72 Hours in Cologne: A Leisure Travel Itinerary

For many years, a friend of mine who was studying in Cologne, Germany was inviting me to visit her. We were keep postponing it due to our studies and other responsibilities. During the 2nd week of June 2018, just before the end of my Master’s degree, I spontaneously booked those tickets and finally travelled to Cologne!

Ah, Cologne… is a charming city and a hub of economy and industry. If you haven’t visited Cologne yet, maybe those adjectives I’ve used to describe it aren’t inspiring or promising yet. So please, let me ‘guide’ you to Cologne!

My following itinerary is a leisure one; that is to say, you will read about ways to walk around the city without rush and see the most important sightseeing. I will start with sharing what I learned about the city from my friend’s words and from my own observations.

So let’s start with a little bit of Cologne’s history.

During the World War II, most parts of the city were destroyed. To me, it’s not surprising at all that Germans reconstructed the city considerably fast. By observing people walking, I noticed their firm directional movements that in some way were fast, which led me to consider Germans to be generally hard-working, determined and goal-oriented people. Also, I found people in Cologne to be friendly but distanced at the same time. I’m not sure though whether these characteristics are particularly for Cologne people or generally for Germans, as I haven’t travelled to other German cities (yet). In my opinion their behaviour is shaped by the country’s history relating to the dictatorship and its appointed control by Hitler and Nazi back in time.

Cologne is the the oldest and the 4th largest city in Germany. My friend was saying that is really huge, but living in London, I personally didn’t find Cologne to be that large. I was also informed that some of the core values of Germans are: education, good behaviour and precision, which might further explain locals’ behaviour. Moreover, the largest percentage of the German population is a follower of Christianity.

Day 1 Getting a sense of Cologne

I took the train from the airport to Koln Hbf (2.80 EURO one-way ticket) to begin my exploration in the heart of the city. Stepping out of the train station’s building, I immediately sensed a vibrant atmosphere that was pleasant. Cologne Cathedral with its magnificent and Gothic architecture is a must-see sight, beautiful both from outside and inside. The entrance fee was 2 Euros for students (normally 4 Euros). 

I crossed the Rhine river via the walkable Hohenzollern bridge or the Love Lock Bridge of Cologne, before heading to the busy Heumarkt squareWe had a nice lunch and ice-cream there. We spent leisure time around and enjoyed a beautiful sunset close to the bridge, on the other side of the cathedral.

Hohenzollern bridge/Love Lock Bridge

My friend and I walked to her flat, which was 40-minute walk from there, to relax for a while. Trust me, having a limited time in Cologne didn’t affect the extend to which I could explore the city, as it is very possible to visit many places in less than 2 days. As the sun went down, we ended up at a shisha place called Derwisch. I know it’s not a German thing to do, but locals seemed to socialise and enjoy relaxing time at such places and other cafes or pubs.

Heumarkt square

Day 2 – Boat trip, Chocolate Museum and View from Above

Mediapark

The 2nd day started with a quick breakfast that consisted of a German pastry and coffee. Although they are not the healthiest option, they are delicious. You can find them at many cafes and places in Cologne. Walking towards the centre, we went through the Mediapark, an urban area with modern offices and high buildings.

My friend and I took a 1-hour boat trip along the Rhine, which started at the Konrad-Adenauer-Ufer, close to the Hohenzollern bridge. The trip costs around 10 Euros, and if you have a valid student card you get a discount. You’ll need to check the departures as the boat trips aren’t regular enough and it also depends on which day of the week you are planning to go. Although the sky was cloudy, the trip was still panoramic and worth it! We passed by the Cathedral, the old town, the Chocolate Museum, many bridges and other. It was a nice way to see Cologne from different angles.

Then what? We visited the Kolntriangle Panorama, a skyscraper that offers spectacular views of the Cologne cathedral, the Hohenzollern bridge, Rhine and the city in general! Check the opening hours  and make sure you save time to visit this place! It only costs 3 Euros for adults!

Kolntriangle Panorama

Martinsviertel

Later on, we walked towards the lively Old town again and, of course, a snapshot at one of Cologne’s most photographic place at Martinsviertel couldn’t be missed. The weather wasn’t cold, but the cloudy and rainy sky led us to visit the Schokoladen (Chocolate) Museum for a hot chocolate. There are many options and it is very likely that you won’t easily decide what to order. The price wasn’t too bad (around 5 Euros), baring in mind how delicious it was! I didn’t pay a visit to the museum, but if you fancy educating yourself about the past and present global story of chocolate then don’t even think about it! The price for adults is 11,50 Euros, with discounts for children, students etc.

Day 3 – Botanical Garden and Ludwig Museum

On my last day in Cologne (which wasn’t a full day) I was mostly alone as my friend was at university. It wasn’t difficult to get around using the metro, google maps and intuition. My friend suggested to use the teleferic and see Cologne from above while moving. However, it was closed. Nearby the teleferic station is a huge pathway where you can have a relaxing time and walk by the Rhine.

I visited the Flora and Botanical Garden, which was so beautiful and peaceful. There is no fee as it is located in an open space. I had a nice coffee while reading my book at a cafe located there.  Cologne’s zoo is nearby, but haven’t paid a visit there.

Botanical Garden

Lastly, I visited the Museum Ludwig, which is located opposite the Cologne central station and costs 13 Euros (8.50 Euros for discounted tickets). The Museum houses a collection of contemporary art, including abstract and surrealistic art pieces. It also accommodates exhibitions from various artists around the world. It really worth the visit! Before heading to the airport, my friend came over (with my bag!) and we spent my last moments sitting in front of the Cathedral, ending the exploration where it started.

There are definitely a few more things to do, but it always depends on your interests and time. To find out more about ‘what to do in Cologne’, click here. I highly recommend Cologne to anyone no matter age, and I would recommend to spend 48-72 hours there. I would also recommend to learn some basic German words before visiting, such as ‘Danke’ (=thanks), ‘Bitte’ (=you’re welcome), which will help you getting along with Germans!

Watch out this space… Upcoming posts: Prague, Beirut & Vienna! 

instagram.png vero_oups
Advertisements

48 Hours in Copenhagen, Denmark

Hygee (n): The warmth inside you when you are delighted with sharing intimacy and cosy good moments with others. (Word origin: Danish)

Colourful houses in a Copenhagen's street

In mid February 2018 (off-season) my brother and I travelled to Copenhagen. If you are considering travelling to Denmark in winter, make sure you are prepared to walk in the cold, wear warm clothes, bring your gloves, scarf, hat and long warm jacket.

I did not have any expectations of the city prior to my arrival in Copenhagen as I did not research enough due to my busy schedule. I preferred to learn everything by exploring the city and trying to find more by searching once being there. However, I was aware that it is an expensive city/country.

Due to the cold, my brother and I preferred to explore the city on foot, rather than by bike. The city is really easy to explore, and I would not recommend more than 2-3 days for doing so. However, note that it is very expensive comparing to other European countries that I have been so far (Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, UK, Netherlands, Greece, Cyprus). Keep reading to find out how I managed to keep it low-budget and finally, what stayed with me after this trip.

Would you like to know how we managed to keep our trip low budget? Then continue reading…

  1. We stayed at Hotel Jørgensen, very close to the heart of the centre. It was one of the cheapest hostels at the time I booked it (2 months before travelling there).
  2. On our first night, we wanted to go out for a drink in the city-centre. The Barking Dog has a really nice vibe, loud and nice music and nice drinks. My drink only cost 40DKK! If you rather having a hangover, I would suggest a Pub Crawl, which starts at 8pm. We haven’t tried it ourselves, but a roommate from our hostel who went, had a really fun night, but woke up feeling unwell – so be mindful of that!
  3. We bought food from Lidl for breakfast and snacks, and we saved lots of money!  (e.g., a croissant from Lidl costs 5DKK; elsewhere would cost more than 20DKK). If you are hungry, better crab a hot dog from the food kiosks, which usually cost 30DKK. We had fish n chips from a pub-restaurant at Nyhavn; the portion was considerably small and the price was 100DKK.
  4. We brought our own tea bags from back home, so that we could wake up and make a cup of tea in the hostel, before starting our day!
  5. Coffee and other hot drinks cost approximately 40-50DKK. When you visit Freetown Christiania though, crab a coffee at ‘Cafe Abegrotten‘ for only 20DKK (small one) or 25DKK for a large one! We spent 3 hours at Christiania (‘green light district’), as it is a very colourful, different and alternative area comparing to the rest of the city!
  6. Tivoli Gardens (200DKK with games included) was a great experience! We reconnected with our inner child while spending time here! I recommend visiting in at the evening, as the lights make it so magical! We managed to see the ‘dancing water’ (6-7pm). We spent 4 hours here and it was worth it!
  7. Sightseeing? My brother and I preferred not to pay a visit to all the museums and castles. We took a 3-hour free ‘Grand’ walking tour, where we learned about the history of the city! We only paid admission fee for: the Rundetaarn (25DKK) to see Copenhagen from above while watching the sunset; and for a 1h boat trip (50DKK) to end our trip by seeing the city and its monuments from a different perspective. The admission for the Botanical Garden was free.
  8. We walked by almost all the other must-to-see places, like the City HallRosenborg Castle, Kongens HaveAmalienborg PalaceChristiansborg Palace, Nikolaj ChurchChurchillparkenSt. Alban’s ChurchGefionspringvandetThe Little Mermaid, The Royal Danish Opera HouseBørsenStrøget.
  9.  Overall, my 48-hour trip to Copenhagen cost 1830DKK (around 217GBP/246 euros), including accommodation for two people. Not too bad, right?!

What stayed with me after this trip? 

The danish word ‘hygee’ (pronounced hoo-gah) mentioned in the beginning of  this post, can sum-up both the feeling I got from the people living in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the time spent with my brother. The fact that we travelled during low-tourist season, might made it easier for me to observe that.

The slow pace and lightness in their free body flow and direct but very flexible movements made me sense a city where people are chilled, calm, mostly always having smiley faces (even when they are walking alone), friendly, down-to-earth and non-judgmental. Generally, people appeared to be connected to themselves and roots. People in Copenhagen seem to strictly follow rules, the city is really clean and it is a place where it is easy to start a conversation with a stranger and make new friends.

Surprisingly enough, I only saw a few people from different cultures living in Copenhagen. A Bangladeshi gentleman we met who lives in Copenhagen told us that he believes that is the reason why people are so nice, obedient and peaceful. London, where I currently live while writing this post, is a multicultural big and ‘loud’ city. A short escape to Denmark made me connect more to the qualities I prefer the most; lightness, quietness, peacefulness, slowness, openness and space. Now, I am not surprised why Denmark is considered to be one of the most happiest countries in the whole world!

 

 

Kongens Have

Kongens Have

Rosenborg Castle

Rosenborg Castle

Rundetaarn

Rundetaarn

Freetown Christiania

Freetown Christiania

Rundetaarn

Copenhagen from above from Rundetaarn (The Round Tower)

Børsen

Børsen

Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens

Nyhavn

Boat Trip starting from Nyhavn

Freetown Christiania

Freetown Christiania

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

Nyhavn

Nyhavn

Where do I belong?: Inner peace begins the moment you accept changes.

Saudade (noun): The love and nostalgia that remains after a journey ended and you want to go back where you were or to the people you were with. 

After a long holiday back home I came back to the UK to continue my studies. When I say home, I refer to Cyprus; my birthplace, my origin, the place I have lived most of my life, where all my favourite people are, where I grew up and where I owe gratefulness for the person I am today.

Those two months spent there, I realised a lot of things for the first time. How much people changed, how much London and a psychotherapy course has changed me, how much confused and lost I feel concerning “where do I belong?“. The feeling of going back home has been always common; affection, impatience and excitement. But this time, it was different… It was like I knew what I was about to face. Seeing people still experiencing economical crisis and its consequences or other psychological problems that have to do with family, loneliness etc.

I wanted to have fun. I wanted to enjoy my time with my beloved people. I wanted to relax and come closer to myself, sea and nature. Where was all that? I suddenly became impatient to leave my country. But I did not want to go back to the chaos of London, a city that I adore but has been too much for me the previous year. I felt lost. Where is the right place for me right now? What shall I do? Where are my people? Who are these people I am surrounded by? Who am I? These questions have been traveling in my head every single day, which took all the energy I had and eventually made me feel drained and continuously sad.

I decided to start acting to change my mood… my holiday mood. I was pushing people to go out and do things that we used to do. This did not work as I hoped so, as my people were not the ones I knew for many years. Nevertheless, we were still seeing each other and spending some time together. I also had to get used to not having some people in my life like they used to be anymore. And why was that? For no specific reason, I guess. People have their own problems and usually, they prefer to experience it alone by themselves or with a certain number of people. This might make you feel rejected and disappointed, but this is life… I also had to accept this fact, and believe me… it was very difficult.

I philosophized my experience and my negative emotions and concluded that there are transitional stages in our lives that only when we accept them and become ready to let go, we can move on. No matter how hard and painful it is, and no matter how weak we feel at that time, we have to let go. And it’s a matter of time. Adulthood is difficult and not everyone is mature at the level we want them to be. Not everyone can communicate at the level we do. Not everyone wants to try harder to maintain happiness and friendships.

Everyone chooses their own path, or their own poison… You are the one who is going to take charge of your own happiness and your own path. When you conceptualize things, sometimes they may seem and sound awful. But if you change that thinking, if you think more clearly, if you remember the good things and accept all the changes in your life, you will be able to keep walking in life, to forget people, to accept new chances and to live a better life.

summer2017

I used this ‘poison’ of reality to help me overcome my pain. This summer I came closer to my family, and my social circle decreased. This summer was the hardest of all for me and I did not enjoy my time as much as I wanted to. However, this summer I became much more mature and I learned to accept transitions in life. This summer I put new goals for the following year. This summer my way of thinking has changed significantly. At the end of this summer I was able to recharge my batteries and enjoy every single moment with the people I still love the most.

Now, although I know that not everything is the same back home, I still want to go back on my next holidays and I did not mind coming back to the ‘chaos’ of London. Love and nostalgia has remained inside me after this journey, and I want to go back where and with whom I was…

Reconnecting with myself in Menorca, Spain

2016 – 2017 has been a difficult year for me; having moved to London, I experienced lots of obstacles and unexpected circumstances. From a patient and optimistic person I ended up being impatient and pessimistic. Due to overload of work, I tried hard to find time for myself at least once or twice per week. This has been a big struggle for me, a person who, no matter what, finds time to sit down alone, read a book, write a poem, dance or simply admire a beautiful sunset.

On becoming a psychotherapist – this does not mean that I am superwoman who never gets hurt and is always optimistic and strong. I still aim to find inner peace whatever the situations are and to find hope in any continuous difficulties.

Once the academic year finished, I booked tickets for my 3rd solo trip to re-find that inner peace, to spend time with myself and to celebrate my ‘survival’ in a chaotic cosmopolitan city that can be considered very beautiful only when you are okay with yourself.

Being a big Spain-lover, I chose Menorca as my destination – a Balearic island in the Mediterranean Sea. My decision was just perfect. The trip was quite short (27-30/07/2017) but still worth every single moment. By the time I landed in Menorca, I immediately felt like being ‘home’. The roads, the vibe, the air… something in it.

From Maó Airport I took the express bus, which I pre-booked online, and travelled to Ciutadella where I stayed in ‘Hotel Balear’. Ciutadella is an attractive city that combines old architecture and beauty. This city was destroyed following the Turkish invasion in 1558 and was rebuilt in the 17th century.

On my first day, I simply walked down the streets of the city centre and the picturesque harbor. Throughout my whole stay, I noticed locals, families and friends, and tourists enjoying their time with a smile on their face, walking with ‘light, free and slow movements’, what is known in Laban Analysis as the ‘passion drive’. These allow the human eye to notice leisure, happiness and warmth within simplicity.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sky, outdoor, close-up and water

On my second day, I spend a whole day at the beach. I took the bus 52 to Cala Galdana and from there I walked around 37 minutes to reach Cala Macarella. The turquoise water alongside the surrounded mountains can only describe the alluring scenery, but cannot describe my mixed feelings of relaxation, peace and happiness. I just let the rhythm of the water and various shades of blue set both my soul and mind free. Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, ocean, sky, plant, outdoor, nature, close-up and water

The following day I decided to take advantage of the ‘couchsurfing’, an application which may be used to stay at a local’s home, meet locals or other travelers, join an event etc.. I met a local guy who was very polite and happy to show me around his city, Maó (the capital of Menorca) as well as to give me suggestions about things to do.

It was nice to have a local who can tell you more about the country, the people, the lifestyle… As recommended by him, I enjoyed a unique one-hour boat trip, from which I found out that Menorca has been a British colony (1708-1782) that was also reflected from some buildings and architecture that I saw on board.

On my way back to Ciutadella, I decided to not end my day as that was my last night in Menorca. I went to the harbor where I enjoyed the sunset alongside with a cocktail in a rooftop bar. The day after, although the weather was bad (rainy and windy) I spent my last hours shopping for myself and family. I cannot describe how much I adore Spanish fashion…! That was my last must-to-do thing in Menorca.

Once I returned back to London I felt refreshed, reconnected with myself, relaxed and ready for the summer. I realised that my ‘strong, direct, quick and bound movements’ have changed due to a ‘Menorcan effect’. However, as London typically combines the aforementioned ‘robotic/mechanistic’ movement preferences due to rushing and its busy life, I cannot adopt this in my everyday life for a long time. At least I am conscious about it and I understand why is that and how I can change it even slightly.

If you are brave enough to sit with your emotions and acknowledge your painful but true feelings, you are strong enough to overcome any obstacles with patience and open heart. Never be afraid to see your heart, never be afraid to meet yourself, and never be afraid to travel alone either internally or abroad.