Face twice wrapped in a thick grey scarf, hat pulled to my brow, and hands deep in my pockets I trace the wet streets of Düsseldorf, frozen to the bone. It’s the seventh-most-populated city in Germany and is known for its modern art and electronic music. So I wasn’t surprised to see the city so alive on a Sunday.
It’s a lot bigger than most cities, fat long roads host multiple museums, art houses, music venues, shops and even its own underground (you know a city’s big when it has its own underground). The city carries the county’s detectable architecture: a lot of grey, with the odd burst of flamboyant coloured buildings, with odd roofs. Despite the distinctive design of the Germans, it is quite odd and difficult to pinpoint. Old styles next to new, traditional art clashes with urban, and streets vary from colourless to vibrant. I think the heavy damage during the wars gave an opportunity to rebuild, which gave way to diverse and contradicting architecture. Some chose to rebuild what once stood, whilst other braved new structures.
Despite having a raw urban feeling the city has a lot of green and blue to offer too. The city itself is congealed around the Rhein, the great river of central Europe, splitting the city in two allowing you widespread views that help comprehend Düsseldorf.
As for the green, I’m told there use to be a castle and with it great gardens, now the city is interwoven with the remainder of these greens, lakes and ponds. It’s an odd site to see nature remain and pervade in such a modern city, but it only adds to the uniqueness.
Unlike most large cities Düsseldorf isn’t glazed by inescapable tourism. This city feels very natural, relaxed and almost void of tour buses, tour groups and pesky fellow sightseers. As much as I walked and saw I felt like I was only scratching the surface of the city. I felt as if its treasure lied deeper, no tourist’s boards could reveal the true joys of this place, only time. Unlike Münster, where an organised day would suffice, I feel like Düsseldorf had an unobvious culture to digest; an electronic, urban one that lies thick in the blood of the populace.
Throughout Germany there is always a sense of restless youth as they attempt to scatter cities with profound graffiti. This sense of reckless discontent is much a contrast to the regimented perfection that is usually allied with the Germans. And here in Düsseldorf that contrast is at a high, as everywhere I looked the unofficial urban art sat beside the reserve of the architecture around the city. This adds colour and meaning to once blank walls, and thickens the diversity and understanding of the inhabitants.
I was tracing around in cold, but I was told that much like a flower this city blossoms in the warmer months. The long strand stretching the inner city’s brush against the Rhein flourishing. Live music, fresh food, skaters, and even clusters of people gather on the riverside each night to see the sun set behind the Rhein. It all sounds very hippy-like, and I definitely want to come back to partake.
Before my day in Düsseldorf I was initially greeted by a night out in the city. I was with a fellow au pair, who had been calling the city her home for over a year. With her as my tour guide we ventured into the old town, where it oddly hosted the city’s night life. After bustling through busy loud streets we soon met up with her friends, also fellow au pairs, in the Irish bar McLaughlins: a standard destination for them. But feeling guilty for neglecting their New Year’s resolution to be more adventurous, we forced our way into a new dwelling.
While hunting for new turf, I was surprised to see the area heaving, streets packed with people: this city clearly had a vigorous nightlife. Before long we found ourselves at the Schlossgarten. Its exterior looked traditional, so I was surprised to be walking into a flashing, red skirted disco-styled bar. Unfortunately for them and fortunate for us the place was dead.
So we were soon approached by a bum-bag-wielding waitress, it took me a while, but I decided on the local beer, Alt Bier. Düsseldorf is renowned for its specially brewed beer, Alt Bier. Its names pretty much says it all, ‘alt’ meaning ‘old’, it’s a beer that is brewed in a rather archaic way. I tried it, and then again, it was nice. Actually as I write about it I want more. It was a good night, we did attempt a few other places, but kept to our senses and left early knowing it was an early rise the next day.
I would strongly recommend a visit to Düsseldorf, not for the tourism, but for the culture. You could entertain yourself for one day with sightseeing, but the others, I would relax as the ambient art, music, and literature pervades you. Oh, and drink lots of Alt Bier- it’s really nice!