Sunset in Cologne

My normally practical and pragmatic wife has a quiet romantic streak. She booked us a sunset cruise along the Rhine River while we were in Cologne.

Unfortunately, she booked it through a third-party Web site instead of directly with the cruise line. When we arrived at the appointed dock at the appointed time, the ship that was there wasn’t the one promised. Nobody knew anything about the cruise we’d booked.

The boat we found at our dock — not the boat we were to cruise on

Margaret doesn’t cry easily, but this was disappointing enough that tears pooled in the outer corners of her eyes.

“I’m sorry this isn’t working out,” I said. “But I have an idea. We had dinner at that little pub right across the river last night. I’ll bet we could grab a table outside and watch the sun set from there, while we have a couple of drinks.” She liked that idea, so off we went across the massive Hohenzollern Bridge.

Early evening sun falling on the east side of the Rhine River in Cologne. The little pub we visited is at center right.

A Kölsch before me and a gin and tonic before Margaret (the Germans say “gin tonic” and were confused every time Margaret included the “and”), we watched the sun slowly set. We were incredibly fortunate that from where we sat, the sun’s path intersected the enormous Cologne Cathedral, casting it in silhouette.


I walked south from the pub to make a few more images.


I caught Margaret looking at me from our table. I’d wandered a good distance away — with the lens set at its maximum zoom, 200mm, this is as close as I could get. Margaret is in the middle of the photo, turned and looking at me.


We had another drink before we headed for our hotel, which was west of the river. This time we crossed along the Deutzer Bridge, one bridge to the south of the Hohenzollern Bridge. I paused halfway to make this photo of that well-known structure.


“I’m glad we did this. This was better than the cruise would have been,” Margaret said. I love it when I can pull a disappointment out of the fire!

I won twice on this missed cruise. The booking company didn’t want to refund our tickets — until I sent them the first image in this article, pointing out the dock number in the photo and the date/time stamp in the photo’s EXIF. They refunded me immediately.

Nikon Df, 28-200 f/3.5-5.6G AF Nikkor.

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20 responses to “Sunset in Cologne”

  1. brandib1977 Avatar

    Sometimes our best laid plans aren’t nearly as fulfilling as a spontaneous Plan B. What a beautiful sunset and a beautiful way to salvage the evening!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It worked out!

  2. DougD Avatar

    Ah those pesky third parties! The sunset cruise was one of the few things I did do in Koln, but you sure made some great lemonade out of the lemon you got handed. Well done!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We learned an important lesson: no more third parties.

  3. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Ditto, nice plan “B”, and nice “save” with the photos. I still have to say, I find “computer base booking and compliance” to be very iffy when traveling. Based on experience, I would probably never book stuff like this in Europe (or south and Central America) on a computer. It ain’t the U.S., and many times people just shrug during snafus and you’re out. Many times, the person running the service on the ground is powerless to do anything for you, they just take the booking or money from “walk-ups”. I’m actually amazed you got your money back at all! Last time I was there, even about half our computer based booking for hotel rooms for a photo assignment, were not booked, and we took to checking a few days out before any change to a new location. My sister, who travels a lot, and is always trying to do things the cheapest way possible, is always using those flight booking services that you may have to change air carriers over legs of a trip. She is left stranded an amazing amount of times because none of the individual carriers take responsibility for the snafus and refer her to talk to the service, or the previous carrier or the next, but it isn’t them. Many times she has to buy a full price ticket and spends months after getting back, hassling with the booking company oR the airlines to get her money back. An amazing foolish way to travel and I don’t know why she bothers, as it never seems to end up being cheaper oR working out.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We have never had trouble prebooking over the computer when we book directly. When we book through a third party, we sometimes lose. Once we booked a rental car in Ireland via a third party and the rental counter in Galway didn’t have the reservation, even though we showed them our confirmation letter and number. We had to rent a different car on the spot and pay full price. The third party in that case was steadfast and would not refund us.

  4. -Nate Avatar

    Nice save Jim .

    Also nice story telling and the photos are wonderful .

    I was wondering if you’d get a refund, glad you covered that as well .

    Usually your credit card will refund the $ if the worthless company won’t .


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve never had to do a chargeback but it’s nice to know it’s there if you need it.

  5. Anthony Hicks Avatar
    Anthony Hicks

    I have often found, that the very best days happen by accident.

    They just seem to magically appear as if from nowhere, and then they shine on in your memory forever.

    Like falling in love, they happen when we are busy dreaming of other things, they sneak up on our blindside, and suddenly we find ourselves in the moment.

    And all we can do, is go with it…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes! Have the wisdom to just lean into it.

  6. seatacphoto1951 Avatar

    I am thinking of purchasing the Nikon Zf to compliment my Df early next year. There are many third party lens makers that are creating Z mount lenses with Aperture Rings.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      If you do buy the Zf, I look forward to seeing your work with it on your site!

  7. Darts and Letters Avatar
    Darts and Letters

    Poor Margaret! I’m so glad your improvisation turned out successful and you two salvaged the evening. It’s neat in the third picture down, how so many people are sitting at the base of that wall, soaking in the sun.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      A thing we noticed about the Germans is how willing they are to just sit out in the open air like that. It’s not something we do so much here in the Midwest.

  8. Dave Powell Avatar

    Beautiful photos Jim… And GREAT use of EXIF data. I’ll remember that!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I almost couldn’t believe that it worked!

  9. Katie Yang Avatar

    I’m sorry she was so sad but things did turn out for the better – your photographs are excellent! (I don’t understand how the booking company could have refused to refund, wouldn’t that literally be a scam?)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      They said they checked their sources and found that the boat was there and the cruise happened. Then I sent them my photo of the dock listed in their instructions, with the wrong boat present, and pointed out the date/time in the EXIF. They refunded promptly.

  10. J P Avatar

    You won twice with the photos- a beautiful memory and your money back! That looks like an awesome place to catch a sunset.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It really was.

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