You hear the word “bay” and usually the first thing that comes to mind is water. Lots and lots of water. Not in the case of the Cologne Bay, or Kölner Bucht in German. Think lots and lots of towns and villages.
If I were to sit here and list all 32 towns and 90 municipalities I’d probably be here for the rest of my natural born life. It would then take another lifetime to list the 325 castles and fortresses along this “bay” in the southwestern corner of North Rhine-Westphalia.
What’s really crazy is, I don’t know how long my natural born life’s gonna last considering the area is “seismically active.”
But it’s not just the volcanoes that make the sensitive Cologne Bay shake up a bit. It’s the African Plate (yes, the oceanic crust) pushing against the European Plate starting south of Italy and Spain/Portugal.
One town along the Rhine that’s the first on this triangular stretch of land is Bonn, the former capital of what was once West Germany. Everyone comes here to see its 11th century Minster, but I won’t let anyone forget that Beethoven was born here.
A stop to the Rheinaue (a recreational area) is just what the “doctor ordered.” OK, I’m suggesting it — so let’s not split hairs, huh?
From here we’re going to go west a bit to Zülpich, along the edge of the Eifel where you’ll find Roman Springs among medieval sites.
We need to go a little further west right now to Aachen. You’ll love it here with its late 8th/early 9th century Cathedral (built by Charlemagne), which is the one sight, if any, that you must see.
I would wager that any soccer fan would much rather see all the sites listed on the German Football Route instead. ;-)
It’s Düren next, which lies along the middle of the Cologne Bay between Cologne and Aachen. This town started as a Celtic settlement, only to be made “famous” by Charlemagne, and its weeklong festival at the end of every July.
Next up is Kerpen, an old mining town. Peat mining was big business — and how could it not, the peat bogs were found to be some 270 meters thick (and created 30 million years ago).
Nearby to Kerpen is Brühl, a town with a couple of UNESCO sites to see.
If all of the Cologne Bay (and its scenic routes & UNESCO sites) is this great, no wonder 3 million people live within its “borders.” No worries of those volcanoes for us Germans — we’re a hearty stock. ;-)
From here we’re going eastward to Rösrath and the Wahner Heide. Great, a nature area within a nature area.
What would the Cologne Bay be without one of the most visited cities in Germany, Cologne. If you think Cologne’s Cathedral spires are tall at 157 meters, wait until you see its Television Tower at 266 meters.
Oh, I think I see its 12th century Stadtmauer from this height. I think I see Greece from this height.
Nah, it’s just the Japanese Gardens in Leverkusen, our next town. Here’s one of those 325 castles I mentioned. And this one’s got a moat to boot. Who wouldn’t mind living in one of those, which overlooks the foothills of the Bergisches Land.
Our next to last town in the Cologne Bay is Langenfeld, once ruled over by the medieval Franks. They’re the ones responsible for building the original St. Martin Church. But they didn’t have anything to do with all the modern day watersports that go on here now.
Lastly we’re in Neuss, along the left bank of the Rhine. When the city was founded back in 16 B.C., it was called Castra Novaesia; going on to become a Hanseatic League city and housing the relics of a saint at its Münster.
You know, the Cologne Bay might not have a lot of water (the Rhine is quite enough), but it has wonderful cities, fun scenic routes, nature areas, cathedrals, and who could ever forget — volcanoes and Plates. ;-)