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Sailing the River Rhine Part 8: Contrasts in Koblenz and Cologne


The distance from Koblenz, heading north on the Rhine to Cologne (Köln) is about 70 miles. It’s easy to confuse the two cities on a German map because to foreigners the names seem similar. But they are so different.

The distance from Koblenz, heading north on the Rhine to Cologne (Köln) is about 70 miles. It’s easy to confuse the two cities on a German map because to foreigners the names seem similar. But they are so different. Koblenz has a stable population of around 110,000 that has not changed that much in a third of a century, whereas Cologne, the region’s cultural hub with its High Gothic twin-spired cathedral, is still growing a little from 976,000 in 1980 to more than one million residents in 2013.

Koblenz is a fun town; Cologne can sometimes seem a crowded city.

The Uniworld Rhine Basin map.

We had walked fairly systematically through Koblenz two years ago with a German guide, Gerd Reis, lent to us by Historic Highlights of Germany since Koblenz was one of its 14 cities. We were using Rail Europe then to explore Western Germany. But when we looked at this confluence of the Moselle and the Rhine we thought this would be a great place to visit by river boat. And now here we are again, this time with Uniworld.

The two rivers Moselle and Rhine meet in Koblenz. It’s all walkable but the Uniworld coaches are there for longer distances. Street art can be immense.

Successful street art never gets changed. Here in Mint Place (top image) is the local Market Wife who asks the policeman to clean up what a dog has just urinated on — her basket. The middle image is more poignant: three of the “Stumblestones” inserted on to some German cobblestones after World War II to publicize how Nazi Germany treated the Jews; the brass tablets are in front of homes whose occupants were dragged out and sent to the prison camps. Bottom image: a more serene scene.

This town is small enough to be walked easily. A smart phone with a map app can be preloaded and used offline to help you find a destination.


German towns can be so colorful they can be a photographer’s dream. Contrasts abound. Shops in the shadow of the cathedral. Napoleonic French figures in a German city.

The Cathedral. Shop window selling eau de Cologne.

German towns do like their humorous statues, here on the way to the eau de Cologne shop-museum.

A figure in the eau de Cologne shop-museum is not amused by her view of a nearby wall statue of a boy seemingly crouching with his pants down.

Hitler did not care for Charlie Chaplin certainly after the actor mimicked him in the movie, the Great Dictator. One of the cathedral’s celebrated stained glass windows.

Cologne Cathedral is said to be Germany’s most-visited tourist site. It is always full, always busy. Its activity today is faster than the pace of its construction which started in 1248 and was not completed until 1322. The slow pace of religious fanaticism does not appear to be understood by our military: Our problems in the Middle East today with ISIS and other radical groups began in 1095 almost a thousand years ago when Pope Urban II called out the First Crusade to capture the Holy Lands.

A former congressman from South Dakota and Pastor Emeritus of Church at the Gate, Steve Hickey, gives his view here on the stupendous wealth of the Catholic Church and the Treasury of this cathedral that was built specifically “to house the gold plated skulls of the Three Magi.”

Pastor Hickey sounds as dismayed as Martin Luther was when he, Hickey, studies the issue of religious dishonesty. “One of the forerunners to the Reformation, Erasmus, viewed these ‘relics’ as a fraudulent fund-raising scheme to raise money for Rome, he says. Erasmus decided one day to take an inventory of the relics of Rome and published his findings which included two heads of John the Baptist, two bodies of St. Anne, three of Lazarus, and a bottle of breast milk from the Virgin Mary. Calvin later continued this when he published his Inventory of the Relics which showed there were 14 churches in Italy, Germany, and France that each ‘had’ one of the three nails that held Jesus to the cross.”

The golden container, bottom images, is believed to be the reliquary in this 12th century Shrine of the Three Kings. It weighs 661 pounds and measures 6 feet long by 4 feet high. The Compass, the Catholic News Service suggests “It contains the nearly complete bodies of the three wise men of Matthew’s Gospel, including their skulls.”

Beside the cathedral stands a museum that this time had an absorbing exhibit of Roman medicine including its surgical instruments. The details were printed in languages including English.

We head back to our river boat to review our photographs and we decide we do have enough for our next article.

The medical museum next to the Cathedral. Our bedtime view of Cologne

Photography by the authors.

The Andersons, who live in San Diego, are the resident travel & cruise columnists for Physician's Money Digest. Nancy is a former nursing educator, Eric a retired MD. The one-time president of the New Hampshire Academy of Family Physicians, Eric is the only physician in the Society of American Travel Writers. He has also written five books, the last called The Man Who Cried Orange: Stories from a Doctor's Life.

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