Kolsch beer such as Fruh, served in specially sized glasses, is only brewed in Cologne, Germany // (c) 2011 Lindsay Eyink / Flickr.com
Cologne, located on the Rhine River, is Germany’s fourth-largest city. It offers a real treat for history lovers, including the Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 14th century.
The city is also well-known for its beer and pub culture. It has 21 breweries that brew kolsch, a special beer that is unique to Cologne. Each pub exclusively carries kolsch from one brewery, served in .2 liter glasses — considerably smaller than standard beer glasses. Waiters will continue to bring filled glasses to patrons until they signal that they are finished drinking.
An optional tour offered by Viking River Cruises allows guests to experience Cologne’s beer culture first hand, with stops at four different pubs. In the capable hands of our excellent guide, Udo Eichler, the pub crawl was one of my favorite programs of the entire cruise. He treated our group as if we were long-lost friends and provided excellent insight into Cologne’s history and culture.
The group size is kept small, capped at about 12 participants per tour. I was surprised to find that the program isn’t just appealing to beer lovers. Many of the participants in our group were not beer connoisseurs but opted to join the program to experience the city’s nightlife.
Passengers sailing with Viking River Cruises can experience Cologne on the 15-day Grand European Tour, the eight-day Rhine Getaway, the eight-day River of History or the 23-day European Sojourn sailings.