It was chilly out, at last. Not that I wanted the cold, but it was more fitting, considering the season. It had been 70+ degrees out during our days on the vineyard and in Bremen. Now, Germany had finally realized it was October.

Gudrun and Tomas dropped my parents and I off at our hotel in Cologne. After a few hours spent napping/decompressing/recuperating in the room, we opened the curtains to find the sun had set.

A 10-minute stroll along the Rhein brought us downtown. Cafes and restaurants lined the squares, monopolized street corners and filled alleyways. We found a reasonable joint and split two dishes between the three of us: a chicken burger and an arugula salad. Mom had a merlot. Dad had a Kölsch, a specialty beer unique to Cologne.

Next to us, a girl and a couple guys smoked cigarettes and drank espressos. After the server gave us our bill, one of the guys waved her over. “Kann ich eine Decke bitte?”

What? He just asked the server for a blanket. Where were we? First class cabin, Lufthansa?

I looked around. A handful of other patrons had fleece blankets wrapped around their shoulders. The server came back with a blanket embroidered with ‘Cafe Extrablatt’. “Danke,” said the guy, draping it around himself.

“Well I’ll be damned. That is cool. I wish our restaurants gave us blankets.” Ha! Could you imagine? Snapping fingers, Uh, waiter? A quilt please?

After our light dinner, we walked a few blocks further to the Cologne Cathedral.

This is no modest church. At 516 feet, its one of the tallest in the world. (The tallest, a protestant church in Ulm, Germany, is only 14 feet taller.)

The next day we returned to the Kölner Dom for better interior photo ops. But first, we grabbed breakfast right next to the cathedral square.

At the cathedral, tourists poured in and out like a tidal flood. Many wore headphones, listening intently to their audio tours. Others followed real life tour guides around. We decided against the tours, opting instead to read the terribly boring complimentary brochure. Sneakily, I eased among the fringe of one tour group and strained to hear something interesting. I found out the ceiling used to be painted the color blue. Together with the gold stars still attached, the ceiling was supposed to replicate the night sky.

If you find yourself visiting the Cologne Cathedral and you fancy facts and figures, go for the tour. Learning about the ceiling’s former hues is mildly interesting, but in my opinion, the way to get the most bang for your buck is to grab a seat in a pew, and then, look up. ☼