Four became two when my friend Nishad lost his passport two nights before flying. Despite the setback, the trip was still a great success (except for poor Nishad and Gemma).

On the plane over, I read up on the history of Cologne, or ‘Köln’ as the Germans say. It is located on the Rhine and has a population of around 1 million making it Germany’s fourth largest city. Kölsch is the name of the local dialect and also the name of the local beer. Upon arrival we were treated to the fantastic Cologne/Bonn Airport. Terminal 1was built in 1970 and is famous for its distinctive brutalist concrete. Terminal 2 was built in 2000 by Helmut Jahn and is very much a modern take on Terminal 1 in shining steel, glass and more concrete.

Cologne Cathedral is unquestionably the city’s most famous landmark and the world’s largest Gothic building. It was also the tallest building in the world from 1880 until 1884 when it was overtaken by the Washington Memorial. The RAF bombed the city in the first 1,000 bomber raid, ‘Operation Millenium’, during the Second World War which saw the destruction of 600 acres of built-up area. Miraculously, the Cathedral was relatively unscathed. The surroundings have obviously been rebuilt but it doesn’t quite work for me as the buildings are clearly fakes. Post-war architecture just isn’t the same. To give some credit though, the buildings around the Cathedral are at least low in a way that St Paul’s in London can only now dream of.

Brighton could learn two things from Cologne. Cologne’s conference facilities are amongst the best in Europe. Brighton’s Brighton Centre is becoming an embarrassment. Admission to Cologne Cathedral is free though many, of course, leave a donation. Adult admission to the Royal Pavilion is currently £6.50. Brighton’s seafront, however, beats Cologne’s riverfront hands down and Brighton’s Regency architecture easily beats Cologne’s pastiche efforts. Cologne’s Chocolate Museum (Schokoladenmuseum) is worth a mention though. It combines several architectural styles though with great effect.

The people of Cologne are certainly strange, that’s for sure. There are moustaches everywhere, all meals involve sausage and they have a strange obsession with dogs. But, that’s the fun of the place, I guess, and we had a thoroughly good time because of it. If that’s not your thing though then go for the Cathedral – architecture fans would be mad not to do so.