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Cologne area

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My wife and I plan to spend 2-4 weeks with friends in Cologne next Fall (~mid September - mid-Ocotber). They are gracious enough to allow us to use their home as a "base of operations."

They'll help us with the "don't miss' sights of Cologne, but we're looking for ideas for short 1-2 day trips out into the surrounding countryside (villages, etc.).

Also, would a car rental be the way to go for such trips, or are such areas accessible by competitively priced public transit (bus, train, etc.)?

Any ideas are much appreciated!

Thanks. Mick

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