I’m not sure why I struggled so much with this specific post. I’ve made it a point to write about all of my excursions, but this one was trickier for some reason. Every time I opened my laptop to finish, it felt like a task; an obligation. Nothing special came to me. I had blog block.
Maybe it was the fact that Dusseldorf, or any German city for that matter, has never been on my checklist of places to visit. Or, my political viewpoint of Germany might be controversial to some of you. So, why did I even go? Well, if I’m going to be completely honest… a “friend” was there for work. We can call it an old fling, maybe ex (titles haven’t been my style…) was there for work. I thought… why not? It was an excuse to travel and reconnect with someone from my past; someone who reminds me of home. Maybe that was the other struggle. I wrote this blog, rewrote it, deleted half, wrote the other half, deleted that, and realized that leaving this detail out left this post incomplete somehow.
Well, now, I can honestly tell you what my impressions were of Dusseldorf. I was a disgruntled traveller who wished to be back in Madrid almost the entire time, but of course, stayed for the good company. The weeks leading up to this trip, I was really starting to integrate much more easily into the Spanish culture. The dining hours have transformed from “weird” to preferable, the “late” start to each day is becoming normal, bedtime is usually after 2:00am as time flies when you’re simply chatting with friends and enjoying the cooler temperatures of the night. I know, it’s probably not “normal” for you, but it’s pretty standard here.
Well, Germany was slightly different from Spain… again, it was time for a little bit of an adjustment.
It’s not fair to compare the food in Dusseldorf with that of Madrid, which is a melting pot of hundreds, if not thousands of cultures. Dusseldorf has about 600K residents, whereas Madrid has 3M. What I did find interesting about the food in Dusseldorf wasn’t the German food itself, but the influence of Japanese culture. I discovered that Dusseldorf has the highest concentration of Japanese residents outside of Japan. That means you can find real ramen and mouthwatering sushi. Also, thanks to Merkel, Germans can also enjoy an abundance of Turkish and middle-Eastern food…
Which brings me to the people.
When I first stepped off of the train, right in the center of Dusseldorf, I was alarmed. Everywhere I turned, there were middle-Easterners. I had read about the massive refugee outpours and the hundreds of thousands of immigrants, but it wasn’t until I saw it with my own eyes that I realized how much of a reality it is. Of course, I have no problem with foreigners, I am an immigrant myself, but there was certainly a shock factor when I looked around and felt like the minority. And many of us have heard the horror stories about women being attacked in Germany (these anti-rape pants weren’t invented for no reason…) To my relief, I realized that a lot of outsiders concentrate outside of train stations. Once I went to Old Town, I felt more safe.
As for the locals…
The people of Dusseldorf are very… German. I know I shouldn’t compare everyone to the Spanish, but when I’ve been immersed in that culture for over two months, it’s difficult not to. The Germans can be very friendly people, but they are certainly more closed off than the Spanish. For example, any Germans that I have been personally introduced to have been extremely friendly. However, the key is that an introduction was necessary. This isn’t Spain, where, if you’re sitting at a coffee shop alone, someone starts chatting you up. It’s difficult to get in with the crowd here. But once you’re in, you’re in.
The thing I did really enjoy about the Germans is their punctuality. In Spain, if it’s a Thursday, and you make plans with someone for the following Monday (which typically will never happen; they don’t like planning that far in advance), you don’t know if they will show up or not. 100% of the time you should send a text earlier that day to confirm your date. If you just show up at the place during the agreed-upon time, you’ll probably end up by yourself. Here in Germany, when they agree on a time and place, you can guarantee that they’ll be there right on time, if not earlier. I love that!
Things I expected to work but didn’t
Just like in Spain, it’s never guaranteed that you can find wifi. If you do find wifi, it’s shoddy. One day, it will be great, the next day, doesn’t work at all. I even resorted to going to Starbucks, which I had been trying to avoid. Because it was an open network, it didn’t work at all.
I was also dismayed to find that many places don’t take cards here, unlike Madrid. I expected that if the Spanish take credit cards, certainly the Germans would, since they are more economically sound than Spain. Nope. I also found that if credit cards are accepted, they have ridiculous minimums, 20€ at some places. Get with the 21st century, Dusseldorf!
Things only get better from here 🙂 The city is beautiful. The historic architecture, narrow streets and pockets of greenery make this a pleasing place to just get lost in. If you take a walk in Altstadt (Old Town), you’ll find the world’s “longest bar” – a street with 260 bars, mostly German, Irish and of the Spanish/Argentinian variety. This street is packed to the brim with loud, rosy-cheeked Germans, nearly breaking their steins as they bang them together, yelling PROST!
If you want to rest your heels from the cobblestones of Old Town, you can head to the river walk, which is a walking/biking path spanning the city from end to end. Best views. Make sure you stop by Lindt on your way!
While I was there, I was lucky enough to experience one of the biggest festivals the city has each year – Japan Day! I’ve never seen so many people in one place ever before. Not just people, but people decked out in heavy makeup, cosplay outfits, and anime characters.
Last but not least, the architecture
Known as the fashion capital of Germany, Dusseldorf boasts impressive shopping streets, most which are complemented with breathtaking architecture, including US architect Frank Gehry, one of the most recent landmarks you will see along the river.
All in all, Dusseldorf was an interesting place to see, but I would only go for a few days if I were to ever recommend it to a friend. My favorite parts of visiting were seeing my “friend,” eating tapas and drinking “LA Bomba” sangria at Cafe Madrid in Old Town (I found a taste of “home” even in Dusseldorf,) and going to Cologne one night for a Bulgarian party!