Feature: Cologne's Love Locks
A blight to some, an ode to eternal romance to others: in 2008 Cologne became one of the first European cities to be festooned with love locks, many engraved with a romantic slogan, proclamation of love or simply the names of people meant to be locked together for life. What at first looks like modern art on Cologne's iconic Hohenzollernbrücke railway bridge over the Rhine are in reality tens of thousands of locks in myriad shapes and colours. Unlike Paris, Cologne has made no effort to halt the practice.
On sunny weekends, you'll see people engaging in rituals grand and humble as they affix new locks to the railings and – inevitably – you might catch an unlocking ceremony, whereby evidence of someone's now impermanent love is removed and usually tossed in the drink, followed by much of same.
Feature: Cologne Cathedral History
Construction of the Cologne's landmark cathedral began in 1248 in the French Gothic style but proceeded slowly and was eventually halted in 1560 when funds ran out. The half-built church lingered for nearly 300 years and even suffered a stint as a horse stable and prison when Napoleon occupied the town. A few decades later, a generous cash infusion from Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV finally led to its completion in 1880, 632 years after it started. Luckily, it escaped WWII bombing raids with nary a shrapnel wound and has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1996.