Cologne meetings, day 3

We slept in later today, getting up a bit after 07:00, which felt much more normal than yesterday’s 04:00. We decided to walk up to the area round the Eigelstein-Torburg just north of our hotel to find some breakfast. There were some cafes around, but the only one open only had a choice of a “schnell” continental breakfast, or eggs. We really wanted some muesli or something. We settled on grabbing some bakery items at a BackWerk, which is a cafeteria style bakery with sandwiches and pastries. I had a falafel sandwich on a Turkish roll and a cherry danish while my wife had a chocolate croissant. They were really fresh and good. After that, she grabbed a cappuccino at an Italian cafe that we’d spotted, but which didn’t open until 09:00 – we had to wait a couple of minutes until it was open. They had muesli for breakfast, but again not until 9am.

It’s a very weird cultural difference to Sydney, where all the cafes are open and serving a wide variety of breakfast menu items from 6am.

After a quick stop back at the hotel for me to pick up my bag for today’s meeting, we left together to catch a train to Ehrenfeld, which I’d found as a neighbourhood worth exploring. We walked around some of the streets there, and it was okay, but not especially interesting. I’d suggested to my wife that she could maybe explore this area by herself after I left for my meeting, and then catch the train back to the Hauptbahnhof herself, but it seemed we’d seen everything by 11:00, so we both went to the station and caught our trains in different directions at the same time.

I arrived at Horrem for my meeting a bit early, but a few people were there already. Technical discussions today were on imaging noise, image flare, autofocus performance, and depth sensor measurement.

During the meeting I searched for some nice places to eat dinner on Friday night. I found a wine bar called Henne Weinbar in the Belgian Quarter which does tapas style dishes for sharing. It looks good and has good reviews, so I booked it.

The meeting finished a bit early today as some of the technical sessions ran short, so I left a bit before 15:30 to catch a train back to Cologne and meet my wife. We decided to go to the Roman-Germanic Museum quickly to have a look in there before it closed at 17:00. I wanted to have another look in there after our first visit many years ago, and it promised the bonus of being air conditioned so we could escape the heat of the day a bit. The weather today was 30°C and there seem to be precious few places with air conditioning to get out of it. Unfortunately, the museum seemed to be closed for renovation or something. So instead we walked over to the adjacent Museum Ludwig to look at some modern art instead. The good thing was this museum was open until 18:00, so we could take a more leisurely approach.

We finished a quick tour of the galleries a bit after 17:30, and then began walking to the restaurant Klaaf for dinner. We took a seat inside, though most of the tables and customers were outside. We wanted to be away from the sun and the cigarette smoke, although a lot of smoke drifted in anyway. My wife had a daily special which was a cast iron pan filled with fried potatoes, mixed vegetables, and topped with two fried eggs. I had the bratwurst with fried potatoes and mushroom sauce.

The food was decent, but the meal was spoiled when the previously polite waiter wanted us to pay in cash and looked offended when we asked if we could pay by card. He reluctantly got the card reader machine and then as he handed over the receipt he said pointedly that “the tip is not included”. I assume he must have mistaken us for Americans and assumed we’d be leaving a big tip. But we’re well aware that Germans don’t normally tip and had not been intending to do so. So we left quickly, a sour taste in our mouths.

I stopped at a gelato bar across the square to get a cup with scoops of pomegranate and lemon gelato. Then we walked back to our hotel for the night.

8 thoughts on “Cologne meetings, day 3”

  1. You should have switched to speaking to the waiter only in Italian. If he’s going to guess your nationality, make it challenging!

  2. Oh, Germans absolutely tip! It’s neither as excessive nor as precise as in America (where you have to calculate out 15% or 20%), but there is at least some “rounding up”. For example, if you get a coffee for 2,70€, you’d give 3€ and say something like “passt so” (roughly “that’s alright”). It’s a bit more awkward if the amount to pay is already “round”, in that case for 3€ I’d probably give 20ct. extra. It’s much more confusing than in the US because the amount doesn’t really scale up linearly (so it’s not a constant rate).

    It’s okay for tourists who don’t understand the rule (*we* barely don’t), but if as a German you don’t tip a waiter, they’d be offended. Something must be wrong, then.

    I’m not sure what happened with the card reader situation, though. It would be rude to try to pay the hypothetical 2,70€ coffe from above per card, but if you got a full meal, I assume the total cost easily exceeded 20€ and it is very normal to pay by card then, even by credit card (which is less accepted). In that case, you tell them the amount including tip, and they hand you the device to insert your card and type in the PIN. TThe exchange goes something like: “That’s 27,20€” – “Make it 30€” – “Thanks” and then they hand you the device.

    As a German who’s been living in California for a decade, I’m very atuned to all those little differences among cultures.

    1. Thanks for the tips (pun intended)! Tipping culture is always very tricky to understand in a different country. You always risk offending people if you do the wrong thing.

  3. I can’t overstate how weird the actual amount to tip is. It’s based on “feeling”, and rounding to “nice numbers”. But if you’d round up 29,70€ to 30€, that in turn would likely get you a very sarcastic “thanks”, basically meaning “oh aren’t you *such* a generous person for giving me 30 cents”, whereas that’s totally acceptable for a coffee. But it’s still not a constant rate. Sorry I can’t offer better guidance, there are probably websites that give some semblance of a rule, and again, as a tourist you are granted a lot of leeway.

  4. I’ve also had discussions with my German friends about tipping, and the anecdotal consensus seems to be “we’re not sure, either, it depends”. I’m from Finland, and we don’t (usually!) tip, so I have a hard time with it, either tipping too much or too little.

    To my understanding, Germany is not uniform, either, so Munich and Hamburg are quite different in many respects, and I’d think also tipping, but I haven’t spent that much time in Germany, so can’t really tell.

  5. Tips in germany are usually in the order of 5 to 10 percent (but rounding up to “round” numbers for smaller items which usually amounts to a higher amount) but only if you were satisfied with the service. It is totally fine not to tip if you were (as in this case) not satisfied with the service. Tips are only given for certain services such as a restaurant or cab driver. In case of self service there is no tip given.

    Regarding the breakfast time: Eating breakfast in public is not really common as the norm I think, so this breakfast offers are usually more for tourists (who will usually not get up as early as you) or for students who will also not get up so early. Usual workers may pick up something on the way to work but then wont have time for a full breakfast, so they will pick up more like some bread rolls with cheese / cold cuts or pastries at a bakery.

    1. Yes, we’ve been grabbing things from bakeries, but it’s nice to have a bit more choice and get something like muesli to sit down and eat, for example.

      1. Yes, I agree it is nice. I had such breakfast when visiting a friend in Berlin quite some years ago – at that time it was something more or less “fancy” for the student parts of the city (you would not do this every day). Later I saw it also in Mainz. I always thought of it as something you can only get in university cities but maybe this is not true anymore (cologne has a university of course, but I’m not sure if you can find it for example in my hometown with a population around 100000). Maybe in furniture houses, but this is not the nice fancy variant I’m thinking of ;). The best Müsli I had on a small swiss juggling convention – freshly made with some fruits :).

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