We were in Koln on Easter morning, when the ringing of the "big" bell occurs (only at Christmas and Easter.)

The main train terminal opens directly onto the plaza of the stupendous Dom, so we walked from the heart of modern bustling Germany into the arms of 12th century Koln in a few steps.

Cologne’s magnificent Gothic Cathedral, began in 1248 and continued in several stages over seven centuries. Finally completed in 1880, it largely escaped damage that ravaged the city and the rest of Germany during World War II. The largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, it is a magnificent church with two soaring spires and beautiful stained-glass windows.

Cologne was damaged heavily during World War II and the people have long memories, living in a place filled with ancient places and buildings


Near the terminal and the Dom, paved courtyards and passageways wind past busy shops and cafes. Everywhere there are fragments of music, floating through the noise of the crowds and trains. Buskers appear and disappear, producing heart-wrenching music. We were here two days after the bombings in Brussels, and the mood was even more somber than usual.

Modern Cologne is filled with a richness of sights and sounds. We took a walking tour in the morning and roamed around the old city all afternoon. The spring rain was light and the Easter air was cold but soft.

Our ship was docked along the bank of the Rhine, just below the Koln, and a flea market thrives there, filled with tables offering old postcards, jewelry, mismatched silver and books in German, among other treasures.

4711 is a traditional German Eau de Cologne by Mäurer & Wirtz. Because it has been produced in Cologne since at least 1799, it is allowed to use the geographical indication Original Eau de Cologne and has used the same formula for more than 200 years. The 4711-flagship store in the Cologne Glockengasse is a popular tourist attraction.

I brought home little packets for everyone on our 2016 Christmas list, and as the bells tolled, ending Easter holiday, we made our way back down to our ship, cold but happy.