Dusseldorf, Langenfeld, Cologne
If you’re following the itinerary and agenda you assume that for the past few nights we’ve slept in Köln, or Cologne as the English name goes. In fact our host lived in a small town between Köln and Düsseldorf, named Langenfeld which is perfect since we wanted to see both cities. So when we arrived at the Train station in Köln, after a way smoother train ride where everything was written in 4 languages, we took a local train to Langenfeld and then our host Max came to pick us up.
One thing about Germany, all the cars are new, fast and amazing. So as we rode with him to his place, he was blasting Die Toten Hosen music (which are the main reason I wanted to see Düsseldorf) and he told us there was a party going on at his place because his flatmate had finished his internship.
Partying with Germans
At his flat were at least 8 or 10 of his colleagues, loud electro music, beer, and a guy running around with a jockstrap. Most of the guys were football players (as in American football), and while they spoke in German most of time we grabbed a beer and enjoyed the ambiance.
The thing with German beer, is that it comes in 0,5L bottles. So after 3 of those we were pretty drunk and bickering for nothing. At least the party was over and we could lay down on the 2 double mattresses with the outside metal blinds closed so that no light would disturb us in the morning.
The next morning, we woke up at 10, having no idea it was already that late and having just had the best night of sleep in a long time.
It was passed 1 when we got to Düsseldorf and we got a döner in a restaurant near the train station. We can’t remember having seen that in Québec but if you ever see a place that sells them, take one. They’re really good! Then we decided to go visit this rococo/classic castle that was described in Felix’s guide as having strategically placed mirrors that made it look bigger than it was. So we got back on the local train and retraced our steps for a few stations.
The castle was really nice with pink walls as is often the case in rococo. The grounds were huge with a lot of trees, basins, and gardens. The place was built as a summer residence so everything is about fun and hunting and parties and the such. We were a bit disappointed because we couldn’t figure out what they meant with the mirrors but figured they were more likely inside. So we booked a guided tour and visited the rest of the gardens while waiting.
For the tour we had to wear slippers over our shoes so we “skated” our way on the marble floors. The tour was really nice because it was only the two of us and the guide. So we got to visit smaller rooms that are usually closed off like the bathroom with stucco vines all over the walls and the small guest rooms where we got see the bed. Did you know people slept sitting back then because they feared they would die if they slept lying ? The interior was generally very rococo except for some rooms very simple and some classical elements were integrated such as columns and a dome with an oculus. Sadly we couldn’t take any pictures inside so you have to use your imagination for this one.
When we got out it was raining and it kept doing so for the rest of the day.
Walking the city
Our other plans for Düsseldorf consisted of walking through the city on a path suggested by a booklet and check out some monuments and maybe visit a museum. But by the time we got to the said museum it was closing in half an hour so we just walked in the rain for the rest of the day. We did enjoy the city none the less. In the middle of a big commercial road, there is a canal called Kö with trees on each side and a few statues.
Before starting on the suggested path we stopped at a shop that sold a lot of Die Toten Hosen merchandise and I got to try my german on the shop holder there. On our way we encountered pink bunnies walking around…
Then we walked around a few museums and culture centers. It’s funny that the only particularly interesting buildings suggested in the booklet were the art museums , the art school, the old planetarium which has been changed into a concert hall, and the churches. Head over to the gallery to see more of them.
There was also a park designed by the same architect that made the Schloß Banrath but it would seem it was redesigned as an English garden later. It was full of sculptures and ducks.
Did you know: The cartwheel was invented in Düsseldorf by children celebrating a victory in a battle in 1288.
Wet and hungry
By 7 we were pretty wet and tired and decided to stop for a meal at a local shop. We wanted to wait until the stock exchange bar opened to have a look at it but there was too much waiting and we were a bit tired of beer after almost a week of drinking nights. The stock exchange bar, if you ever go to Düsseldorf, is a place where the price of alcohol fluctuates depending on supply and demand.
On Friday morning we woke up later than the previous day. Those blinds are very efficient. We got ready and headed towards Cologne. As you exit the train station you are sure not to miss the humongous cathedral. But it was sunny for once and the sun was blinding us as we were looking up at it so we got closer. The Dom is a gothic cathedral that took 6 centuries to build. It’s way more over the top than anything we saw up to now and more impressive even than Notre Dame de Paris.
After he Dom, we headed to an old Gestapo prison where the people were held during interrogations. A lot of graffitis were written on the walls in various languages and telling various stories. It was pretty unsettling to be in such a place and reading about the awful conditions in which the people, most of the time innocent, were held.
Walking along the Rhein
Then we went to grab a bite, and I got to taste a giant Bretzel. We then walked on the side of Rhein river. The place was very nice and enjoyable. A lot more so than when we walked along the Rhein in Düsseldorf under the rain. We got to see a bit of the city this way.
Our walk led us to the Lindt Chocolate Museum. We thought it was pretty funny to see kids get out of there with bags from the shop. In the book it was described as Willy Wonka’s factory so I was slightly disappointed to see a real museum with cacao fabrication history and production methods. But at least we got to enter a “tropical forest” in which our glasses and cameras fogged instantly.
As we progressed we got to the factory part of the museum and could see chocolate being produced and we felt like kids. The smell was also very appealing. We could see the cooks working on the chocolate and Félix thought they were like the Oompah Loompahs of the place. We got a taste of the chocolate from the fountain and for the rest of the museum we couldn’t wait to get to the shop to buy some chocolate. Very efficient marketing strategy.
Langenfeld, close to both cities and to none
That night we got home early to have dinner with our host and get ready to go out. We left at 9h and got to the bar at 11h after a bus, a train, a metro and a tramway. The one we had spotted in the guidebook didn’t accept anyone anymore. We were pretty bummed and after walking aimlessly for a few minutes and seeing a bunch of people drinking in the streets, we decided to ask the bouncer where this other club Max had told us about was. It ended up being right across the street.
The club was a student club and they had a 90’s party. What is nice about Germany is that the alcohol is way cheaper than anywhere we’ve been up to now. We could get a beer for €1,50 – €2, and Rum-Colas for €1,50. The music was really good albeit strange. We got recent songs as well as Backstreet Boys, Blink 182, Rock around the clock, German songs and probably any old classic you can think of, Britney Spears and Spice Girls excluded. We had a lot of fun and when it was time to catch our tram back to the train station, there was a jungle in front of the coat check. Felix fought his way through and we caught our tram.
On the way, it stopped for about 10 minutes while some altercation was going on outside. It involved a lot of police men (or the tram security), a dog, a mad guy hitting on the tram window and a guy snoring his way through all this. Nonetheless, we managed to make our way back home in an hour and a half after waiting for 10 minutes in the heavy rain for a taxi at the Langenfeld station because the buses stop running at midnight.
We finally got to sleep at around 4 in the morning and enjoyed the smooth morning on Saturday as we’re leaving for Brussels only in the afternoon. Good times 🙂