The average idea of a trip to Europe for most people would most likely consist of traveling to the world’s most renowned cities such as London, Paris, and Rome trying to capture every famed sight with their own eyes. This summer, however, I ventured to a place that many Americans do not know much of: KÃ¶ln, Deutschland. For two weeks I stayed with my friend Sonja, who had been a foreign exchange student the year before at my small-town-Michigan school. Seeing the city with her and her many friends introduced me to the meaning and lifestyle of KÃ¶ln.
On my first night in KÃ¶ln, running on two hours of sleep, I went on an expedition into the city to get my first glimpse of KÃ¶ln’s nightlife while celebrating the birthday of one of Sonja’s friends. From the first walk that I took throughout the city I could feel its immense liveliness pulsing through its streets. The club we visited, “The Live Music Hall” was equally as lively. The dance remixes of songs seemed to be moving through and within the people on the dance floor, making them leave their inhibitions behind and dance in groups or by themselves (something that seemed revolutionary to me, who had only encountered the awkward American teen bump and grand style of dancing).
I spent the next week exploring the city and socializing with Sonja and her friends. KÃ¶ln was far different from large American cities such as Chicago. Its population allowed it to have the liveliness of a large city, but was not populated to the point of being uncomfortably crowded. It did not have large skyscrapers extending higher than the heavens, but instead many interestingly designed modern buildings such as “The Crane Houses” (which were large apartment complexes shaped like cranes). Another spectacle of the city was KÃ¶ln lights which are held annually within the summer. It was dazzling fireworks event that people from all over Germany and other countries came to witness along the Rhine River.
There was a reason for the absence of skyscrapers within the city—the city did not want its prized cathedral to be blocked from view. This cathedral, “The Dome”, towered above the KÃ¶ln with a beautiful but ominous gothic structure. The interior of the church was like an art museum, with breathtaking statues and paintings within it. From the top (which took over five hundred steps to get to) I could see the entire city around me. It was almost unbelievable to think the city had been entirely different not even a century ago for over eighty-five percent was destroyed during World War Two. On the outskirts were the old factories that used to dominate the city during industrialization. Directly below me I could see the Rhine River shimmering and the many stores that dominated the city (KÃ¶ln being the shopping center of the country).
With all that Sonja and I did within the city, I found the communication with her, her friends, and family to be my favorite part. During my trip I learned that the best way to experience a place is to mingle with its people. By doing so, you can truly understand where you are as you consider their similarities and differences to your native environment. Even studying the city’s citizens’ style and personality was rewarding. Though I still cannot say KÃ¶ln correctly (according to Sonja I should just give up), the story of the city is one I will always be thrilled to tell.
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