Altbier v. Kölsch: The showdown

One of the nice things about a weekend trip to Düsseldorf and Cologne was that I got to sample both sides of Germany’s fiercest beer rivalry.

In Düsseldorf, they drink Altbier. In Cologne, they drink Kölsch. They do not mix and match.

The irony, of course, is that Altbier and Kölsch are actually rather similar. They are both brewed using the old top-fermentation method, and are served in small glasses. Your waiter will continue to bring you refills, and tally the number of beers you’ve consumed on your coaster, until you put the coaster on top of the glass.

Not that you can’t picture a small glass and a coaster, but here’s a glass of Kölsch I drank on the Cologne waterfront:

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A whiff of Cologne

On my way back to Berlin from Düsseldorf, I thought I’d stop at one of the many cities that form the Rhine-Ruhr cluster in North Rhine-Westphalia. And soon as I stepped outside the train station in Cologne, I knew I’d chosen the right one.

This view greeted me immediately upon exiting the station:

The Kölner Dom, or Cologne Cathedral, is one of the two or three most magnificent churches I’ve ever seen. Work on the cathedral was begun in the 13th century, but not completed until 1880. It survived World War II mostly intact while most of the city was leveled (see this photo), possibly because the allied bombers hoped to continue using its twin spires — the second-tallest church spires in the world — as a navigational landmark. It’s the largest Gothic church in northern Europe and the tallest Roman Catholic cathedral in the world.

And it’s truly something to behold. Unfortunately, my photos can’t quite do it justice, since I had tremendous difficulty fitting the massive thing in my frame (despite some creative climbing efforts). But here’s a little sampling of views of the cathedral’s exterior and interior:

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