Gay Cologne: Beauty & bounty

Being gay or lesbian in Cologne is no big deal Germanys fourth-largest city is nonchalant about sexuality in a way that will amaze and impress visitors. Thats one reason Cologne was tapped to host Gay Games VIII in 2010. The games, a life-changer for athletes who may never before have practiced their sport in an atmosphere of acceptance, draw extra juice from being held in an ancient European city with very modern ideas.

The city is civic minded. Special efforts, funded by a surcharge on every Gay Games registration, aim to subsidize 100 athletes from former Eastern Bloc countries where gays are still victimized. The community has also banded together to host the overflow of Gay Games visitors expected to exceed space in city hotels.

Of other amenities -- including bars, clubs and gay-friendly eateries --Cologne is positively bountiful. Check out gayborhoods Alter Markt (just south of the Dom) and Rudolfplatz (near the intersection of Hahnenstrasse and the Hohenzollernring). Alter Markt (it means Old Market), as you might expect, is generally home to older crowds and/or more sedate venues, while dance clubs, baths and all-night partiers gravitate to Rudolfplatz. But dont confine yourself to gay venues; locals say kicking back with a mug (or three) of locally brewed Klsch beer in one of the citys venerable brewpubs is a highlight of any excursion in this magical, loving city.

By air & train
Direct air links exist between JFK and Cologne-Bonn Airport; you can also fly to Dsseldorf which is on a direct train line about 35 minutes away. Germanys main hub is Frankfurt, from where you can take German Railways flagship high-speed train, the InterCityExpress, at nearly 200 miles an hour directly into Colognes Central Station opposite the soaring Gothic cathedral begun in 1258. The whole trip takes under an hour.

Restaurants to check out

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