Cologne, Active Discovery Style

Sometimes, true. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Thursday, September 14, 2017
The laundromat looked like something out of a David Lynch film – lots of crimson reds combined with a thuddingly mechanical soundtrack created by dozens of dryers rotating in unison. Just when I think Mr. Roque is going to roll out of nowhere carrying some lint, we’re pulled further along on our off-the-beaten-path exploration of Cologne, Germany.
It’s all part of today’s Active Discovery tour of Cologne that Avalon Waterways will be rolling out in 2018 on its Active Discovery on the Rhine voyages from Amsterdam to Frankfurt (Wiesbaden) or reverse.

If David Lynch had a laundromat, it would look a lot like this one in Cologne, Germany. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Before we could arrive in Cologne and tour one of its most off-the-beaten-path, hipster-y neighbourhoods, however, we had to spend a morning sailing southbound along the legendary Rhine River aboard the 166-guest Avalon Expression.
I was up early in order to photograph Avalon Expression’s public rooms. I’ve been enormously impressed with the ship and Avalon so far. Public rooms are contemporary and well-designed. They’re spacious and inviting, but never seem to be overly-crowded. Unlike other river cruise ships, everyone can find a seat in the Lounge for lectures or casual lunch; standing is only necessary if you want it to be.
Let’s take a look at Avalon Expression on this beautifully sunny morning on the Rhine:

Up on deck early this morning as we sailed the Rhine…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…proved to be perfect for picture-taking opportunities. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

In the cozy main lounge aboard Avalon Expression…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…seating for all. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

An early-riser’s continental breakfast is offered here each morning. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Pick a table, any table! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Reception. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Daily newspapers can be found here each morning – and I like that Avalon still offers this nice touch onboard its river cruise vessels. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Another favorite area: the gorgeous aft-facing Club Lounge, all the way aft on Deck 3. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The skies darkened as Avalon Expression pulled into Cologne shortly after 4pm, and the first drops of rain were just beginning as we boarded our min-bus for our Cologne Off the Beaten Path excursion. It was so “off-the-beaten-path” that our bus driver had to repeatedly ask our guide for directions. Unimpressed with his answers, he eventually relied on his GPS to take us to a local neighbourhood – one of Cologne’s most-desirable addresses for hipsters and trendsetters.
This fabulous, two-hour long walking tour was conducted at a relaxed pace, though you should still be fairly mobile if you want to get in on it in 2018 when it is featured on Avalon’s Active Discovery on the Rhine voyages.

Sailing into Cologne on a stormy afternoon…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…within sight of the city’s famous Dom, or Cathedral. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

In addition to the Lynchian laundromat mentioned at the start of this article, we walked past shops selling mid-century furniture, clever paper goods in English and German, and dozens of bars, cafes, barbershops and pop-up art studios. On the nondescript buildings were murals of a creepy Ronald McDonald lookalike; and of Germany’s Angela Merkel engaged in a passionate kiss with the leader of the opposition – someone she may have to come to an agreement with to avoid a coalition government in the upcoming election.
We were the only tourists around, and our guide purposely didn’t carry an umbrella or the ubiquitous “lollypop” sign that so signifies river cruise passengers.

Our walking tour through a local neighbourhood in

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