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There’s something quite special about docking right in the city and walking just a few blocks from the boat to the city centre. Viking provides us with audio-listening devices with which to hear the local guides. They enable you to wander without having to be huddled close to the guide.

The grand Cologne Cathedral was started in 1248 but was not completed until 1880. The oldest section, the Choir, has absolutely beautiful stained glass windows and a reliquary which (supposedly) contains the bones of the 3 wise men. Amazingly, as the centuries passed, the church remained a construction site and the original plans for the complete structure were lost. But in the 1800s two men took it upon themselves to find the plans – some of which were uncovered in a shop in Paris!

The guide provided a concise history of the city and led us through the old town, complete with Rathaus (city hall) embellished with historic figures and a clock that features a face that sticks his tongue out on the hour!

Even though it happened to be a national holiday (German Unity Day), it rained quite heavily in the morning and so there were few people on the streets (only stalwart tourists). But, after a quick jaunt back to the ship and lunch on board, we returned to a totally different city. The cafes and squares were teeming with people and the atmosphere was festive and noisy. The steps in front of the cathedral had turned into seats and a street performer (juggler/comedian) was enthralling children and adults alike.


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