It is rather hard (unless it’s foggy) to miss sight of the twin towered Kölner Dom anywhere around the city of Cologne.
At over 150 metres high, the largest cathedral in Germany is absolutely colossal and was for some time the tallest structure in Europe until the completion of the Eiffel Tower in 1889.
Approaching the Dom via the Hohenzollern railway bridge is utterly delightful even on a cold, overcast day.
Yet, not wanting to be completely upstaged by the city’s ‘biggest’ tourist draw, the Hohenzollern bridge has its own attraction to boast of. Apart from the constant clatter of intercity trains passing across it, the footpath running alongside the tracks is lined by a wall of ‘love locks’: tens of thousands of colourful padlocks in all shapes and sizes and often personalised with proclamations of love locked to the railings by lovestruck owners from all around the world. Not unique to Cologne but certainly the most prolific I’ve come across in Europe, the romantic gesture of couples placing a padlock here and throwing the key over the side into the Rhine as a symbol of their eternal love for each other has been witnessed here since the early Noughties. I read somewhere that there had been attempts to remove the locks, but authorities found the act was futile as the padlocks and chains they removed were only replaced by new ones the following day. It has now become a cherished city tourist attraction and certainly brightens up an overcast day.
The size and scale of the Dom is as sensational on the inside as it is on the outside …
… with stained-glass windows to match …
… but the Dom’s pièce de résistance must be the Shrine of the Three Kings: a beautiful gilded sarcophagus said to contain the remains of the three wise men who presented the newly born baby Jesus with gold, frankincense and myrrh.
For those who have the stamina and the head for heights, then ascending the 500-plus steps of the Dom’s south tower is certainly the best way to appreciate the architectural beauty of this gothic cathedral.
The spiral stairway of the south tower is rather narrow and with a continuous flow of tourist traffic simultaneously ascending and descending it, there is little opportunity to stop and catch one’s breath until one reaches the bell platform two thirds of the way up. Once recovered from the inevitable rheumatic pains caused as a consequence of reaching this point, one can walk around the bell platform in reasonable comfort and marvel at the cathedral’s huge Peter Bell.
Clearly the spiral stairway was never intended for public use and was only supposed to allow maintenance access to the bell platform. Thankfully, in later years someone saw the potential of continuing the journey up to the pinnacle of the tower and installed a modern and wider steel stairway from the bell platform up between the final set of stunning gothic window frames of the tower. As there is no glass in these windows the modern stairway is set well away from the frames so there is no chance of falling out through them.
Stunning views indeed, yet there was one further view of Cologne that had to be seen but could only be witnessed at ground level, and at night:
More on the beautiful Kölner Dom and its history can be found at the official Dom website here.
Celebrating Christmas in Cologne with frolicking elves, seductive baubles and strange interpretations of the nativity