Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chocolate in Cologne

After our wonderful breakfast, we were off to Cologne. First stop was the Cologne Dom – an amazing Catholic church in downtown Cologne. I had forgotten that chalk artists come to the Dom every day to draw chalk paintings on the concrete surrounding the Dom – and they're incredible! Today there were also several people in costume when we went inside the Dom (angel, Egyptian, Charlie Chaplin, etc.). By the time we came out, only a Charlie Chaplin likeness was still there, and Puddin got her picture taken with him. Punkin decided she'd rather pick out postcards than have a pic with Charlie.

The Dom has been under construction, for one thing or another, for the last 600 years – now it's mostly maintenance. It has wonderful old gargoyles (although a tad scary) on the exterior, and the interior has the most wonderful stained-glass windows I've ever seen. The girls lit a candle in memory of Mama – a special memory of our own. The girls were amazed that the Bishops are actually entombed in the Dom.

When we came out, only the costumed Charlie Chaplin was still there, and Puddin wanted her picture taken with him. Punkin decided she'd rather pick out postcards than get a pic with Charlie. After the pic, Puddin joined in the postcard hunt, and I headed for the bathroom. Luckily I had a one euro coin in my pocket, because it cost half of that to go to the bathroom! Very odd, in that the man taking the money actually went into the bathroom to see if there were any available, and then when a woman came out, he went into the stall to check it.

After the Dom it was time to walk along the Rhine. We walked to the bridge, and found a fence loaded with padlocks – but not for security reasons. It seems that couples add a padlock with their names written/engraved. We need to find out why, but keep forgetting to ask!

The girls were enthralled with the Rhine – we studied it this year in our Classical Conversations co-op, so it was neat to see them make that connection. We then headed down from the bridge to the walkway along the Rhine. We saw a river cruise ship undock, and then... was on to the Chocolate Museum – yum! It was absolutely wonderful, and a bargain – 21 euro for a family pass. When we entered we were given a small piece of Linz chocolate – yum again. Started with a discussion of cocoa trees and where they grow, how the rain forest is disappearing (Hannah “play fainted” when she read that they predict that 3 species go extinct every hour). After that it was into simulated rainforest to feel the temp and humidity – it included a cocoa tree and mango tree, which was pretty neat.

Then it was on to the manufacture of chocolate – each machine was numbered with an explanation of what it did. The machines we saw were making the very same small chocolate bars that we were given when we went in! A worker was giving out wafer cookies dipped in warm chocolate – oh my, was it good. (Diet? What diet?) Then it was upstairs to see them making chocolate hearts and chocolate bunnies (and, to Puddin's delight, chocolate cats). We saw chocolate truffles being made and moving down the conveyor belt, and saw chocolate on a stick, shaped like the Cologne Dom. Luckily for the girls the workers were giving away the flawed Dom stick chocolates, so they had another chocolate treat.

The chocolate museum also included a museum with old wrappers, advertising, and a part that contained the history of eating chocolates. Did you know there used to be chocolate bars (not the Hershey's kind) where you could go and drink chocolate?

The upper floor, which we almost didn't visit, had antique chocolate candy dispensers and had really fun interactive games that the girls loved (see pics). What fun!

After the museum, it was on to the store. I don't think I've ever smelled something so wonderful as that store filled with chocolate. We loaded up our basket – the girls' ballet teacher is going to be very happy!

On the way out we saw a bride and groom coming for their wedding reception – what better place than a chocolate museum!

Then with very tired feet/legs, we had to make the trek back to the Dom where we were parked. We decided at that point it was a very good thing that we had not walked up the 300+ steps to the top of the Dom.

We headed back to our hotel and rested for a few minutes, then My Hero's brother arrived and we headed to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Now we're back at the hotel – the girls and I are in our room, My Hero and his brother are in the restaurant talking and catching up.

Tomorrow is another busy day – Gute Nacht aus Deutschland!

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