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With over 18 million people living in Nordrhein-Westfalen it is the most populous federal state of Germany. This is the industrial heartland of Germany as it is home to one of the biggest industrial zones and metropolitan area: The Ruhrgebiet. The capital is Düsseldorf, but many other important cities can be found here. Once the Ruhrgebiet was a synonym for grey and dark, but in a lot of cases this is simply not true. Although this region still has its industries, there are a lot of enjoyable places to find.
Nordrhein-Westfalen lies in the west of Germany, and has international borders with the Netherlands and Belgium. The Rhine river is the major waterway, that runs through this bundesland, on its way to the Netherlands and the port of Rotterdam. It is because of the Rhine, and the coal supplies in this region that this became the industrial heart of Germany.
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The Cologne Cathedral (in German der Kölner Dom) is a gothic building of which the build was started in 1248, and finished in the 1880, when the build of the towers was completed. The two towers of the Cathedral have a height of 157 metres. (the North Tower is 7 centimetres higher than the South Tower). Until 1883, so only very briefly, it was the highest manmade building on the planet. In the second World War the cathedral was hit and damaged by bombs, but most of the church survived, mainly because the towers were an orientation point by the pilots flying over this part of Germany. The main part of the building is 144 metres, and 43.5 metres high. The plan of the cathedral is shaped like a cross, which is common in gothic churches. Inside the cathedral there many chapels, graves, relics, treasures and works of art to be found. Also pay attention to the decorated colorful windows. Entrance to the cathedral is free, but if you want to climb the 509 stairs to the top of the North Tower you have to pay a small fee. Climbing the tower takes a while, but the great view of the city is worth the effort. The cathedral can be found across the square from the trainstation, so even if you are planning just to pass Cologne it is worth to take that exit of the Autobahn and pay a visit to Cologne, see that beautiful cathedral and continue your journey.
Nordrhein-Westfalen has an average German climate, with generally warm and relatively dry summers from June to September and mild but wetter winters from December to February. It rarely gets really hot or cold.
There are several of airports in Nordrhein-Westfalen with numerous choices regarding domestic, international and intercontinental flights, both with regular as well as low-cost airlines:
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Deutsche Bahn provides extensive services to and from Nordrhein-Westfalen. All the big cities are connected by rail. Cologne is a major hub for connections to the Netherlands and south to e.g. Frankfurt.
There are numerous autobahns in Nordrhein-Westfalen. The A-3 and A-61 connects the border of the Netherlands (Arnhem and Venlo) going south. The A-3 passes Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Cologne and Koblenz on the right side of the Rhine River. The A-61 runs on the left side of the river passing Mönchengladbach, Koblenz and from there further south to Mannheim and Frankfurt. The A-1, which runs from the Baltic Sea to Saarbrucken, crosses the A-3 at Cologne, and heads south-west from there. Many autobahns are going west to east, including the A-40, A-42, A-44 and the A-2.
Eurolines connects to several German cities. They have stops in Bielefeld, Dortmund, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Essen. Reservations and buying tickets can only be done on the spot in Dortmund. For the other places you need to make your reservations on the internet.
Deutsche Bahn provides extensive services throughout Nordrhein-Westfalen.
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