The Rhine leading the blind: A blindfolded walking tour in Cologne, Germany

To prove that travel and urban exploration need not be limited to mere sightseeing, and can provide a rewarding multi-sensory experience, one man has introduced blindfolded walking tours to the German city of Cologne.

Axel Rudolph created Blindwalk in order to lead sightseeing tours that do not actually involve sight. Wearing snugly fitting sleep masks, and clasping the backpack of the person in front of them, up to six participants are lead by a tour leader like a group of helpless ducklings or third graders on a field trip through Cologne’s historic city center. This may sound like a recipe for disaster, with tourists stumbling over cobblestones and curbs while being assaulted by honking cars and exhaust fumes. But Rudolph believes that by foregoing our reliance on our eyes, our other senses are accentuated and we can appreciate the nuances of city life that are normally overlooked. The sounds of chirping birds or a passing train; the feel of a breeze blowing off the Rhine River and the cool, damp stonework of the Cologne Cathedral; the smells of coffee and Kölsche beer being brewed. As the tour members slowly grow accustomed to this unseen world, the city can be appreciated in an entirely new way.

Participants in Rudolph’s tours have almost universally embraced these walks, with very few people “cheating” by lifting up their blindfolds. The tours, which include a picnic and wine-tasting (all enjoyed blindly, of course) cost 35 Euros. If you understand German, or don’t mind using Google Translate, check out their web site for more details.