For some reason (beer), I have veered from the normal schedule that I would keep in blogging an adventure because I am so TIRED at night (beer). Hoping to put this back on track, I am vowing (beer allowing) to get this missive off this morning and another tonight (beer).
Yesterday was all about getting our bearings. While some people are able to go with the flow and recover from jet lag well, we have discovered through experience that my children (I am mentally including my husband in the children count) do not. While I ran the banks of the Rhine and wandered the streets of old town writing and drinking coffee, they slept. While I turned the kitchen of our adorable apartment into a yoga studio for an hour and worked out the kinks of travel, they slept. While I showered, dressed and checked Facebook, they slept. Then I lost my shit and made everyone get the hell up and see the city.
We wandered the streets of the old town together and found a gorgeous outdoor market. We read menus, ogled shops and ate a mystery breakfast in a chocolate shop. You see, we hadn’t really planned on having a vacation in Germany so it never occurred to us to learn any German! I speak French and Kevin speaks Spanish so we’ve always been able to fumble our way through menus in countries with romance languages but this is HILARIOUS. Honestly, we spend a lot of time making “apology face” for our bare American-ness and pointing at items on menus or in glass cases. The Giant is soft spoken and hard to understand on his best day and Kev and I, veterans of years of airplane cockpits and rock concerts, are always asking him to speak up, but it turns out that mumbling inaudibly as if you are shy is much less conspicuous than the alternative of loudly proclaiming your idiocy. . . but I digress.
Dusseldorf is a city of amazing contradictions and unexpected charm. I expected that there would be charming spots of older architecture and “Octoberfest” style Bavarian-ness. I expected to see clean modern buildings with glaring utilitarianism. What I didn’t expect was that there would be block after block of well preserved medieval architecture melding seamlessly with stunning innovative modern art-chitecture (yes, I sometimes make up words, but what else can you call a building that is breathtakingly obviously a piece of art that people live in?). Fanning out easterly from the Rhine River, the area is all at once sleepy and lively, medieval and modern, earthy and cerebral, artsy and industrial.
Having procured an apartment an hour before arriving while driving on the Autobahn, we had no right to tumble into such a wonder, but we did. Our apartment is located smack dab in the center of Bolkerstraße–a street that is considered to be the world’s longest bar with 260 pubs. The next street over is an incredible shopping area filled with pastry shops, European clothing boutiques and vendors selling everything from sausages (he he) to Vietnamese food. Dotted throughout the gelato shops where the scent of fresh waffles curlicues through the outdoor cafe tables to mix with the wisps of cigarette smoke emanating from red faced locals having animated conversations over coffee, the cobbler’s shops with leather shoelaces hanging in the windows like hanks of hair and the punk rock shops with painted leather jackets and spiked boots are 13th century courtyards and churches that have been converted to modern art and film museums intermingled with fast food stands that will sell you french fries with every conceivable topping (Hollandaise?).
We made our way to the river walk and meandered to the Rheinturn Tower and took an elevator to the top where we had a birds-eye view of the entire city and the surrounding countryside. Spying a building that was designed by an architect that The Giant had spent a semester studying in school, we set out to find it on the ground and walked through city parks with pieces of the Berlin Wall on display amid skateboarders practicing their tricks. Unable to resist the magnetic pull, we finally succumbed to a lovely cafe table and surrendered by ordering fresh waffles covered in Stracciatela gelato and scalding cappuccinos that were served with miniature cookies. We laughed at the statues, guessing at their meanings–we thought about downloading a translation app, but the costs of data were too great so it would have to wait until we retired to the apartment to use the wi-fi. Also, I am a staunch believer that the stories we make up about the world around us are far superior to reality so the language barrier pushed our novelty to new heights.
When evening fell, we sat outside a bustling restaurant eating platters of roasted meat and potatoes, playing poker and drinking beer until exhaustion pushed us to fall into bed for our last sleep in Dusseldorf.