Culture in Cologne

Chocolate has been used as currency; named as an aphrodisiac, a delicacy and an elixir against disease.


Hans Imhoff (1922-2007) was a dedicated chocolate producer from Cologne. Following WWII he founded a chocolate and sugar factory and over the next several decades expanded and acquired many larger German chocolate companies.

In 1993 he founded the Imhoff-Chocolate Museum on a peninsula jutting into the Rhine river in the old town (Altstadt) of Cologne. The museum is still privately owned by the Imhoff family. Since 2006, the Swiss chocolate manufacturer Lindt & Sprüngli has been its partner in creating the museum exhibits and Lindt chocolates are handed out as free samples once you buy your ticket to the museum, are sold in the gift shop and served in the cafe.

Exhibits within the museum provide a 5,000 year extensive presentation about the story of chocolate and cocoa from the beginnings in Central America to contemporary products and production methods. The first exhibit leads you through a 100 square foot (10m²) tropical greenhouse filled with various species of cocoa plants as well as a few other exotic greenery. There are a dozen or more miniature working versions of machines in the chocolate glass factory that allow visitors to observe the Lindt step-by-step manufacturing process. The small bars of chocolate that are made are the same ones handed out to guests at the museum entrance. Additionally there were various machines lining the walls that had contributed to fine tuning the process of turning raw cocoa beans into luxurious chocolate.

Cocoa butter press, 1828

The museum produces its own chocolate and there is a 10 foot tall (3m) chocolate fountain that bubbles with 440 pounds (200 kg) of constantly replenishing fresh Lindt chocolate. Maîtres Chocolatiers dip wafers into the liquid chocolate and offer them to visitors for a second chocolate tasting. Delicious!

Lindt chocolate fountain and tastings!

We saw eye-catching posters, packing and vending machines. The photo at the top of this blog are chocolate dispensers, circa 1900. The museum showcases valuable 18th and 19th-century porcelain, silver bowls and vessels for drinking chocolate from pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. We also saw an interesting selection of historical chocolate molds.

The rooms dedicated to history were some of the most fascinating. The Aztecs called their cocoa, hot water and spice drink, “cacahuatl” and the Mayas termed it “kakaw”.

We decided to stop for a coffee in the Chocolat Grand Café and ended up ordering a small chocolate fondue to accompany our coffees. We skipped the pretzels and marshmallows but the fresh fruit dipped in warm, melted, Lindt milk chocolate was divine.

A chocolate fondue for our coffee break

Klosterkirche Groß Sankt Martin

Our favorite view of Cologne’s skyline is the fabulous 12th century tower of the Great St. Martin Church.

The church was severely damaged in World War II and during reconstruction several 2nd century Roman storehouses were discovered beneath the church’s foundation. After renovations were complete, the transition from the Roman warehouse to the walls of the church can now be clearly seen.

The Monastery church of Great Saint Martin

On the floor surrounding the altar and the choir are ornate mosaics from the 19th century. The pin mosaic coverings were made by the Villeroy & Boch, Mettlach Mosaic Factory in 1885 and the director of the Germanic Museum in Nuremberg designed the classical decoration of the floor of the church. Mosaic panels on the left and right show deer. They are meant to represent Psalm 42:2 “As the deer thirsts for fresh water, so my soul thirsts for you, O God.”

Mosaics on the floor of Great St Martin Church

Tünnes” and “Schäl

Near Groß St. Martin Church are two life-size bronze figures that are meant to represent two typical types of Cologne residents.

The Cologne city dweller “Schäl”, is a cultivated and cunning socialite with tails and a hat and “Tünnes” is the awkward and naive farmer with a blue coat and red nose fresh from the countryside.

The figures were commissioned by the local architect Josef “Jupp” Engels (1909-1991) and a plaque attached to the Hanenhaus building behind the 2 bronze figures reads: “Here in the Hanenhaus, Tünnes and Schäl are staying with their friend Jupp Engels”.

Tünnes and Schäl

Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) was a German artist who worked with printmaking, etching, lithography, woodcuts, painting and sculpture. She is most known for her work depicting the effects of poverty, hunger and war on the working class. Artistically she was extremely outspoken against the leadership in Germany beginning from the late 1800’s and through World War I and II. She was the first woman to be both elected to the Prussian Academy of Arts and to receive a professorship.

The Käthe Kollwitz Museum opened in 1985 in Cologne on the 40th anniversary of the death of the candid artist. Jutta Bohnke-Kollwitz, Käthe Kollwitz’ granddaughter, was the founding director of the Museum and although she has stepped down now, the museum continues to maintain a close relationship with the Kollwitz family.

The museum today has the most comprehensive Kollwitz collection worldwide with approximately 300 drawings, 500 prints, her posters and the majority of her sculptures. The photo below is of her son Hans, drawn when he was around 12 years old.

Käthe Kollwitz’s son, Hans Kollwitz, circa 1904


The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum is an exceptional museum that focuses on ethnography, primitive peoples and their fascinating cultures.

Wilhelm Joest (1852-1897) was a young German ethnographer and world traveler. His first trip abroad was a 3-year trip (1876-1879) beginning in Canada in North America all the way to Patagonia at the southern tip of South America. That trip was followed up by another from 1879 to 1881 when he traveled to southern and eastern Asia – Sri Lanka through India to the Himalayas. He spent time in Indonesia and Japan and returned to Germany via northern China and Russia. In 1883 he traveled to South Africa and along the eastern coast of Africa. In 1889 he returned to South America traveling through Venezuela and Guyana. 10 years later he died during explorations of Vanuatu, an island between Australia and Fiji. He left his phenomenal collection of more than 3500 objects to his sister, Adele Rautenstrauch.

Medicine Figure from the DRC, Central Africa, early 20th century

Anna Maria Adele Rautenstrauch, née Joest (1850-1903) donated her brother’s enormous collection to the City of Cologne in 1899. After her husband died in 1900, Adele also donated the capital for the construction of a new ethnological museum with the condition that it be named the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum. After her sudden death in 1903, her 3 children carried out her wishes, paying for the construction of the new museum. The Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum opened in 1906.

Our next photo shows Uli figures from Melanesia (Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Solomon Islands). The uli are made of wood, appear hermaphroditic and are generally presented during mortuary rites. The blending of male and female features are thought to symbolize virility and nourishing care, both powers leaders should possess as they were expected to provide for the members of their clan.

Uli figures, early 20th century

The museum also has a collection of Roman artifacts. We have enjoyed many Roman museums at this point in our travels but we don’t recall coming across these cleansing tools. Before bathing, it was customary for a Roman to oil themself and then use a curved scraper to remove excess oil along with sweat and dirt from their body. Scrapers came in different sizes for this thorough cleaning. Some have an eyelet at the end of the handle where they could be attached to a carrying ring.

Roman cleansing scrapers

The vibrant culture in Cologne (Köln in German) is gaining international recognition and the city now hosts more than 36 museums and 100 galleries that cover every mix of classical and contemporary art. There is something for everyone in this city.

Prost from these Colognesi,

Ted + Julia

View our Chocolate Museum photo album here

View our Great St. Martin Church photo album here

View our Käthe Kollwitz Museum photo album here

View our Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum photo album here

View our Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Roman photo album here

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