We arrived at about 8pm even though the fireworks were not scheduled to begin until around 11:30. We got there so early because once the area fills up, security people block off all entrances to the river area because of the large crowd of about 800,000 people on either side. There are also many restaurants and bars along this ancient part of the town, and they had also brought in many festival-like beer and food kiosks. We sat on the lawn relaxing until it got dark.
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect besides fireworks, but as it got dark outside I realized the magnitude with which they celebrate the Kölner Lichter.
At 10:30pm (it gets dark here much later in the summer) a boat parade began, with all of the huge ships decorated in lights. As the boats passed, very loud "new age" sort of music was playing. (You can see this in the beginning of the video), and sparklers were handed out to everyone. As far as the eye could see on both banks of the river, people were holding their sparklers in the air, and cheering the boats passing by. When the sparklers all died, and the boats had all passed, we waited for the fireworks to begin. The show began with a barge silently slipping into the center of the river, and a very narrative voice scripting the theme of the show, that spoke during transitions throughout the display. You can hear the voice speaking at the beginning of the fireworks in the video. The fireworks lasted for about a half an hour, and every second seemed like the grand finale. The show was accompanied by music from highlander music, asian music, rock 'n' roll, to opera. Fireworks were launched off of the barge up into the sky. Fireworks even drifted by in the water, as they fountained up, and some even launched up to the sky from the water as well. Even the bridge next to the display had a cascade of fireworks coming off of it like a waterfall. It was unlike any fireworks I had seen before. The show ended with great applause from the audience . . . and called for a night out on the town.
We were front and center for the fireworks, but sadly, as you can see in the video, there is a couple of trees in front of us that kept us from having a perfect view of the higher up fireworks. You can actually go on youtube and find the full show posted, but this is just my video. Oh, and all the videos that I make while I'm here, you'll have to forgive me for the bad quality. All I have to shoot video with is my photo camera, which only takes 60 second clips, and is about 6 years old. However, I think having the video helps describe the event, even though it doesn't do it any justice!
To add to the excitement, friends of mine who live in Baden-Wuerttemberg (who I posted about visiting before) came up to Cologne for the weekend, and we had a great time around the city, and watching the fireworks.