The German railway system has its own hotel booking service, which I used to book a 50-euro-a-night hotel within walking distance of Cologne’s main train station and the cathedral. It turned out to be a small hotel on top of a Bavarian restaurant & bar in Cologne’s Altstadt.
In one way, it was a fantastic location for a great price. The hotel was right on the Rhein River, and in fact directly across from the pier for the KD Rhein River cruises. It was neatly placed between the chocolate museum and the cathedral center, and right in Cologne’s cobblestone Altstadt. The breakfast dining area and some rooms (not mine) looked right onto the Rhein River and the pretty little walking path alongside it.
And I can say without any question that the three best meals I had in Germany were all in Cologne’s Altstadt. All I had to do to find something great and for a great price was to walk down the narrow streets looking at the daily specials advertised on the chalkboards in front of the many restaurants. I never paid more than 10 euros for dinner, and there’s not a restaurant, German or otherwise, in the Bay Area that offers the same dishes with such sparkle and flavor at any price. I was particularly surprised how delicious Cologne’s regional dish “Himmel und Äd” turned out to be: it was blood sausage on mashed potatoes, with applesauce on the side, something I’d never have dared to try otherwise, but which turned out to be particularly delicious.
Here’s my hotel looking at it from the Rhein side:
It’s rather nondescript but the restaurant inside was a full-on ethnic style explosion:
The hotel reception desk was three floors up (via narrower back stairs) and my room was another floor up beyond that, and faced over the narrow street behind the hotel. I’d asked for a “ruhiges Zimmer” (a quiet room) but there’s nothing quiet about Cologne’s Altstadt. Next to the back entrace for the hotel’s restaurant was the fast food “Have you had your pork today?” store, and across from that was Papa Joe’s Jazzlokal, allegedly the oldest jazz joint in Europe, and proud of it, too. Everything else up and down that little street was a bar as well, and as I found out, Altstadt is where the cool locals came to party.
Thursday night wasn’t too bad, as great jazz music floated in with the roast pork smells, and that eventually died down to the sound people singing and laughing as they left the bars. It sure wasn’t as quiet as the suburban inn I’d been in near Heidelberg, but it seemed less lonely. Friday night took it a notch higher, and I think Papa Joe’s turned into a Tanzlokal blasting euro-disco for its happy customers. In retrospect, I should have just rolled down the stairs in my lingerie and joined the party. The locals wouldn’t have blinked an eye, and for all I know, everyone else in my hotel was doing just that.
What I did do was I pull myself and my bedding into the bathroom, which didn’t have a window, and slept there. Hey, it wasn’t that traumatic for me: I’m used to being the girl passed out in the bathroom at the wild party. That the party was right outside my hotel room and that I didn’t have a headache in the morning was just a bonus. I did book out, though, and get myself another room in a quieter end of town.