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Germany Calling: A One-Week, Three-City European Getaway

We at Black Maple Magazine prioritize self-care and as such, we have committed to taking, no, indulging in, real vacations (meaning not work trips disguised as vacations). While we recently recommended an out of the box two-country vacation in Canada and the USA, we’ve since turned our attention across the pond. Yes, Europe! We did not go to France, Italy, Spain, or even the UK. No friends, we headed to Germany!  But whereas most tourists travel only to the most popular cities like Berlin and Munich, we visited beloved Cologne (Köln), as well as elegant Bonn, and the ancient city of Trier.

We flew overnight into Frankfurt, landing at Germany’s largest airport, then headed to Cologne by train straight from the airport. This Catholic city was a trading centre between eastern and western Europe in the Middle Ages. We checked into Motel One Waidmarkt  (there’s more than one in town). As their website announces, this Munich-based chain, “offers a unique combination of high-quality interiors, exclusive design, excellent service and outstanding city centre locations at attractive prices.” The eye-catching modern designs and chic ambience made for a stylish stay.

Lobby of Motel One Köln-Waidmarkt


One must-see is Cologne’s spectacular medieval cathedral which is both majestic in scale and opulence and believed to house the Shrine of the Three Wise Men.

Cologne Cathedral


We also visited the Museum Ludwig, a premier collection of modern and contemporary western art. Although the collection is a testament to the patriarchal and colonial biases of modern western museums (meaning few women and people of colour are included as artists), worthwhile highlights include a replica of Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel (1964), extensive abstract expressionist paintings (think Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman), and important examples of Pablo Picasso’s paintings and lesser known sculptures.

Pablo Picasso sculpture at the Ludwig Museum


Also striking was Hermann Scherer’s Lovers (1924), obviously inspired by African sculpture.

Hermann Scherer, Lovers (1924)


Since walking and looking is, well, hard work, we’d worked up an appetite. Luckily, there was no need to leave the museum to enjoy a tasty lunch. The museum’s very own restaurant serves soups, salads, other savoury dishes, and a selection of desserts. For an interesting twist on a mainstay, we recommend the delicious quiche with asparagus and sweet potato served with a side salad.

Lunch at the Ludwig Museum Restaurant


Our next stop was Bonn. If you need a break from the train, not to worry. You can make it to Bonn in about 30 minutes. We took an Uber for about € 45. If you’re a fan of classical music, a must-see is Beethoven Haus (house) a museum dedicated to the life and music of the master composer and musician. Besides a permanent collection, the museum commonly rotates various temporary exhibitions conceived with other museums and institutions.  Bonn is also home to the University of Bonn, one of only eleven institutions designated as universities of excellence. This prestigious recognition acknowledges the university as a site of top tier research. One such research hub is the Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies.

This former capital is cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and diverse and there is much to see on foot. After a long day of exploration, we indulged in South African cuisine at The Protea. We suggest the Lime Butter Chicken Curry for dinner, and Melktert (traditional milk pudding) with vanilla ice cream for dessert. A city layered with history, Bonn also has interesting modern and contemporary architecture. One of the tallest contemporary buildings is the Marriot Hotel.

Mural in Konrad’s at the top of the Marriot Hotel, Bonn


We visited their stylish rooftop restaurant Konrad’s which features wall-to wall black and white, photographic murals and an outdoor patio with stunning views of the Rhine River. Go in the evening to witness breathtaking sunsets.

Sunset at Konrad’s, Marriot Hotel, Bonn


Next, we headed to Trier by train, connecting through Koblenz. Like Bonn, Trier does not only have medieval sites, but ancient ones too. Founded by Augustus in 15 BC, Trier was a Roman “Augusta Treverorum” for 500 years featuring a wall of four miles and four great gates, one of which (the Porta Nigra) still stands. This ancient gate is now the back drop to various cultural events, like the Porta³ music festival of June 2024. If you’re on a budget, there’s no need to buy a ticket since the music emanates far beyond the festivals official area.

Crowds at Porta³ music festival in Trier, June 2024


We continued to another ancient site, visiting another monument, the majestic Konstantin Basilika. Measuring 27 m wide, 33 m high, and 67 m long,  the basilica was the throne room of Emperor Constantine. This UNESCO heritage site is the largest single-room Roman structure, not supported by columns, still in existence.

Konstantin Basilika, Trier


If you haven’t had your fill of cathedrals yet, we suggest visiting another UNESCO world heritage site, Church of our Lady and St. Peter’s Cathedral which are side-by-side.

Church of our Lady, Trier


Both churches feature ethereal stain glass, polychrome sculpture, and exquisitely detailed altars.

Altar in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Trier


If you’re keen to learn more about another famous German, then Trier won’t disappoint. Born the third of nine children in 1818 to a middle class Jewish family, Karl Marx grew up in a ten-room home near the Porta Nigra.

Karl Marx’s childhood home, Trier


Portrait sculptures, “high” art and popular culture, populate the city, recalling his contributions to philosophy, economy, and social movements.

Sculpture of Karl Marx, Trier


Since Frankfurt Airport is very large and very hectic, and German trains (like all trains) are not always on schedule, we headed back to Frankfurt a day early to make sure we caught our outbound flight. We stayed overnight at the Steigenberger Airport Hotel which featured private massage rooms, a spa, indoor pool, well-appointed gym, and sauna. Our stay gave us peace of mind since the hotel is a short 5 minute drive to the airport and the hotel charges include a shuttle bus that departs 3 times every hour. We dined at the lobby bistro bar Con.nex.ion which features patio, traditional, bar, and lounge seating. We loved the Fried Noodles Ramen, with bok choy, bell pepper, mushrooms, cashews, seasoned with chili and soya sauce, sesame oil and spring onions.

Dinner and Cocktails at Con.nex.ion Restaurant, Steigenberger Airport Hotel, Frankfurt


If sports are your ticket, plan your trip around world class events like Euro 2024 for which Germany played host this time around. Although – upside – our stop in Cologne featured many Scotsmen proudly wandering the streets in kilts -downside – this also meant that the trains were busier than normal.

Scottish Football fans bring their traditions to Cologne for Euro 2024


But hey, any tension from packed trains and hectic tourist sites was easily relieved with a pint of German bier or a glass of Riesling at the end of a long day. When in Rome!

Our fearless leader prepares for a Euro 2024 match in the lobby bar of
Motel One Köln-Waidmarkt