As Team Herald step off the train in Cologne we immediately feel right at home – it’s raining and the wind is coming in sideways.

We’re bound for an apartment in Peterstraße, though time is of the essence due to some unusual entry requirements. We’re informed that if we wish to check in before 4pm we must do so inside of a 45 minute window. After a high-tailing it across town we’re told to buzz a flat number once, wait for entry, then type in a code on a mysterious lock box to open the door. After this we must meet the warlock, answer his riddles three, and cross the chasm of doom. Alright, fine, I made that last bit up, but the point is it was complicated.

The apartment is small but pleasant enough, though the surroundings give some members of Team Herald palpitations when we witness a boisterous argument and a drug deal within the immediate environs. Be assured we’re not staying in the Ritz.

Jonny and I venture out to find a supermarket in order to stock the fridge for the days to come, but this proves difficult on a Sunday. As it turns out, everything is closed.

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We find a sandwich stand operated by a young man wearing a Denmark shirt and ask where we can find a supermarket that might be open. He chuckles and informs us that nothing will be open.

We opt to sample some of his wares, a cheese and bacon bread concoction, and he immediately suggests we also partake in a Berliner.

For those unaware, a Berliner is basically a jam doughnut covered in powdered sugar and the source of one of the all-time great urban myths.

In 1963 President John F Kennedy delivered a speech in Berlin, months after the famous wall which divided the city into east and west had been erected.

In front of a crowd of 120,000, the leader of the free world declared: “Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum ("I am a Roman citizen"). Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner!"... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

In the years since it has been claimed that what JFK had in face proudly declared is “I am a doughnut!” by including the indefinite article ‘ein’. A great story, but sadly untrue. The indefinite article is always used in German when speaking figuratively, and as Kennedy was not literally trying to say he was from Berlin, his phrasing was correct.

We pay a visit to Cologne’s magnificent cathedral, a world heritage site and the third tallest church in the world. In the aftermath of World War II its spires were all that was left standing of the old town, probably for no other reason than the Allied bombers used them to navigate by.

An in-spire-ing sight at Cologne cathedralAn in-spire-ing sight at Cologne cathedral (Image: Newsquest)

Visiting the city after it had been liberated by the Americans, the Catholic chaplain of the 82nd Airborne Division, Philip Hannan wrote: “The only building standing was the cathedral, erect like a majestic symbol of the perpetuity of the faith... Though aerial bombs had blown gaping holes in the roof, the spires and walls, amazingly enough, were still intact.”

We retire to a nearby bar for dinner and to watch England take on Serbia. They win, much to the chagrin of the gathered Tartan Army, but aren’t particularly impressive. It’s perhaps a small comfort as that Switzerland showdown looms.