Two weeks ago, my husband and I met up with an American friend of ours in Düsseldorf, Germany. I’d never been there before, and neither had my husband. Now that Germany is my home, I’ve made it a goal to see as much of it as possible. We would have been excited to meet up with our friend even if he was staying right here in tiny little Wolfsburg. I’d be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t excited to visit somewhere new; even for only a weekend.
From the moment we arrived, Düsseldorf felt different than any other German city I’ve visited so far. Traffic was worse than in Berlin. Nearly everyone was driving like the traffic laws were made up and the street markings didn’t matter. One of the more entertaining acts of road rage we saw was a man screaming at a woman blocking traffic as she waited for a parking spot. He yelled for a solid minute, then sped off to the corner just a few meters away and…let his elderly mother out of the car.
The main part of the city is relatively generic looking, though there was the occasional interesting bit of public art. While the parks and other public spaces are nice, the buildings aren’t particularly unique. I could imagine them being in almost any other city I’ve been to; even those outside of Germany. However, they have one thing going for them that every other German city I’ve been to doesn’t: I saw almost no graffiti. It was here and there, sure, but it was sparse and mostly out of sight.
While the main part of the city isn’t exactly memorable, the Altstadt certainly is. The buildings are older, the cobblestone streets are picturesque, and the the river walk is scenic and beautiful. My only issue with the river walk is the smattering of bars blasting corny pop music (complete with flashing lights) as early as Noon.
To be honest, I thought it was rather bland. I didn’t even like my first glass. But, I did end up having a second! So, make of that what you will.
Trying the altbier is also an absolute must if you’re also planning a visit to Köln (Cologne). These two cities have an intense rivalry, and that (naturally) extends to the beer. I’ll have my chance to compare next month, when we visit Köln.
While drinking our beers, we got to enjoy a bit of people watching. There was an unusual amount of bachelor and bachelorette parties that Saturday. While I’ve yet to see brides-to-be doing anything more embarrassing than wearing a sash, it’s a completely different story for the grooms. Weird outfits, genitalia balloons, forced accordion-playing…we saw it all.
For dinner, we took our friend to a restaurant with traditional German food. Our first choice was too busy, but we quickly found another with a free table. The historic section of most German cities is cramped and crowded; the streets are narrow and the buildings are so close their outdoor seating nearly overlaps. Thankfully, this usually makes you feel cozy rather than claustrophobic. Düsseldorf was no exception; we enjoyed both our meal and the atmosphere.
It was after we took our jetlagged friend back to his hotel that things in the Altstadt went from quirky and cozy to repellent. We returned around 8PM, and it was busier than ever. During our short absence, it had also become an obstacle course; we had to dodge drunk people flailing about, thrown drinks of all types, broken bottles, vomit, and urine.
Again. It was only 8PM.
Seriously; who gets shitfaced that early?
I will say, though, that the partying was very inclusive. I saw just as many hammered retirement home candidates as I did high school and college kids.
Needless to say, I was over the game of “dodge the beer bottle a drunk guy just threw, but don’t accidentally step in the pee!” pretty fast.
We were out of there before 10PM. Our AirBnB was ten minutes away from the Altstadt, but we could hear people screaming, singing and otherwise being obnoxious until about 3AM. It’s moments like that which make you really miss having air conditioning; with the windows shut, we couldn’t hear them. Unfortunately, we would have roasted to death without the breeze.
The next morning, the city was a ghost town. On our walk three blocks to the nearest open bakery, we didn’t pass a single person. It was so quiet, I could hear the beating wings of pigeons flying past. Was the entire city nursing a hangover? Maybe!
Our second day was actually quite nice. We visited a park, a museum, and had a delicious dinner at a restaurant in Düsseldorf’s own Little Japan. For all the details, check back next week for my second post on our trip to Düsseldorf!