Last Saturday was the first sunny Saturday that we’ve had in WEEKS so we headed out to explore more of Germany with our friends Kate and Luca!
I’ve been itching to see more of the cities nearby, and the radar was looking sunny for the weekend, so Kate and I decided we’d head to Düsseldorf, a quick one hour train ride North, to see what it’s all about. Düsseldorf was founded in 1288 and is the business, fashion, and finance hub of West Germany. Another lovely Rheinish city and the capital of Nord-Rhein Westphalen, Düsseldorf is one of the country’s wealthiest cities and brimming with a great fine arts, fashion and dining scene. It’s always nice to leave Bonn to see larger and more posh German pastures.
We walked to the main shopping street, Königsallee, along the canal and passed some big names of fashion: Armani, Bulgari, Cartier, Dior, Gucci, Hermes, Prada, Versace….etc, etc, etc, as well as high end jewelry stores and the like. This street was born for people watching. The average person in Bonn doesn’t really seem to care so much about what they’re wearing – but here you could tell people cared, maybe they had money, maybe not, but some of these people on the street were top notch in fashion (others were trying hard and failing ha!).
Walking through the Altstadt (Old Town) following our stomachs to lunch we came across a bubble guy working to fill his tip bucket by entertaining groups of children (and adults too!) He was creating some really impressive/fun bubble art. Can you call that impressive – it’s soap, but it was cool! Watching these kids gleefully chasing bubbles, absolutely covered in bubble solution, was a fun street performance to happen upon.
Kate scoped out a great lunch place and brewery, Brauerei zum Schiffchen, featuring a top rated brewery in town and a restaurant where a little guy you may have heard of, Napoleon, once ate. To be fair, according to the interwebs, he was actually just shy of 5’7″ in modern units of measurement, so he wasn’t really thatttt small.
Zum Schiffchen (which means “little boat”) is the oldest restaurant in Düsseldorf located in the heart of the Altstadt. The restaurant reflects more than 385 years of the city’s history. As their restaurant pamphlet touts: Napoleon was once our guest here, and Heinrich Heine also enjoyed a meal with us on many occasions. Over the years, we have served both well-known and long forgotten celebrities, the rich and the poor, the dull and the eccentric, and has survived several wars in the process, even withstanding the storms of modern times.
In 1811 Napoleon and his general staff quaffed beer in this corner here:
Speaking of zum Schiffchen serving the rich and the poor, this rather well dressed group of people, ladies in fur, a man with nicely groomed hair and a tailored day suit, were sitting in a prime location in the restaurant, and kept watching us checking out the restaurant being delightful tourists. Kate and I were playing ultimate tourists and lucky for us, no one was sitting here. But, I mean really, it’s important to have pictures of the very place that Napoleon sat.
We tried a variety of of their cuisine that day. Kate had roasted pork, with turnip greens and rosemary roasted potatos (a Rheinish special!), I enjoyed a turkey breast curry with basmati rice, Luca had a roast beef kind of dish with egg on top, and Sean tried some local Gorgonzola ravioli with pear. W all tried the beer of Düsseldorf: the Schlösser Alt. It’s a bit darker than the others we’ve tried around the Rhineland, but very nice. It was probably our favorite – better than the Kölsch and the Bönnsch. I think I’ve explained before that most every town around here has their own signature beer and it’s fun to try them.
Making the meal even better, or waiter was such a nice guy, and actually seemed to be enjoying our decision making on what to order, and our cute usage of German. (cute because we’re not so advanced!)
We headed back into the cold to wander around the Altstadt some more and explore the riverfront area. The Rhine embankment promenade was built between 1990 and 1997 in an effort to return an area that become a big traffic zone back to a oasis connecting the town to its water-loving fishing town roots. It is said to symbolize Düsseldorfers’ Rheinish joie-de-vivre and in summer is an expression of the city’s Mediterranean lifestyle. (Did someone say Mediterranean feels in Germany?! – we’re definitely going back this summer!) Today the traffic is still there, but it goes under the promenade out of sight. Smart, right?
We strolled along for a while, going through the Bergplatz, passing the site of the castle of the Count of Berg, where the only thing left is a former side tower of a later baroque palace. It looks rather like a lighthouse to me, and houses the Schifffahrt Museum (shipping museum – also those three f’s are not a typo – just German words), which shows 2000 years of navigation on the Rhine.
Along the promenade on the Rhine, we found a sunning staircase (reminds me of those steps on the Georgetown waterfront a little bit) rows of restaurants, a little fish market featuring seafood from the Sylt insel in the north of Germany, bars and cafes, where locals can catch Düsseldorf’s own, Fortuna Düsseldorf, play soccer. The promenade was packed this day partly because there was a soccer match going on, and I’m sure it was also because of this sunny beautiful day.
We struggled to find a perch where we could settle in, soak up some Vitamin D, and do some people watching. But the one spot we were able to find happened to be at the end of the table of two gentlemen we’d seen before that day. As we walked of lunch these two were directly in front of us after having diner at zum Schiffchen. We commented on their fanciness. Popped collars, though I must say the one guy had a really nice blazer with elbow patches (love some good elbow patches), and slick hair. When we sat down, Kate leaned over to tell me, but oh I already knew and loved this funny coincidence. I did some paparazzi action on them here while we enjoyed some great conversation and a lovely Sauv Blanc from Slovenia. We were going to try a wine from the Rhine, but they were out, I don’t think I’ve ever had Slovenian wine, but it was a nice crisp white, perfect for our sunny, if not super chilly, afternoon
It was actually rather frigid or we would have stayed longer, but we strolled through the town on the way back to the train station and found a few more gems and observed the famous tower in town from afar (it’s 9 euros each to go up…meh).
There’s an old market that’s been turned into a foodie and food market exploration haven that we must return to enjoy, saw some more statues, observed some more happy Rhinelanders, and I even found some people in red pants!
Such a fun day, we were all pretty wiped out and happy to sit down on the train for the hour long ride back. Such a fun day, and we’ll definitely be returning!