Last October, as Bill and I were preparing for our big move from Stuttgart to Wiesbaden, I found out that the Eagles, one of my favorite bands of all time, was going to be playing two dates in Germany in 2019. 2018 was our summer of concerts. We saw The Rolling Stones in Stuttgart, Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt, and James Taylor (all at one show) in Dublin, Roger Hodgson in Stuttgart, and the Irish Folk Festival in Stuttgart. I also knew we were going to be seeing Elton John in Stuttgart in May 2019.
Given that we’d already spent so much money on shows and knowing that a move always requires more spending, I hesitated slightly before I bought the tickets. When we go to concerts, they usually turn into major spending events. I usually book us a nice hotel, so we don’t have to worry about driving far to get to the venue or trying to park (although we made the mistake of driving to the Elton John show). I also don’t bother with “nosebleed” seats. There was a time when those were the best seats I could afford, but now I want to sit closer, which always means more money.
I asked Bill what he thought about seeing the Eagles, even though the band’s legendary frontman, Glenn Frey, passed away in January 2016. After some thought, Bill was okay with attending the show. Now it was time to choose a city. I had a choice between Cologne and Munich.
We had been in Cologne once before, back in May 2012, when we took our very first Space A military “hop”. I remember we stayed at the Ibis in the train station, which was fine for a night when we were totally exhausted, but probably wouldn’t do now that I’m older and richer. I also know Munich is expensive, since we did a blind booking out of Cologne on Germanwings (now known as Eurowings) during that same Space A hop and got Munich. Don’t get me wrong– Munich is so much fun; but it’s super pricey. Even average hotels down there cost a mint. Munich is also further away from us, now that we’re in Wiesbaden.
Both of the shows were on work nights, but the Cologne show was the day after Memorial Day, so we decided it would be easiest to go to Cologne. Bill would use up one less vacation day, and both the concert tickets and the lodging were less expensive than Munich. Now that we’ve been back to Cologne, I can say that we’ll probably go there for more shows. Not only was it super easy to get to the concert venue, it’s also super easy to get to Cologne from where we live. And, as a bonus, we discovered an amazing hotel in the Excelsior Hotel Ernst! As long as we can afford it, I think the Excelsior Hotel Ernst has effectively ended our Ibis days in Cologne.
This trip was also important, because it provided an excellent opportunity for our dogs to try out a new doggy pension. When we lived in Stuttgart, we used Dog on Holiday, which I would absolutely recommend to anyone. In fact, we’ve decided that anytime we need to go to or through Stuttgart with our dogs, we will try to have them stay with Max and Christine. But it wasn’t practical to take the boys to Dog on Holiday from Wiesbaden, so we needed to find a place for them closer to our new town. In February, we visited the Tierpension Birkenhof, and arranged for our boys to have their first stay during this quick trip to Cologne.
I got us fifth row seats!
With all of the arrangements made, we set off for the “city of pleasant smells” on Monday of this week– Memorial Day. Since our hotel was super close to the train station and the train station had a stop near Cologne’s Lanxess Arena, which was where the Eagles would be “crying”, we decided to take the Inner City Express (ICE) train from the Frankfurt Airport. The Tierpension Birkenhof is fairly convenient to the airport, although not as convenient as Max’s pension is to the Stuttgart airport.
Checking in to the doggy hotel
The Tierpension Birkenhof was recommended to Bill by one of his co-workers. It’s always interesting to see the differences in the “doggy hotels” in Germany. When we were in Stuttgart the first time, we used to use Hunde Hotel Haase, which was a beautiful facility in Bad Niedernau, a very country hamlet south of Stuttgart. Kiersten, the lady who ran it back in those days, was absolutely awesome. But, when we came back to Stuttgart in 2014, she’d left and took the hotel’s good reputation with her. We used the Hunde Hotel Haase a couple more times, but kept hearing horror stories about dogs that were left there. That’s when we switched to Dog on Holiday, which has been universally great, despite it’s somewhat urban location.
Tierpension Birkenhoff is a rather large facility that cares for dogs and cats. It’s located in a somewhat suburban area, yet it’s near farmland. The owner doesn’t accept VAT forms, and we haven’t yet met him. We have met two of his employees, both of whom seemed very kind.
I have noticed that each German dog facility has its quirks. At the Birkenhoff, you’re not allowed to bring your own dog bed. I’m not sure exactly why this is… I think it’s because the other doesn’t want to have to worry about the owners’ beds getting dirty. Nevertheless, it does make things somewhat more convenient for us, since we’re about to trade in our RAV 4 SUV for a Volvo SUV and will probably have to bring the dogs in my Mini Cooper next time they stay. Mini Coopers are small. Dog beds take up a lot of space.
Frankfurt Airport train station to Cologne Messe
Once the dogs were dropped off, we made our way to the Frankfurt Airport. Bill had reserved parking with ACS at the airport, which turned out to be very convenient, once we figured out where P4 was. The reserved spots are reasonably priced and located near the terminal, so there’s no need to haul heavy bags long distances from far away lots. Frankfurt Airport is a bit more confusing than Stuttgart Airport is. It’s huge, and finding parking can be super confusing and annoying. But now that we know where the ACS parking is, I’m sure we’ll use it all the time. It really made parking super easy.
Frankfurt Airport also has a big train station, making it easy to access a lot of cities. If we had left from Wiesbaden, it would have taken a lot more time, required us to park in the parking garage from Hell, and we would have needed to change trains at least once. From Frankfurt Airport, it was a straight shot to Cologne.
I like how, in Germany, “bullshit” isn’t a bad word. You’ll even see it on billboards.
We had time for lunch, so we stopped at a restaurant called Little Italy, not to be confused with the Little Italy in Wiesbaden, which has become one of our favorite Sunday lunch stops. The Little Italy at the airport is in the shopping area called The Squaire. It’s not long on ambiance, but the food and service are good.
Bill went vegetarian with spaghetti and fresh vegetables, tossed in a little olive oil and washed down with a tempranillo.
I had a very lovely tagliatelle salmone. The salmon was cooked to perfection and melted in my mouth. I love salmon that isn’t overcooked, and they did a really good job with this. However, I probably would have preferred about half this much food.
With lunch sorted, we headed down to the platform where we’d catch our train to Cologne. But then, about ten minutes before we were to depart, our original train was cancelled due to some people on the tracks. Don’t ask me what that means. I have no idea. Bill ran up to the Deutsche Bahn (DB) information kiosk, where he was advised that we should take another train.
Instead of dropping us directly at the Cologne Hauptbahnhof, would go to the Cologne Messe stop. That would require us to take a city train one stop over the Rhein River. The nice thing about the train we took was that it went directly from Frankfurt to Cologne, with no stops. It was also practically empty, which was a good thing, since changing trains also erased our seat reservations. Within an hour, we were whisked to Cologne, having flown past beautiful scenery at about 280 kph.
I was surprised by how fast our trip from Frankfurt to Cologne was on the ICE train. It was also very comfortable, since the train has clean toilets and a restaurant. We did not use the restaurant during our trip to Cologne, but it was nice to have had the option.
Bill checks the schedule…
This is the life. First class all the way. Second class probably would have been fine, too.
We could have taken a more leisurely train to Cologne and probably saved some money, but this was a really nice way to get where we were going. It’s been too long since our last train trip. I think we need to take them more often.
It was a simple thing to take the S-bahn over the Rhein River to get to Cologne’s main station, home of the city’s majestic Dom and our hotel, the Excelsior Hotel Ernst.