March 25, 2013
We began with a later start today, which was much needed after arriving back at the hotel last night at 1 a.m. after the World Cup Qualifier between Holland and Estonia. The hour and fifteen minute drive to Köln went by quickly as we cruised along the autobahn. Once we arrived, our tour guide Hub led us to the souvenir shop with authentic Schwartz Wald Cuckoo clocks. Most people bought a couple gifts and then we split into smaller groups to tour different parts of the town center.
Hub established a meeting point at the cathedral so we would all meet there to leave to go back on the bus. There were some very busy streets with different shops that both locals and tourists enjoyed despite the unseasonably cold weather. Jasmine Kauka and I enjoyed the local delicacy of a proper German bratwurst; personally, I think it puts the American hot dog to shame.
The meeting point was at a large cathedral dating back to 1250 A.D. Although the Romans initially inhabited Köln, this cathedral is one of the main symbols of the city. People can tour the cathedral for free and go in the cellars below it to see some Roman ruins.
The next stop for the day was to Königswinter for a Rhine River cruise to another city called Remagen. It was a large dinner boat with a group of 40 elderly passengers who cheered and sang to the traditional songs coming from the juke box. Although it was a cloudy cool day, it was so neat with this lively atmosphere and being able to see the scenery of the wineries and little towns along the river. The guide explained to us about certain castle ruins that we saw on the hills, where Beethoven was put in jail for one night and even a 14 million dollar mansion bought by a movie star that was previously the Kazakhstan Embassy.
A winery tour was next on our list of activities. The people at the Mayschoss winery described all the details about the monthly only by-hand maintenance that each vine of grapes required. They also showed us the wine cellars and how the different barrels give different flavors. The winery tour concluded and we went next door for a private good-bye dinner. It was tasty with local dishes of meat and potatoes, pasta salad and some rice; not to mention a whipped cream with cinnamon apple dessert. Aside from the food it was bittersweet. We all enjoyed our trip so much, and although we are tired from the travelling and playing we were not ready to leave.