Cologne

Spring has sprung! Well…not really. Some flowers have bloomed and we have also had some snow. Winter is still trying to hold on but we are finally turning the corner toward some nicer weather. This weekend there was SUNSHINE!!

Sunshine means time for another quick day trip. We headed north to Cologne.

I knew going into this trip that it was going to be a quick get in and get out kind of trip. The kiddos could rest/nap on the car rides there and back (1.5 hours each way) and we would attempt to see as much as possible as quickly as possible before they crashed. Here is what we managed to accomplish:

Chocolate Museum (Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum)

After we parked our car, we headed straight for the river and toward the Chocolate Museum. As mentioned before it was nice and sunny, so we were able to enjoy a little walk by the river on the way to the Museum.

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The Chocolate Museum is extremely popular. It is always busy and there is always a line. I have heard mixed reviews about the museum itself particularly for small children (though it must be good because it feels like everyone in town is there) so I decided to take a different route.

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I had read that you can go into the gift shop and café without going into the museum itself. So that is exactly what we did. We weaved our way around and through the long winding line inside the museum and at the back of the entrance was a really nice large café. It had stunning views overlooking the river.

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(Apparently there is a nice view behind me. I was distracted)

There was a handful of people in the café itself despite the large crowd outside. We had coffee, cake and a children’s hot chocolate.

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(Good to the last bite)

We didn’t get to enjoy the museum itself but it was a happy compromise for us. O seemed to approve.

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German Sport and Olympic Museum

Right next door to the Chocolate Museum is the German Sport and Olympic Museum. This is the real hidden gem.

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This museum as the title implies follows the history of German Sports with a focus on Olympic sports. There are lots of wonderful displays with signs in German and English. Most importantly, there are hands-on activities throughout the museum! There was a balance beam, a long jump, gymnastic bars, balance boards, etc. The list goes on and on. O loved it!

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Then to top it all off, there is a soccer field on the roof of the museum. You can go play a game (or let the kids run wild) with a nice view of the river and city.

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After providing the kids chocolate and a super fun interactive museum, it was my turn to sneak in something I wanted to see.

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral is the icon of the city of Cologne. The cathedral dominates the skyline of the city and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you see it from a distance, you can already tell that it is going to be immense. It still doesn’t prepare you for its colossal size. It is simply massive. (Did I mention it was big?)

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(of course I forgot my fancy camera at home. Bummer!)

Despite the cathedral being there in all its glory, O was not impressed.

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Oh the joys of traveling with toddlers! Needless to say we grabbed a quick late lunch (which is most likely the cause of the meltdown) and headed out of town. Attempting to travel around Europe with two small children can be challenging.

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(This is his “I am mad and not talking to you” face)

We don’t get to see the sites as in depth as we would like (and some we skip all together) but we are trying our best to make the most out of this opportunity. Thanks for following along with us!

Burg Eltz

It has been a cold winter here in Germany. There hasn’t been much snow but it has been chilly. We have been struggling to find things to keep us busy while we have been trapped inside. I should mention that at O’s school they have continued to play outside everyday. I have heard this saying from multiple people we have met here “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” We haven’t fully adapted to the idea of being out in all weather but we are slowly getting there. We are starting to emerge from our winter hibernation and we even managed to sneak in a trip to a castle when the sun was shining.

Burg Eltz is a beautiful castle located about 1.5 hours from us, near Wierschem, Germany. We didn’t do much research but just jumped in the car and went for it since the weather was in our favor. When we arrived we found a large parking lot right next to the hiking trail. The trail is a nice packed dirt path that is rather wide. It runs along the edge of a hill with the Eltzbach river winding in the valley below it.

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The hike was not difficult and was beautiful. Since I did not do my research before coming to the castle, I kept looking around all the surrounding hills to see where the castle was located. I was expecting it to be perched up high somewhere. I could not see any sign of it. We rounded a corner and boom! There she was.

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The castle is sitting in a valley but perched on a natural rock outcropping. The morning fog was still clinging around the edges of the castle giving it a very mystical and medieval feeling.

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The castle is unique in that: 1) It has been owned by the same family since the time it was built until today and 2) the castle was never destroyed by war or other incidents. Most of the castle is in its original state. It is like a little slice of the past hidden in a stunning green valley in the middle of Germany.

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During the summer months, I have heard the castle is very busy with tourists. There are several restaurants, guided tours and a gift shop inside. Everything was closed for the winter when we were there and only a handful of people had made the hike over to see the castle. It made us feel like we had discovered some unknown gem in the middle of the woods.

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(Looking for dragons)

After pausing for a snack (because…kids), we decided to follow the road back to the parking lot instead of the trail. We thought this would be the shorter route and the road is only for the shuttle bus, which was not running at the time. However, if you are going to the castle I do not advise this route, particularly if you are going with kids or if the road is wet/icy. The road ended up being rather steep and it switched back on itself 3 different times. On the positive side, there is a nice overlook at the top of the hill that provides an excellent view.

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If we were to do it again I think the best option would be:

From the parking lot take the trail to the castle. The surprise of the castle coming around that bend in the trail is wonderful. I would also take the trail back to the parking lot. Once back to the starting point, I would then walk down the paved road to the overlook. Enjoy the view and head back to the car.

In my opinion, seeing the castle in the winter is the best time. There are fewer people there and it was free! There is a little hut set up at the entrance to the parking lot. It wasn’t open when we were there but I have a feeling they charge for parking in the summer. The down side to the winter is that you are not able to tour the inside of the castle. I have heard fantastic reviews about the castle tour but honestly that is probably something we would have skipped since we have 2 small children.

It was a perfect little day trip. We got to be outside, enjoy the sun and take in a beautiful castle. The sunshine gave us hope that spring is around the corner!

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