take the train up, have dinner at the top, and then I’d walk back down via the castle. It’s not the most economical way of doing it though - in one direction it’s €10, or €12 for up and down. They tried to sell me it in both directions by telling me it’d take 45 minutes to come back down. I didn’t care, going up on this was already going to save me so much time, I’d have plenty of time to get back down, taking photographs along the way.
The train up makes one stop outside the castle, and then carries on to the top. This takes maybe ten minutes at the most to complete. From there you can enjoy the view, which I did, and then I went inside the building to see what food they had. In this place you pay, take a number, and they deliver to wherever you sit. The best option I could see was the currywurst with fries, so ordered this with a drink for €14.40. The service was also very quick, and the food had a lot of flavour. The currywurst I had there was considerably better than the one I’d tried in Berlin all the way back in 2009. I didn’t realise they could taste that good.
After eating, I noticed they’d got a machine selling souvenir coins, but didn’t have the right change. Obviously there was no choice but to buy a salted caramel ice cream cone as well. From where the restaurant is, it’s possible to go just a little higher to some ruins. The path is initially very steep, but levels off quickly.
The descent from there was very quick, and even with a stop for a viewpoint, I was at the castle entrance by 12:50. To go inside the castle it’s €7.00 - this gives you access to the grounds, the house itself (it’s not really a castle), and the castle museum underneath the house.
I started with the house, and looked around both floors with some speed. The museum underneath didn’t really have anything interesting, but whilst figuring out if there was anything else to see I found my way up a tower in the house where you can go all the way up to just below the flag pole. The spiral staircase for that also seemed to go on forever, but not to the degree the Köln Dom had.
After one lap of the grounds, I then headed the rest of the way down to Königswinter and found only an hour had passed since I’d started the castle tour. I think if I’d excluded that time then the descent probably only took twenty minutes. I do walk quickly though, so wouldn’t want people basing a schedule around that.
I walked to the river, curious what the options would be for taking a boat back to Köln, but as nice as that would have been, the wait would have been too long. I headed back to the train station and found a train via Treisberg would be quick, so I took that. Not that I needed to save time, but considering how my journey from Frankfurt went I didn’t want to take any risks.
Although there was a small delay, I disembarked at Messe/Deutz earlier than I would have done. I walked slowly back to the hotel to collect my luggage, emptied the day bag into my backpack, and started a very slow walk to the Hauptbahnhof. I used some of the time up by looking at what shops they had, and bought some juice to have whilst I waited.
I sat down on platform 4, and with around fifteen minutes to go I noticed the board there said the train had moved to platform 2. I checked the DB application, but it still said platform 4. I queried this at the information desk, and they confirmed it should be platform 4. Minutes later there was an announcement it had moved to platform 2, so quickly made my way between platforms. I still made it before the train did, but the notification from the DB application didn’t happen until the train was pulling into the station. It was a good job I was listening to the station announcements!
This train ride was the longest single journey I had to take at just over four hours. This was considered to be a quick train as well! Fortunately there was power on this train, so I spent this time on my laptop and watching the world pass by outside. Fortunately I’d also got the bits for sandwiches I’d bought earlier as well, so could eat on the train when I needed to.
The four hours, for the most part, passed quickly. At times though, it felt uneasy as there was a passenger across the aisle who wasn’t wearing his mask, and every now and then had fits of coughing. Whilst COVID-19 isn’t something I particularly want, I certainly wouldn’t want to test positive for it before the Manchester Marathon.
At 21:16, the train finally pulled into Hamburg Hauptbahnhof. From there I quickly made my way to the hotel to check-in, it was only ten minutes away on foot, and I already knew that this one was located next to a different ibis as well - so I would get the right one this time.
Having realised that the sunrise time for Hamburg would differ to Berlin, I reviewed my plans for the morning, hoping to still see as much as possible before the tour I’d got booked. I couldn’t imagine getting to see anything else after it - my expectation would be to rush back to the hotel, and to then take the train to the airport. I’d have to wait and see what would happen, for now, I just needed to sleep.
Running: 5.09 miles, Walking: 13 miles, Train: 323.6 miles