For anyone following our Balkan journey, you’ll know that this trip to Cologne is a bit of a detour. Having booked Taylor Swift tickets months before planning the Balkans trip, we still wanted to attend the concert in Germany – and so our travel plans became Sarajevo to Cologne to Zadar in the space of 3 days.
Day 1 – A Hungry Arrival
Landing in Cologne fairly late in the evening, we made the rookie error of assuming that we’d still be able to find food near our hotel, and so resisted the temptation to get an overpriced airport snack when we landed. We hadn’t factored in the fact that we’d deliberately booked a hotel near to the Lanxess Arena where the concert was taking place, which happens to be in the industrial/conference centre part of town.
We were starving by the time we’d checked in to our functional-but-fine Ibis Budget (ironically named, seeing how 2 nights there were pretty much as expensive as our last 2 weeks in the Balkans). With no restaurants or takeaways in sight on our walk there, we were left with no option but to hop on to pizza.de (the German equivalent of JustEat) and hope for the best. Another floor picnic ensued – not quite as bad as the infamous vacuum packed chocolate croissants in Sarajevo, but still pretty grim compared to some of the food we’d enjoyed over the last two weeks.
Junk food scoffed, it was time for a quick shower and then bed. The Ibis Budget is perfectly nice, but does have the strange quirk of having the shower in the room next to the bed, with only a thin privacy strip. Fine for couples, potentially awkward if sharing with friends/parents etc.
Day 2 – Taylor Swift Day
Today shall be known as Taylor Swift day. We ate our fill of our favourite German foods, we wandered over the Rhein to the famous Cologne Cathedral, and then we wandered back to get changed and hit the concert. Which was, obviously, great.
Day 2.5 – Fire Alarm Night
At 2am in the morning, barely a couple of hours into our sleep, we were woken by the most nightmarish fire alarm of our lives. A horrible noise, a bright red flashing light, and a robotic-voiced woman shouting over the tannoy that ‘this is not a drill’. We stumbled into our clothes from the night before and wandered bleary eyed to the stairwell, where we found gridlock on the 6th floor. Ibis Budget – you need to improve your evacuation plans. If this was actually a real fire, we’d have all burnt to death…not that I’m being dramatic or anything.
Day 3 – Frankfurt aka Ghost Town
Slightly more tired than we’d hoped to be (again, thank you Ibis), we checked out of our hotel and headed out to the bus station – which in Cologne is literally just a long main road with some coaches parked on it. We travelled to Frankfurt with one of our favourite bus companies – meinfernbus.de – great prices, comfy seats, and free snacks! The 3 hour journey flew by with a combination of snoozing and catching up on some TV we’d downloaded.
Once in Frankfurt, we had a couple of hours to explore the city centre. Now, bearing in mind that Frankfurt is a major financial centre and we were travelling through on a Sunday, we were expecting it to be a bit quieter than usual – and how right we were. The place was absolutely deserted, and not in a nice “oh look how quiet and peaceful it is” sort of way – it was a grimy ghost-town.
We decided to walk down the main street towards the skyscrapers, which inadvertently took us through Frankfurt’s red light district (Germany has a habit of having these right next to train stations in lots of their major cities). Having been through a few red light districts before (ahem), this normally wouldn’t have bothered us – but since we were the only ones there, we were the prime targets for leering weirdos in dark doorways (both punters & workers). There were quite a few dodgy looking characters eyeballing us, and to this day it remains the only place in the world where we’ve actually decided to cross the road because we felt uncomfortable. A shame.
Anyway, we made it through alive and found the famous (clutching a straws here) rotating Euros symbol in one of Frankfurt’s squares. Deciding to give up on the place, we wandered up a different street, found one of the few cafes that were actually open and stopped for an ice cream sundae – which slightly redeemed the place, but not by much…
Thankfully, the flight was looming and we jumped on the U-Bahn to the airport. Frankfurt airport is big, functional and supremely efficient. We score it a 9/10.
Another quick flight (this time with Norwegian Airlines!) over to sunny Croatia, and the seaside city of Zadar. Write up coming soon…