The major downside of Cologne was that it is located right on the Rhein. This means that it was nearly completely destroyed during World War II- there is no old city centre like Berlin has. Instead, there are lot of cement tower blocks which are fairly unpleasant. Luckily, the cathedral was only partially damaged, and makes a stunning centre point to the town.
|View from Cologne Cathedral|
The people we met at the hostel told us that Cologne was a pretty ugly city compared to what else is out there in Berlin - and we thought it was fantastic, so who knows what delights Berlin has in store for us.
I booked the holiday straight through Expedia, with hotel and flights together. Hopefully the hotel will be OK- usually I opt for booking a hostel since the staff are so much more helpful and friendly. (I recommend booking directly through HostelWorld - their ratings and reviews section is very dependable)
However, this time, I couldn't resist the idea of a hotel with a indoor pool and sauna.
While living next to Continental Europe - the Brits get quite upset if you call the UK part of Europe - it's the perfect time to see as many countries and cities as possible. But there is a certain seasonality to picking and choosing destinations; some countries come into their own at a certain time of year.
Hot places like Italy, Spain, and Greece are probably all best in spring or Autumn - heading there in the winter means you miss the best beaches, and visiting in summer means it's too hot to move. Thinking about all this, I've decided that Germany, Austria, etc. are probably all best in the cold of winter. These cities are designed for the cold, and for a magical Christmas.
|Christmas Market, Cologne|
A lot of the Christmas traditions we have today like mulled wine, Christmas trees, and Christmas lights, seem to come directly from Germany (correct me if I'm wrong). So what better time of year to go and see what's there?
Plus, the Christmas markets in Germany are unmissable - the perfect shopping experience without being very commercialised, tacky, or crowded. The London high street shops are legendary for their crowds in the run-up to Christmas. I've even heard that people had to line up just to get on the elevator to go to the next floor at Selfridges.
Since booking the trip, I have started to do some tentative research into what's around Berlin (besides the Christmas markets which are the key focus of our trip). I'm not too worried about exactly what we'll do each day - but any recommendations you could pass on would be great.