Arlo and I figured out how to take the train to Köln yesterday. This is the largest city (although not the capital) in the state of Nordrhein Westfalen. I think I will be going to Köln often as it takes less than a half hour and is in the range of the monthly train pass that I purchase. The train pass is good after 2:00 on weekdays and all day on weekends.
For this first trip we focused our attention on the Köln Dom, the medieval cathedral. The cathedral was begun in the 13th century (1265 to be exact) and worked on through the mid 1500's but work stopped for 300 years. In 1842 construction resumed (using the original plans) and was completed by 1880. During the war, most of the medieval windows and other items were removed for safe keeping and so the originals are in the cathedral today.
We walked around by ourselves for about an hour before taking a tour in English. Unfortunately, you cannot enter the oldest portion of the cathedral during confession so our tour did not take us there. We did, however, see much of it on our own. I would love to take the tour through the excavation site (there was an earlier church on the site that dates back to at least 870) but the tour is only in German ... so it will have to wait (she says with great optimism).
On a lighter note, we also walked down the Rhein to the Mmmuseum. This is a chocolate museum. It was very interesting. I had no idea what the cocoa tree and its bean looked like. (This is a picture of the tree with its blossom. There were no bean pods on the trees but they are about 20 times the size of the flower.) The museum has a small, operational, chocolate factory. It shows each step, from the extraction of the cocoa powder and cocoa butter down to the wrapping of individual chocolates. And of course we got to taste the result.