Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Duesseldorf, Germany

Duesseldorf has managed to preserve the charm of its old town, Alstadt,  while redeveloping its Dussel River harbor with a combination of re-purposed and architecturally striking new buildings, making it the envy of other cities worldwide.

Beer, mustard, interesting art and architecture fronted by a river to the Rhine with high-end shopping and a quaint, pedestrian-only old town center where you will find 260 bars, restaurants and discos in one square kilometer; swaths of trees and green spaces and no hills to speak of - Levelers, what's not to like?

Well, there is the construction for an underground subway system that no one seems to want, but dodging barricades and workers is a small price to pay.

Prepare to walk. Public transportation is excellent but the only way to enjoy the old city is to walk through it and the best way to enjoy the beautiful riverfront and Media Harbor is to walk along it.  There is a hop-on, hop-off tour if you can't manage the walking.

Old town. Cobblestones, brew pubs, quaint buildings, even a Mustard Museum are what you will find here.

Also, Little Spain, a whole street of Spanish restaurants all owned by one man who came to the city as the child of guest workers. Many of his customers are Germans who winter in Majorca.

The Mustard Museum isn't much - more shop than museum, but its array of flavored mustards is amazing. I came home with fig (!) mustard which is actually quite good.

It's easy to miss the two remaining Protestant churches because they are set back from the street, a requirement in Catholic Germany at the time of the Reformation.

It's impossible to miss the statue of Ioanni Guilielmo, Jan Wellem, John William, who ruled here in the 1700s and 1800s. Not only did he set up the statue in front of Town Hall himself, he also allowed Protestants to build churches and the brewers to form a guild and thus come up with the city's famous Altbier, a pale ale with the dryness of a lager and the fruity notes of an ale.

His favorite pub, now the popular traditional restaurant En De Canon, is next to the Karneval center, facing his statue.

Speaking of Karneval, it is a major event in the city's social and party calendar. Like the Mardi Gras of New Orleans, it begins long before Fat Tuesday, but unlike New Orleans' celebration, women take the central role in Duesseldorf.

John William married one of the deMedici daughters and Duesseldorf soon became known as an art city. He was an avid collector; today the city's 26 museums span the history of art from ancient to yesterday. Its Art Academy has long been famous for artists and professors who welcome innovation.

Among those you ought to see are K20 (modern) and K21(contemporary) Kunstsammlung, Kunst Palast and, if there's time, Kunst im Tunnel, literally, art in the tunnel, where students display their work in a no longer used tunnel along the waterfront. Another reason to stop there, its bathroom, down an elevator, is the most convenient to the harbor promenade.

Tip: Relax, Levelers. The museums all have lifts.

It's easy to see what a difference this artistic heritage has made to city planning. A ventilation pipe from the underground became the Music Fountain instead of an eyesore.

The harbor with its old storage buildings has been transformed into a hopping showcase of contemporary architecture with the river as inspiration known as Media Harbor. Frank Gehry designed three buildings and other architects include Doring Dahmen Joeresen, Steven Holl, David Chipperfield, Jurgen Schurmann, Zamp Kelp, Norbert Winkels, Claude Vasconi and a host of other, international innovators I should have heard of but haven't. Don't miss this; plan to see it in daylight and at night. You won't be sorry.
 
In fact, you won't be sorry about anything in Duesseldorf except leaving.

Where to stay. I was at Steigenberger Parkhotel, the city's first five-star hotel, which is at the beginning of Konigsallee, the "Ko," Duessseldorf's high-end shopping street, and a comfortable walk away from the old town. Warning: Because of the steep steps (about 8) up to the hotel I can't wholeheartedly recommend it for Levelers until 2013 when major renovations will have eliminated the steps.

If you prefer the harbor area, Marriott, Radisson and Hyatt have hotels in the center of the lively bars, restaurants and businesses of Media Harbor.

Where to eat. I can personally recommend Brauerei zum Schiffchen, the city's oldest restaurant (1628) and the only one where the bathrooms weren't up or down but on the same level (!).

Very different but also very good is the chic Victorian Bistro, just off the Ko.

And the duck in the Steigenberger Parkhotel restaurant is excellent. The potato soup at Julian's in the Courtyard  Marriott is quite good too. I'll be posting the recipe for it on my other blog, Food Afar - Recipes from a Travel Writer.

2 comments:

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November 29, 2010 at 2:28 AM
piter said...

Germany is very modern and beautiful Country. I like to visit this country many times. It has many places to visit to get full fun and entertainment.

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July 25, 2011 at 2:04 PM

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