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Cities in germany - Cologne

Cologne (German Köln) (population 965,954 as of December 31, 2003), is the fourth largest city in Germany and largest city of the North Rhine-Westphalia state. It is one of the most important European inland ports, and considered the economic, cultural, and historic capital of the Rhineland.

Its location at the intersection of the Rhine (German Rhein) river with one of the major trade routes between eastern and western Europe was the foundation of Cologne's commercial importance. In the Middle Ages it also became an ecclesiastical center of significance and an important center of art and learning. Cologne was badly damaged during World War II.

Today, it is the seat of a university, which is renowned for its economics faculty and the see of a Roman Catholic archbishop. Cologne cathedral, the largest Gothic church in northern Europe, was designated a World Heritage site in 1996; it is the city's major landmark and unofficial symbol. The city is 43% Roman Catholic, 18% Protestant and 39% other religions.

Traditionally, Cologne's inhabitants are seen as an open-minded people, admired for their humor and wit.

Geography

The city covers about 405 km² (about 156 miles²), is located at 50 52' 2" North 7 8' 37" East and is 77 m above sea level.

The Coat of Arms of Cologne

The three crowns symbolise the Magi or Three Kings whose bones are said to be kept in a gold sarcophagus in the Cathedral (see Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral). The eleven flames are a reminder of the Britannic princess St. Ursula and her legendary 11,000 virgin companions who were martyred at Cologne for their Christian faith by Attila the Hun. In reality it was probably just 11 companions.

History

Cologne is the oldest major city in Germany; it became a city in 50 A.D. It got a bishop early, and in 785 became the seat of an archbishop. The Archbishop of Cologne ruled a large area as a secular lord in the Middle Ages, but in 1288 he was defeated by the Cologne citizens and forced to move to Bonn. Cologne was a member of the Hanseatic League, but became a free city officially only by 1475.

Cologne lost its free status (and regained its archbishop) during the French period, and in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna was made part of the kingdom of Prussia. Cologne became an industrial city, and the cathedral, started in 1248 was finally finished in 1880.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Cologne incorporated numerous surrounding towns, and by the time of World War I had already grown to 600,000 inhabitants. In World War II, it was repeatedly bombed, and much of the city was in ruins. It took some time to rebuild the city, but afterward it grew again, and around 1990 reached 1 million inhabitants.

Buildings and places of interest

  • Cologne cathedral (der Kölner Dom) is the city's famous landmark.
  • University of Cologne
  • Hohe Strasse ("High Street") is one of the main shopping areas and extends past Cathedral in an approximately southern direction. This street is particularly popular with tourists and contains many giftshops, clothing stores, restaurants and electronic goods handlers.
  • Wallraf-Richartz Museum

Legalities

Cologne is the only city in Germany with an explicit tax on prostitution. See the article on prostitution in Germany for details.