Meet our Germany experts: the tweet-surfing Benji Lanyado
Guardian travel writer Benji Lanyado recently whizzed around Cologne led entirely by Twitter suggestions. He learned how to say Hohenzollernbrücke very quickly, survived on a diet of beer and chocolate, encountered the romantic side of the city and still has one vital question left unanswered.
Your recent tweet-led tour of Cologne should have made you a real insider. So enlighten us, why is Kölsch served in such small glasses?
Well, according to a number of people, it’s to keep the stuff optimally fizzy. A flat Kölsch is a bad Kölsch. The smaller the glasses the less chance it’ll go flat. However, I was told another reason, which I slightly prefer: Kölsch is seved in tiny glasses to allow the drinker to flirt with the bar man/woman more. Makes sense.
Any intriguing Cologne details that baffled you/made you smile?
I really like the love locks on the Hohenzollern bridge. From what I understand, this is a relatively new phenomenon [Note: since late summer 2008, couples put padlocks bearing their names up on the fence of the bridge to symbolise their love, a custom which is spreading around the world]. Visually it’s beautiful. But the cynic in me wondered what happens if a couple divorce or fall out of love – do they have to go down there with bolt cutters? I also wondered why the staff in some of the more famous beerhauses were all older than 40 and male. Is it a rule?
A lot of the tweets had to do with food and one of the recommendations took you to the Chocolate Museum. That must have been a tough assignment!
I didn’t get to stay long, as I was hurried along, but it was great. The geek in me was transfixed by the working factory parts in the back – watching the mechanized production line from liquid chocolate to packaged Lindt boxes. The glutton in me enjoyed dipping wafers into the chocolate fountain on site.
Cologne is known as a city with a fairly relaxed vibe. What was your impression?
The same. People were very friendly and easy-going. One thing I’ve never experienced before: a Moroccan immigrant taxi driver telling me he thought Cologne was the best city in the world! Taxi drivers, in my experience, usually moan about their city.
Any other destinations in Germany you’d particularly recommend?
I’ve loved spending time in Berlin and Dresden, especially in the summer.
Please complete: Germany is Wunderbar because …
… everything works.
NB If you know why all the waiters in Cologne’s Brauhäuser – the so-called Köbes – are male and over 40, let us know!
Benji’s complete Cologne Twitrip in the Guardian
The Wundermeisters also contributed to the Guardian’s Germany week, with a top twenty
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