Germany diary, day 6

Wednesday, 3 October, 2018

We woke up a bit early and prepared for the day, having showers and getting dressed for the chilly weather. M. had bought a puffy down jacket and vest and wanted to cut the tags off so she could wear then, so I went to reception and asked to borrow a pair of scissors.

After preparing for the day, we set out, intending to visit some of the museums, as they would be just about the only things open on the German Reunification Day public holiday. But some bakeries and cafes were open, fortunately, so we were able to get food and drink throughout the day.

Our first stop was a place that M. had found on her wanderings the past two days: Cafe Rico, out past the western side of the Neumarkt plaza. We entered to find nearly all the tables reserved, presumably for people wanting to book a nice breakfast out on the holiday. A waiter showed us to one of only two small bar-style tables with tall stool that were available. M. had a slice of apfelstreusel cake and a latte macchiato. I had some Florentiner-kirsch, which was an almondy cake with lots of cherries in it. I asked for apfelstreusel, but they brought a slice of apple strudel. When I said no, streusel, it took the waiter a second, and then he went, “Oh, strOYsel!” So now I know how to pronounce that properly and avoid confusion in the future.

Florentiner-kirsch at Cafe Rico

While we were there, a photographer and an assistant were setting up food and drink items that were being brought out from the kitchen on one of the tables, illuminating them with an LED light panel, and taking photos of them. Presumably they were shooting new photos for the web site or something.

Apfelstreusel cake
Apfelstreusel cake at Cafe Rico

We left a bit after 10:00, when the museums opened. The closest one was the Museum Schnütgen, a museum of Middle Ages art, located in St Cäcilien’s church not far from Neumarkt. Unfortunately when we got there, we found the museum closed. I guess being one of the smaller museums it decided to stay closed for the holiday. Next we tried the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln (MAKK), which is a museum of art and design, containing handicrafts, homewares, and decorative arts through the ages. When we got there we saw a handful of people waiting outside the front door, and wondered if it too was closed, or was going to open late or something. But then they put cigarettes out and went in through the door, pushing it open! They were just outside having a smoke break. We followed, but once inside we saw the admission sign and it said that the permanent exhibits were temporarily closed, the only thing you could do was pay for the special exhibit. We decided against doing this and looked to the next museum on our list.

Green lovers
Fastnachtsbrunnen fountain outside Wallraf-Richartz Museum

This was the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, the main art museum of Cologne, containing European art from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century. We started in the basement, with the 19th century art, which included a lot of impressionism: Monet, Sisley, Renoir, etc. It also had some of the artwork styles leading up to the development of impressionism, including a few pieces by Van Gogh. Next we tackled the first floor, which was mostly Middle Ages religious art, with lots of church altarpieces done in browns and gold leaf, but there were also some very richly coloured works with bright reds and blues. Finally we went up to the second floor where the art progressed into Dutch masters and Renaissance styles. The museum had a third floor, with styles between the Renaissance and 19th century, but it was closed for renovations. Nevertheless, what we saw was a solid collection.

Artwork in Wallraf-Richartz Museum

After filling up on art, we decided to take a lunch break as it was about 13:00. We went to Bäckerei Merzenich, one of the chain bakeries where we’d had a stop on Sunday, on a corner of Hohestrasse. They had quiches in two types, one with vegetables, and we confirmed it was vegetarian before M. ordered one to be heated up for her lunch. I chose a bread roll filled with ham, cheese, and salad. It was not very big, and I decided after M.’s urging to add another small bread roll, with a thick slice of cheese in it.

Bakery roll
Bread roll at Bäckerei Merzenich

After our lunch, we visited another museum, the Museum Ludwig, which is behind the Roman Museum, next to the cathedral. On the way we walked past the Heinzelmännchenbrunnen, a fountain dedicated to the Heinzelmännchen, a mythical race of gnomes native to the Cologne area.


The Museum Ludwig is a museum of modern art, so we were now entering the 20th century. This museum was housed in a more modern building and was physically larger, but more spread out. The basement level was dedicated to a single artist, Gabriele Münter, a German expressionist. Her works included mostly painting, but also some photography. The exhibit traced the development of her style over the years, encompassing portraiture, landscape, industrial scenes, paintings inspired by children’s drawings, and abstraction.

Winter landscape, Münter
Painting by Gabriele Münter

The upper floors had many works by Picasso in a dedicated section, as well as a large pop art area with works by Lichtenstein and Warhol. There was some surrealism, and then there were other more modern works including abstracts and colour fields by Pollock and Rothko, among others. Some of the works were really good, while others were a bit puzzling and didn’t appeal to us as much. The museum also had a rooftop area where we went outside, with a view across to the nearby cathedral, which was nice.

Museum Ludwig symmetry
Museum Ludwig

After exhausting ourselves on art for the afternoon, we took another break. We thought we’d walk down towards the river and see if we could find a nice place to sit and have a drink. But on the way we passed Cafe Fassbender, which looked like a fancy chocolate and cake shop, so we stopped there and managed to get a table in the busy cafe section. It was an old style tea room with plush chairs and dainty tables and patterned wallpaper, with people having tea from delicate china cups. M. got a coffee, while I wanted a refreshing cold drink, so ordered the freshly squeezed lemon juice with cold water. And it turned out to be just that, being ridiculously sour when I tasted it. I added a sachet of sugar, which took the edge off a bit, but it was still quite sour.

To eat, I asked for the cheesecake with almond base, which looked good. M. wanted one of the “gingerbread biscuits”, and the waitress asked twice before writing something down. But when she brought our order she had a slice of cake with green fruit inside, and asked M. if that’s what she meant. M. said no, and the waitress asked her to come over to the counter and show her what she wanted. A minute after returning, the waitress appeared with a Lebkuchen heart with “Macho” written on it in icing. It was still wrapped in the plastic wrapper and had the string attached, meant for hanging it as a decoration before eating.

Cheesacake, Cafe Fassbender
Cheesecake at Cafe Fassbender

As we relaxed and had our afternoon tea snack, the crowd of other people slowly drifted out, though there were still occasional people coming in for cakes after 17:00. We figured that German people can’t spoil their appetite for dinner with cakes late in the afternoon. We went downstairs to use the loo before we left, then headed out for one last stop before dinner.

Approaching Kölner Dom
View of Cologne Cathedral along street

We walked over to the cathedral and entered. This time there was no service in progress, so we could walk around a bit more, up as far as the area in front of the altar. However the semicircular walkway behind the altar, where you could see the reliquary of the Three Wise Men, was closed, with a sign saying it was only open for limited hours each day. But still, it was good to walk around the huge interior again after our first visit here so many years ago. The area in the right transept I remembered as being full of scaffolding last time, but it was clear now, the renovations in that area obviously having been completed. We also went down into the crypt to see that small chapel there and the tunnel where they bury the bishops.

Cologne Cathedral transept

After doing a circuit of the cathedral we left to walk down to the waterfront by the river, to soak in a bit of the evening before heading to dinner. It was nice in the early evening light, though cold as the sun went down. A lot of people were around in this area, the Park Rheingarten, several playing around on the rather interesting fountain that created a stream of water over valleys in the cobblestones, set with large bronze blocks with steps and angles cut into them.

Rheingarten, Cologne
Park Rheingarten

About 18:50 we went early to our dinner reservation at MaiBeck. Many of the tables already had people eating dinner, and we only had a choice of three small tables for two away from the windows. The staff spoke English well and gave us menus with English translations. There were a few good looking choices of vegetarian dishes and M. chose the starter of frisée salad with purple potato, plum, and mustard from Monschau, followed by a main of ricotta gnocchetti, local tomatoes, tarragon, and salted ricotta. I chose the grilled and glazed LIVAR pork belly with peppers and pears for a starter, followed by Icelandic cod fillet from Gudmundur, eggplant, braised cucumber, bulgur, and dill. With the food we ordered glasses of Riesling, which was from the Mosel River region. This was very good, sharp and citrusy leading into a lingering aftertaste of typical Riesling stoniness. Indeed, the name of the wine was “Riesling Graushieffer”, which I looked up and means “grey slate”.

Frisée salad with purple potato, plum, and Monschau mustard
Frisée salad with purple potato, plum, and Monschau mustard at MaiBeck

All of this was presaged by a wooden box of bread with salted butter. There were four small slices each of a dense, oval-shaped white bread, and a very dark rye with a very crispy crust, which was rich and flavourful. The bread was so good we finished it off quickly and the waiter came and asked if we wanted more. So I said yes, why not, and we got another serve of eight slices! M. had had enough though so I ate a few slices and then when nobody was looking she stuffed the remaining four slices into the paper bag which contained the bread rolls she’d bought earlier for tomorrow’s breakfast.

LiVar pork belly with peppers and pears
LiVar pork belly with peppers and pears at MaiBeck

The meal was really good. M. loved the purple potato and mustard sauce on her salad, and my pork belly came with some really crunchy sort of crumble with it to mix up the textures. The pear on it was spiced with salt and chilli, and all together it made an amazing dish. Our mains were both good too, but for each of us the starter course was the best. After this, I thought about some dessert. There were a couple of things on the menu which seemed very filling, so I chose to ask about the ice cream and sorbet flavours. The waited said they were apple and mountain peach. This sounded great, so I ordered some of each. They were sorbets, served with crumble, a dollop of soft meringue, and red currants. Both flavours were richly fruity and very tart, so the sweetness of the meringue was a lovely complement. It was really good and ranks easily among some of the best ice creams I’ve ever had.

Icelandic cod fillet from Gudmundur, eggplant, braised cucumber, bulgur, and dill
Icelandic cod fillet from Gudmundur, eggplant, braised cucumber, bulgur, and dill at MaiBeck

After this amazing dinner we walked slowly back to our hotel along the river. We were both so exhausted that we decided to have showers in the morning and instead just crashed for the night. I set an alarm for 07:00 so we would have time to prepare in the morning and leave in time to catch our train to Limburg.

One Response to “Germany diary, day 6”

  1. Robin says:

    You had bad luck with the first two museums. Unfortunately the City of Cologne has problems with neglected or badly built infrastructure. The Museum Schnütgen, despite being in a new building, has problems with it’s technical systems, requiring it to shut down sometimes while they are being fixed, and the MAKK is currently being renovated due to the building deteriorating.

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