Cologne is teeming with life and character, from the lush green spaces by the Rhine to the warm culture of seasonal farmers’ markets. Aussie expat Sophie Moran shares her favourite things about her adopted hometown.
1. The Rhine
Situated in western Germany, the mighty Rhine River is the focal point of Cologne. Vast volumes of water continually flow from the Alps all the way to its North Sea delta in the Netherlands, creating an ever changing landscape that all ‘Kölners’ like to enjoy. The banks of the Rhine are a great place to hang out, be it with an ice cream and a stroll or a picnic and a Kölsh, the iconic beer of the region.
2. Bike culture
One of the first things you notice about Cologne is its bike culture. You learn very quickly to look both ways before crossing the bike lane. The city is very flat and fosters bike commuting by providing bike lanes on the footpath almost everywhere you go. I ride my bike to work every day, which is a great way to observe the cycle of the seasons, feel in touch with the community and get some fresh air on the commute. Lining up at the lights during ‘peak hour’ with 8-10 other bikers of all ages always puts a smile on my face, a moment where I feel I am really embracing life in Europe.
3. Green spaces
For me, a favourite part of Cologne is the fantastic use of public space and facilities. Apartment living is the norm here, so when the sun shines, masses of people descend to the parks for a BBQ or to enjoy local scratch match basketball games, table tennis or the new trend – balancing on a slack line between the trees.
Surprisingly to us, we found an Australian Rules football team training in the park. My boyfriend now plays for the Rhineland Lions and has travelled all around Germany playing in the German League.
4. Seasonal produce
On weekends we like to shop at our local market. In Germany, the available fruit and vegetables are heavily dependent on the season. This takes a bit of getting used to, as you can’t always cook your favourite ‘go-to’ recipes. It does however make you learn to appreciate the foods that are in season by trying different vegetables in winter – I’ve discovered kohlrabi (yum!), and making heroes of fruit or vegetables when they are in their season. Most notably is white asparagus season. The hype over this delicacy creates a festive vibe around town – pop up stalls on every street, a buzz of excitement amongst the shoppers and restaurants drawing the crowds with their asparagus-based signature dishes.
5. Sunday, fun day!
In Cologne, all businesses are closed on a Sunday, which encourages you to make your own adventures and develop your hobbies. My boyfriend and I use this opportunity to get out hiking or mountain biking around the region. We love spending time in the forest, creating a mini-break to really unwind after the busy week. I especially love doing this in winter after it has snowed. Getting amongst the winter wonderland is a magical experience.