Church, Kölsch and Carnival
With 1.1 million inhabitants, Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany and the largest in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The World Heritage site Cologne Cathedral and twelve large Romanesque churches in the city centre alone testify to the importance of the Catholic Church. The Jewish community of Cologne is 1,700 years old and is the second oldest in Europe after Rome. Every year, the Cologne Carnival attracts over a million additional people to the city. The highlight is the Rose Monday procession, the largest in Germany.
But even more than facts and figures, it is the people and the attitude towards life that make the city fascinating and special. Multiculturalism is not a goal in Cologne but has always been part of everyday life: residents from over 150 nations representing all the major world religions and numerous other denominations and religious communities; over 75,000 students and the existence of major international companies are examples of this. Openness, tolerance and joie de vivre are regarded as typical characteristics of the people of Cologne, whose mentality is even anchored in their own constitution.
Even though Cologne has not always made the best decisions in urban planning and the Cologne coterie (a symbol for non-public networks and decision-making webs in politics, society and business) sometimes stands in the way of the city’s future-oriented development: the mixture of tradition and modernity, the ‘live and let live‘ mentality, and the tendency towards pragmatism make the city one of the most charming places in Germany; and a worthwhile destination for visitors!
The number 11 has a special meaning for Cologne. The city coat of arms contains 11 black flames. They commemorate Saint Ursula, who, as the legend has it, was murdered by the Huns together with 10 other virgins during a pilgrimage near Cologne. But 11 is also the number of the carnival. For the carnival lovers, two ones next to each other mean unity and equality. Every year, the carnival season starts on 11.11. at 11:11: the eleventh day of the eleventh month at eleven minutes past eleven. The carnival sessions always have eleven chairmen, together with the ‘Elferrat’ or the Council of Eleven. And during the hilarious hustle and bustle on the six foolish days, moral transgressions and excesses may be apparent here and there; in religion, 11 is the diabolical number for sin.
The local beer, Kölsch, is only allowed to be brewed in Cologne and the surrounding area according to the German Purity Law. Whether a beer may be called Kölsch is regulated by the Kölsch Convention of 1985. The top-fermented pale beer is drunk from special glasses, the ‘Kölsch-Stangen’. They are thin-walled and hold 0.2 litres.
The history of Cologne, which received its town charter from the Roman Empress Agrippina in 50 A.D., is omnipresent in the cityscape: fragments of walls and water pipes (partly made of Roman concrete!), medieval gate castles and gates, parts of Prussian fortifications from the 19th century, old industrial wastelands, as well as modern buildings such as the crane houses in the Rheinauhafen harbour, the stately Central Mosque and the Kolumba Museum.