Having Kölsch in Köln!

hall of the Radisson Blu Cologne
One of my unrealizable wishes is to wake up in a different city everyday for at least 3 months, I love the feeling of waking up in a nice hotel with the feeling that a new city is waiting to be discovered, local food waiting to be tasted, etc.
Last weekend we woke up in Cologne, Germany in a nice hotel (Radisson Blu) by the city fair.
Beautiful city, lots of history and art. But this time we chose to leave the art and history parts and concentrate in the local culture: beer!

Yes, because Cologne is also famous for its local breweries selling Kölsch, a clear beer, less bitter than the regular German lager beers. Kölsch is also a term which indicates that something is Cologne-ish, and also the dialect spoken in the city. But we concentrated in the beer, which is subtle and delicate, light. It is served in a narrow 0,2 liter glass called Stange, maybe because this way you can always enjoy your beer fresh before it gets too warm in the glass. Kölsch is one of the few beers with a regional appellation (similar to the D.O.C. in wine): only about 24 brewers located in the Cologne area can call their beer Kölsch.

A couple of rules before going to a Brauhaus to get a Kölsh: a) waiters (called Köbe - pl. Köbessen) speaking the dialect carry around a special beer tray, which can hold several glasses, not very friendly, they have a particular sense of humor that might be difficult to catch; for a great explanation about them click here 
b) as you will take a seat the Köbe will instantly serve you a Stange of Kölsch so if you don't want beer act fast and tell him. Also, when you are about to finish your beer put the beer coaster on the top of the glass to indicate you don't want any more beer, otherwise if the Köbe sees your glass empty he will give you a full one immediately (and you'll have to drink it.. oh, what a sacrifice!). c) the Köbessen write a mark in your beer coaster each time they bring you a beer, so when you ask for the check they'll come and write your total in your coaster.
We visited 3 Brauhäuser, each had a different brand of Kölsh:
1) Lömmerzheim - A historic beer place on the other side of the Rhein (Deutze); the atmosphere here is amazing, packed with locals, serves good food in big portions and Päffgen beer (which I found perfect - I'm not a beer drinker so don't take my opinion too seriously, but among the three places we visited, this was the one I liked best). We had several glasses of beer and 2 big portions of sausages with french fries and potato salad, delicious! (Kölsh costed €1,50, our total was €25 for 6 beers and two main courses).  
2) Brauhaus Sion - In the center, it is a big place with many rooms filled with tables, Köbessen and people (both locals and tourists). In the walls they have pictures of post-war Köln. Beer here was a bit lighter than the one in Lömmerzheim. We had a goulash soup (I would have never ordered it here but the waiter got the order wrong and I ate it anyways) and the usual sausage with potato salad; the soup was not memorable. The place is fine for dinner and then a walk around the Cathedral area. (Kölsh costed €1,50, our total was €24 for 5 beers, a soup and a main course).
3) Malzmühle - we tried to come here in the evening but couldn't because it was full, so we came for lunch and found the place quieter with many local families having lunch. Nice place, one of the oldest breweries in Köln, their menu is written in German and Kölsch (of course they have a menu in other languages available) and Köbessen are 'friendlier'. The beer was very good but I found it stronger (for my taste). We had a potato soup which was delicious and a typical Kölsch Kaviar (blood sausage with onion, pickles and rye bread) which was... different... not quite sure if it was good, it kind of reminded me of mortadella... (Kölsh costed €1,55, our total was €17 for 5 beers, a soup and a cold dish).
Sculptures park

We were in Cologne for only 2 days but we didn't spend all our time drinking, we walked around a lot, visited the Sculptures Park near the zoo (go if you like modern sculptures and a place to rest in the park); the shop 4711, where Eau de Cologne was invented (by an Italian); the shopping streets, etc.

If you are in the mood for museums, there are many options, the Roman museum (Cologne was founded by the Romans), Ludwig Museum with lots of modern art paintings (and free lockers for your luggage!), the treasure chamber in the cathedral, etc.

Ludwig Museum (left) just behind the cathedral
You can't leave before walking in or at least taking a picture of the cathedral, you literally can't because it's visible from almost every spot of the city!


Polyvore - NYC Girl

NYC Girl

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Learning to travel

"Traveling is the great true love of my life. I have always felt [...] that to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice. I am loyal and constant in my love for travel, as I have not always been loyal and constant in my other loves. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless, newborn baby--I just don't care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it's mine. Because it looks exactly like me. It can barf all over me if it wants to--I just don't care." — Elizabeth Gilbert

Long time ago, I was (unsuccessfully) trying to write a book about traveling. It started with a big thank you to my mother, the person who taught me how to travel.
We used to travel a lot by car through the Mexican countryside, in daylight, by night, on big highways, on dirt track roads, etc. The days before the trip were tense at home, if I sneezed or coughed, my mom would look at me and yell "you are getting sick! that means you won't be traveling and you'll ruin our trip!" . So we were all very careful not to get sick, we would wear jackets and eat only chicken soup before the trip in order to avoid sickness... We were all used to packing our own stuff (again, if you happened to forget your toothbrush, mom would go again: "you're ruining our trip, you don't know how to travel...!") and get information about the places we were going to (is there a amusement park nearby? a museum? when do they open? are there any concerts during our stay? etc.), which in pre-internet times was pretty difficult. We had to be able to find our location in maps, no mistakes allowed. And we had to control our bladders: bathroom stops were scheduled every 5 hours (no exceptions for anybody). No yelling, no loud music, no complaining (are we there yet?), no whining - otherwise you would hear the famous phrase "you don't know how to travel!". So all these years went by, all those trips, some yelling (of course our trips were filled with love and laughter, until one of us made a mistake... then the yelling started), all the bladder control, all the map reading. Then I started to travel by myself and with others and I realized what a great lesson mom taught me. I was able to move around Europe reading maps, planing in advance, not wasting time looking around for bathrooms, avoiding tourist traps, always with proper clothing and of course, never forgot my toothbrush. Unlike many of my travel companions, I became a disciplined traveler always getting the most out of any experiences. So, thank you mom.
These days I'm planing another weekend abroad and the ritual has started to make the most out of it: hotel search, transportation (hate to take cabs, they're expensive and you see more from public transportation), what to see (based on my interests), what's going on during my stay (concerts, opera, theater plays, festivals, markets, etc.); restaurants (the worst thing that could happen to me is to end up in a McDonalds so I do a lot of research in this field: what's the specialty? would I like it? how are the portions and prices? location?); a bit of culture (I try to read some relevant news about the place I'm visiting): get familiar with the location by look at the map beforehand, that saves so much time!
Then of course, the basics: remember the passport, travel documents, toothbrush, etc. A checklist is really helpful, especially in longer trips. Pack light (you can always buy a sweater if you are cold - and then you have an excuse to go shopping!), wear comfortable shoes and I'm ready to go!


My Wordle

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A sip in style

If I had to choose only one place for a good aperitif in Milan, that has to be Marc Jacobs Cafe! It is located in Brera, the part of Milan I like the most, in a cozy Italian square (Piazza del Carmine) next to the shop. So in case you need a drink to relax after your shopping, this is the place. In the summer they have tables outside in the square and the atmosphere is very cool. The aperitif costs 10 euro (not really cheap) but it is worth it because their cocktails are well prepared and the finger food buffet is good; no greasy rice or pasta salads, here you get vegetables with a healthy olive oil dip, bruschette, etc. The music is good and the service is... well, cold... but hey, they have to be posh! (exception made for the nice Brazilian waiter, he's great!). This is the only place I have really enjoyed my favorite drink at. Which by the way is Bloody Mary. This is how it should be done:

Bloody Mary

- ice cubes - vodka (40 ml.) - salt - tomato juice - ground black pepper - Worcestershire sauce - Tabasco sauce - lemon juice - celery stalk *fresh grated horseradish (the NY school of bartenders uses this ingredient but I've never had a bloody mary with horseradish and since I'm not a big fan I wouldn't use it)

Mix all ingredients and garnish with the celery stalk.

Marc Jacobs Café
Piazza del Carmine, 6
20121 Milan
Tel. +39 0272004080
(book ahead)