Underground places somehow magically attract me. I don’t mean any wide-ranging caves or tunnels through which you have to squeeze or even dive. I would be too claustrophobic for that. Instead, I mean mysterious or forgotten places once used by people. For example, I was once in the underground city of Derinkuyu in Cappadocia, Turkey, where thousands of people hid during the persecution of Christians. Or in the catacombs of Paris, where today, among other things, the bones of 6 million Parisians can be found. Very scary but also very interesting.
When I was out and about as a tourist in my city of Cologne in the summer, I thought to myself that there must be such underground places here too. At some point, you have seen enough of the usual tourist program. And lo and behold… after a bit of research, I found such places and have visited them in the last few months. There are so many exciting guided tours or tours that you can enjoy now and then, even as a local.
The Chandelier Hall
Sounds elegant, and somehow it is. Suppose you disregard the fact that he’s a real stinker. The chandelier hall is part of the Cologne sewage system. In 1881, the Neustadt district of Cologne was bursting at the seams in terms of population, and a sensible sewage system was needed. In this, this additional construct was created that, for example, drains the rubbish into the Rhine when there is too much rain. We don’t want to imagine that now ;).
Since 1890 the hall has been decorated with a chandelier. And all because Kaiser Wilhelm II was invited to the inauguration. Since then, the gallery has been hidden in the dark and was only accessible to the public in 2000. Today, however, it can only be visited as part of a guided tour. Entry is via an inconspicuous metal door near the Theodor-Heuss-Ring. Before the descent, the guide tells you not to touch anything and hands you a wet wipe. Everything is contaminated and stinks. Nevertheless, concerts are held here again and again because of the beautiful acoustics. Then the rats will surely hit the dance floor.
As a local, I often forget that Cologne is an ancient city steeped in history and carelessly run past small sensations. 50 AD, Romans settled here under the name Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, from which today’s city of Cologne developed. The traces of the Romans can be found everywhere in our area. At the latest, when a subway shaft is to be built somewhere, old treasures, buried buildings, or temples come to light. Therefore, Cologne and the surrounding area are a dream for every historian or hobby archaeologist.
So we looked at part of the archaeological zone, the Praetorium in Cologne’s old town. The Praetorium was once the most important Roman building on the Rhine, the seat of the governor of Cologne and the province of Lower Germany. You can not only see parts of the once monumental palace there, but you can also visit the Roman sewer. The old canal is 10 meters underground and about 150 meters long. Some of the channels served as cellars in the Middle Ages and bunkers during World War II. I always get little goosebumps when I walk through 2000 years of human history, if these walls could tell.
The district heating tunnel
The Cologne district heating tunnel operated by Rheinenergie is not quite as old. It was built in 1984 to pump water at a temperature of 120 degrees from the power plant through the pipelines in the tunnel and then distribute it in branches to the households on the other side of the Rhine.
A few meters next to the Hohenzollern Bridge, you descend 100 steps and come across a 3 meter wide and 461-meter long concrete tube that cuts right through the Rhine. Anyone can walk across the Rhine. So once across is something different. A free tour is organized directly by Rheinenergie, and you get numerous technical details and information on Cologne’s hot water supply. Therefore, I do not necessarily recommend this trip with children. But walking 5-6 meters under the Rhine is something you should put on your to-see list, especially as a Cologne resident.
The hashtag #urbancgn stands for cologne urban lifestyle. You will find many excellent tips for Cologne on design, music, art, fashion, street art, food, festivals, and now also underground in the social networks.
And because today’s topic is Cologne and the underground, I have a small Christmas competition for you that fits the topic. I’m giving away the great illustrated book “Untererdisch. Hidden Places in Germany”, the doodle book “Mach’s in Köln,” and the Kuscheldom from Köln Tourismus.
Untererdisch / Hidden Places in Germany is an excellent photo book from Dumont Verlag with 54 exciting to spooky places under the earth. Have you ever heard of the Ice Chapel at Königssee? From the old command bunker in Dortmund? Or from the ossuary in Oppenheim? And of course, you will also find the district heating tunnel and the chandelier hall in the book.
Mach’s in Köln is a different kind of city guide. Because you can design it yourself, collect typical Cologne sayings. Get a fragrance sample in the famous Cologne perfumery 4711. Or ask people from Cologne for their insider tips and write them down. The result is a travel guide that is guaranteed to be unique.
And for the real Cologne hardcore fans, I also have the bright red cuddly dome from Cologne Tourism on offer.
1. From now until Thursday, December 15, 21:00, leave me a comment here and tell me either a cool underground place in Germany or which one you would like to see. I would also like to know which of the three prizes you would like to win. Illustrated book, doodle book, or plush dome.
2. The winners will be announced on the evening of December 15. drawn at random and told here. Please don’t forget to leave me your email address in the comments section.
3. Only one comment hops into the lottery pot. Multiple words will not be recognized.
4. The prize will only be sent within Germany.
5. Anyone over the age of 18 may participate.
6. There is no legal recourse, and the prize cannot be paid out in cash.