Cologne wasn’t made up of much; there wasn’t much to see, nothing too impressive, but the host I couchsurfed with made my entire trip rewarding.

My host lived in the outskirts of Cologne. It was scary arriving in Cologne because I took the midnight bus which arrived Cologne in the middle of the dark (the sun had not risen) at 6am. Worse, it was drizzling when I arrived, and my GPS wasn’t working.

In times like these, civilization is your only salvation. I managed to find my way around, luggage in hand, umbrella on the other and backpack on back, to Frechen, after a 20-minute train journey.

I was prepared to wait for 3 hours for Silke to meet me at our agreed time, but upon receiving my message, she came down to pick me. Very thoughtful of her! She infused me with an enthusiasm of a traveller seeing the city for the very first time.

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Couchsurfing in Cologne, GermanyHer dog would nudge me for a stroke. Yes, the princess of the family. She is massive! Almost two-thirds of my height if she stood up. If she stayed still you’d think she was one of those dog statues. Very photogenic girl. Speaking of which, she is SO obedient that she is capable of posing for the camera (like above)! Such a sweetheart.

Couchsurfing in Cologne, Germany

Couchsurfing in Cologne, GermanyI loved her dining area the most, because it is an extension of her house and it is surrounded by transparent glass windows, like a glasshouse. I’d eat breakfast with sunlight streaming in, surrounded by a garden full of blooming wild daisies.

Silke not only welcomed me like a guest, she treated me like family. She whipped up a very German dinner just for me to experience some authentic German food while I’m in Cologne, had her daughter bring me out to show me around the city and spent the rest of the night chatting with me by the fireplace.

Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne, Germany

Hohenzollern Bridge

Silke and her husband are one curious couple. We chatted at length about Singapore, me being their first Singapore guest. She checked the atlas for the location of Singapore, and placed Google’s yellow man right on my street to imagine the conditions which I lived in.

Young at heart, she and her husband taught me the meaning of slow & spontaneous travel, of driving their camper van out into the wilderness in Morocco, enjoying each other’s company, talking to the family, and worrying only about what the next meal would be.

They embody the epitome of a true traveller. They expose their kids to international volunteers whose jobs are to care for the kids and the household and they’d get free food and lodging in return.

We talked about politics, cultures, and parenting.

Couchsurfing in Cologne, GermanyI had a room all to myself, which was a pleasure, since I haven’t enjoyed such privacy since the start of my Germany trip on 21 April 2015, in her 2-storey landed property.

Couchsurfing in Cologne, Germany

Dining area

They have a penchant for mannequins. They have Lara Croft at their entrance, a lady at the dining room (did you spot it?), Steven in my room, and the “cool” dude on the 2nd storey.

Couchsurfing in Cologne, Germany

Picture frames along the staircase

It’s beautiful how she captures the memories of her family at different stages in different shapes and colours along the stairwell. I loved the picture of brother and sister walking hand in hand in B&W the most (below). There is so much emotion emanating from that one picture. Mum, we need to decorate our home like that too!

Couchsurfing in Cologne, Germany-10Silke even went the extra mile to contact German hosts for me in Frankfurt when my original host bailed out on me. She does not feel like 50 to me. She’s got boundless energy, even more than me.

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I’ve never felt so at home and so loved by a stranger that I get to spend with for less than 48 hours. She sends my greetings to my family after I showed her my family photo. And I will miss her so.

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Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on belaroundtheworld.com/about.


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