Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Hauptbahnhof is the Central Railroad Station in Cologne, Germany

Click on above photo to view it in large format: The Hauptbahnhof is the Central Train Station in Cologne, Germany. More than 1,400 trains pass through the station every day. It is located next to the Köln (Cologne) Cathedral, the most iconic site in the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I visited the Cologne as part of my hosted Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour.

Great St. Martin Church towers over Fishmarket Square in Cologne, Germany

Click on above photo to view it in large format: In Cologne, Germany, Great St. Martin Church towers over Fishmarket Square, with it’s 14th to 17th century townhouses and open-air cafes. I visited Cologne as part of my hosted Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour.

Windmill in Kinderdijk, Netherlands, is one of 19 built in 1740 to keep the lowlands of southern Holland from flooding

Click on above photo to view it in large format: This authentic windmill in Kinderdijk is one of 19 and part of the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands, built in 1740 to keep lowlands from flooding. Today the entire site is UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-known Dutch tourist sites. I visited the windmills as part of my hosted Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour.

More than once I’ve been told by fellow travelers not to bother visiting the city of Cologne, Germany. “Don’t waste your time,” they said. “The only thing to see is the cathedral.” So when I realized that Cologne was the first German city to be visited on my Viking River Grand European Tour, I was prepared to be underwhelmed.

Exterior of Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe

Exterior of Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe

We began our walking tour in front of the Kölner Dom, as the cathedral is known in German, a UNESCO World Heritage Site said to be the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe. My first impression was disappointment at the sooty facade, which has been blackened by a combination of natural oxidation and the smoke from steam locomotives that used to pull into the train station next door. But soon, details began to emerge: pointed arches dressed with elaborate geometric decorations, twin towers that soar to a height of 515 feet, an entrance lavish with 19th century statuary, and the flying buttresses that allowed medieval builders to build such a cavernous structure. Read More

Noordeinde Palace at The Hague, which is the seat of government in the Netherlands

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Originally a medieval farmhouse, today’s Noordeinde Palace at The Hague is one of three palaces used by the Dutch monarchy. Since it is located in the official seat of government for The Netherlands, King Willem-Alexander uses it as his working palace.

The Royal Palace  in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Click on above photo to view it in large format: Built in the 17th century, the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is one of three palaces used by the Dutch monarchy.