Cologne is centrally located on the Rhine. With a total length of 1,230 kilometres, the river flows through Cologne at the kilometre markers 678 to 690. With its sources in Switzerland and its mouth in the Netherlands, the Rhine is one of Europe’s major rivers. This trans-European identity also applies to Cologne: people from all EU countries and from more than 80 nations live here. The Belgian and Dutch borders are only about 70 kilometres further West. Collaboration is one of Cologne’s strengths as it is twinned with 22 cities all over the world. No other German city has as many twin cities.
The Romans founded Cologne almost 2000 years ago in 50 AD and named it Colonia. This makes Cologne one of the oldest German cities. Today, Cologne is the capital of the metropolitan region of the Rhineland. It is one of Europe’s foremost cities of arts and culture. There are more than 40 museums, including Museum Ludwig, over 130 galleries and more than one thousand artists living in Cologne. Each year the ‘lit.Cologne’, one of Europe’s largest international literature festivals, attracts writers and enthusiasts of literature from all over the world.
When talking about Cologne, you can’t forget to mention the Cathedral or ‘Dom’ as it’s called by locals. Its two main towers hover almost 157 metres above the city. In 1248 AD the foundation stone of the Dom was laid. Today, the Dom belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage list, and it is one of the top-ranked tourist sites in Germany. But the Dom is in good company, with 240 more churches, including 12 large Romanesque churches, in the city.
The people of Cologne like celebrating, especially during Carnival, an ancient custom also referred to as the ‘fifth season’. Traditional disguises and parades invade the streets, and Cologne has its special bands that have created Carnival songs sung by many locals.
There is much more that makes Cologne stand out. For example, Cologne is also a leading trade fair and convention centre, the media and insurance sectors are important to the city, and the University of Cologne is one of the oldest and largest in Germany. The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the European Space Agency (ESA) are leading research institutions located in the city. Visiting and living in Cologne are more than worthwhile.