Cologne from Cologne

It was another aha moment when we learned that cologne perfume originated from Cologne, Germany.

Duftmuseum im Farina Haus (Fragrance Museum Farina-House)

Giovanni Maria Farina, an Italian-born perfumer moved to Cologne, Germany. When he was granted citizenship he altered his first name Giovanni to the German version, Johann. In 1709 he founded the first and now the oldest perfume factory in Europe when he created his acclaimed Eau de Cologne.

A year prior to opening his business, in 1708, Farina had written to his brother: “I have found a fragrance that reminds me of an Italian spring morning, of mountain daffodils and orange blossoms after the rain”. The talented perfume maker named his perfume, “Eau de Cologne” to honor his new hometown of Cologne. A French name was used because in the 17th and 18th century, French was the language spoken by European high society as well as among the tradesmen.

And his chosen logo is another story…

Tulipmania began in 1634 when the demand and price for precious and unusual tulip bulbs, originating in the palace gardens in Turkey, skyrocketed in price. During the height of the craze the average price of one single bulb exceeded the annual income of a skilled worker and cost more than some houses. 3 short years later, in 1637, the tulip bubble burst, but the love of tulips was born. In 1709 when Johann Maria Farina created his first perfume he wanted ‘an image of great beauty’ for his logo and he chose the red tulip.

Fragrance museum Farina-House

Farina’s subtle fragrance quickly became sought after by most of the European Royal Courts and because it was the first perfume of its kind, “Cologne” was soon a household name. Eau de Cologne was used by both men and women and we were informed that all perfumes were unisex up until the early 20th century.

With the tremendous success of Eau de Cologne and no copyright laws in place, by the end of the 18th century, counterfeit perfumes began to appear. Other businessmen sold their own fragrances, but used the name of Eau de Cologne. Giovanni Maria Farina’s formula however has remained a secret to this day.

One perfume counterfeiter from Cologne began production in 1799 and is still in business today. We visited their shop as well and they now sell their original fragrance under the name 4711 but have been allowed to contnue to include the Eau de Cologne wording on their packaging. 4711 does have a very different scent than Farina’s original Eau De Cologne.

Perfumes today are generally made of ethanol and scented essential oils (natural or synthetic) blended in an alcohol solution. The main difference between perfume and cologne is the scent strength and the combination of oils depends on how long a scent will last. Today the term Eau de Cologne or cologne has evolved as a category for fragrance. Perfumes are now categorized by their “fragrance concentration”. After Shave at 1-3% is the mildest concentration, Eau de Cologne has 2-4%, Eau de Toilette 5-15%, Eau de Parfum 15-20% and Pure Parfum with 20-40% concentration has the longest lasting scent.

The term “cologne” can be applied to perfume for men or women, but in North America cologne has historically been a term used for men’s fragrances.

Brief History

Founded by the Romans in the 1st century, they named their city Colonia. Cologne is the French and English version of the city’s name but in German it is spelled Köln, although the pronunciation is very similar to the English pronunciation.

Cologne/Köln was occupied for much of its recent past; first by the French (1794–1815) then it was part of Prussia beginning in 1815 and finally, following WWI, by the British (1918–1926). It was one of the most heavily bombed cities during World War II with estimates between 75% and 90% of Cologne’s buildings destroyed, including the entire 1000 year old city center. By the end of the war only 20,000 residents remained out of the original 770,000 pre-war population. It took a number of years to rebuild the city but by 1959 most of the former residents had returned. Today the population is around 1.1 million. The cityscape is very mixed because only major historic landmarks, like churches and gates were rebuilt. We took this next photo not far from the apartment where we were staying. It is the restored 13th century Hahnen Gate that was a part of the medieval city walls.

Hahnen Gate

Kölner Dom

Cathedral Church of Saint Peter, simply known as Cologne Cathedral, is the third-tallest church in the world (after the Lutheran church in Ulm, Germany and the Roman Catholic church in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast). It claims the title of tallest Gothic cathedral in the world standing just over 516 feet (157 m) tall. Its massive twin steeples make this UNESCO Site an easily recognizable landmark. Conservation is slowly ongoing to address the black discoloration caused by acid rain.

Cathedral Church of Saint Peter

In 1164, the then Archbishop of Cologne, acquired the relics of the Three Kings. To protect these precious relics, construction of the Cathedral began in 1248 and like many other Cathedrals, it was built upon earlier christian structures that had beeb built on even earlier roman temples. Construction was halted and restarted more than a few times over the centuries, but it wasn’t until 1880 that the cathedral, 632 years after construction began, was completed and celebrations could begin. Visitors may climb 533 stone steps up the spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 330 feet (100 m) above the ground…, not for us.

Gargoyles on churches generally attract our attention – there are such a variety of styles, faces and figures. We recently learned that gargoyles and ‘grotesques’ are said to have the power to ward off evil spirits. They guard the buildings they are attached to and protect those inside. We have seen an amazing variety of churches throughout Europe and in our link to the Cathedral at the bottom are more photos of the gargoyles on Cologne Cathedral.

Gargoyles and ‘Grotesques’

The interior of the cathedral has a wonderful balance of simple architecture and colorful decor. The painted chapels are especially pretty. The decoration in this corner reminded us of Christmas and rolls of wrapping paper.

Cathedral Church of Saint Peter

Found in the choir is the Cathedral’s most prized relic, the Shrine of the Three Kings. It is the largest reliquary of the Middle Ages. The shrine was made in 1180-1220 of oak and plated with silver, gold and precious jewels and there are several scenes on its walls.

Shrine of the Three Kings

The cathedral has 11 church bells – 2 were installed in 1448 – the Pretiosa weighs 11.5 tons and the Speciosa is 6 tons. As the Cathedral was nearing completion, Kaiser Wilhelm I wanted to add more bells and gave the church a French bronze cannon, captured in 1870–71, to cast into a bell. However the bell did not sound good so a 2nd and then a 3rd attempt was made. Eventually a colossal bell, weighing nearly 30 tons called the Kaiserglocke or Gloriosa was shipped to Cologne in 1875 and installed in the cathedral. It was removed and melted in 1918 to support the German war effort. The Gloriosa had been the largest free-swinging bell in the world. Its successor, St. Petersglocke or Bell of St. Peter was installed in 1923 and weighs 26 ton.

Wallraf-Richartz Museum

When Ferdinand Franz Wallraf, a German botanist, mathematician, theologian, art collector and Roman Catholic priest passed away in 1824, he bequeathed his tremendous collection of art to the city of Cologne.

Thirty years later, in 1854 the German merchant, Johann Heinrich Richartz, volunteered to pay for all construction costs for a new municipal museum to give the Wallraf collection a home and make it available to the public. At Richardt’s death in 1861 just a few months before the museum opened, he donated a further sum that was to be used to acquire additional paintings.

The collection has expanded with donations over the years and includes a Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and an outstanding Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection. The museum had a handful of the French artist, Paul Signac’s works and we adored this outstanding painting of a cape on the Italian Riviera, close to Genoa.

Capo di Noli, 1898 by Paul Signac

Within the Gothic collection is this next amazing early 15th century painting. We do see paintings from the 15th century but far less often than later centuries and we enjoy the somewhat flat or caricature-like paintings of faces that were typical of the time.

However the Cologne artist Stefan Lochner (1410-1451) painted this outstanding Gothic piece around 1450 and included his characteristic and much more realistic child angels. The Madonna in the Rose Bower is a prized possession of the Wallraf–Richartz Museum.

The Madonna in the Rose Bower by Stefan Lochner, 1450

We also enjoyed finding more works by the Dutch painter, Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516) and were lucky to see his most famous triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, at the Prado Museum in Madrid a couple of years ago. The Wallraf-Richartz-Museum also carries other incredible Renaissance painters like Nuremberg artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), and a number of pieces by the prolific Belgium artist, David Teniers II (1610-1690) as well as Rubens, Rembrandt and many, many more.

And of course we found more favorite pieces in the wonderful Impressionist collection including works by Emile Bernard, Gustave Caillebotte, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt and Alfred Sisley.


The first time Melaten was mentioned in a document was in 1243 and it referred to a hospital for the sick and the site of a leper colony. The Melaten Cemetery has become the largest cemetery in the city with more than 55,000 gravesites.

The Melaten Cemetery

Walking through the tranquil cemetery felt like we were in a quiet forest that was filled with a sense of the people that are buried here.

Wallraf and Richartz, the two men responsible for the creation of the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, each have a tombstone in the cemetery as does the founder of Eau de Cologne, Johann Maria Farina and some of his family. We took the photo below of this interesting and pleasant headstone because it seemed quite cheerful.

The Melaten Cemetery


The striking three-arch Hohenzollern Bridge that crosses the Rhine was rebuilt after WWII for rail and pedestrian traffic only. We walked across the bridge to witness, at last count, an estimated 50,000 ‘love locks’ that have been padlocked to the iron grating along the footpaths. Unlike some European bridges, the Hohenzollern can seemingly handle the extra 2 tons of weight the locks have added. Scroll in on our photo to check out the knots of locks.

Hohenzollern Bridge

We had an incredibly enjoyable and educational first week in Cologne. We learned for example during our tour of the Fragrance Museum that Egyptians burned incense as a way to mask smells. The origin of the word ‘perfume’ and ‘parfum’ comes from the Latin word “per fumus” which means “through smoke”.

Did you know that the travel industry is beginning to introduce scents to aid in a more positive travelling experience? Sweet travels y’all.

Prost from these Colognesi,

Ted + Julia

View our Cathedral Treasury photo album here

View our Cologne Cathedral photo album here

View our Fragrance Museum photo album here

View our Melaten Cemetery photo album here

View our Wallraf – Richartz Museum photo album here

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