Sunset, Seagulls and the Düsseldorf Altstadt
Having spent much of the day riding the suspension train at the Düsseldorf airport, I headed into town, to take a walk through the Altstadt, or Old Town. I had never before visited Düsseldorf, but had heard plenty about this quaint neighborhood, with its traditional houses, its promenade along the Rhine, and abundant bars and bugs which serve the famous local Altbier.
I disembarked from the S-Bahn at Sternstraße, and approached the Altstadt from the north. After the modern, sci-fi atmosphere at the city’s airport, it was quite the temporal adjustment to be suddenly surrounded by truss houses and historic churches.
With the goal of reaching the Rhine before sunset, I set out into the Altstadt’s bewildering maze of alleys. I almost got didn’t make it, thanks both to getting lost and being distracted by all the photo opportunities, but arrived at the river’s banks at the perfect time. The sunset was dark red, and I saw two guys feeding seagulls, who would dive to snatch bread straight out of their hands. It reminded me so much of Istanbul, where similar scenes play out every day.
But instead of a minaret, Düsseldorf boasts the Rheinturm, towering 240 meters over the city. From here, you can see another tower, called the Schlossturm, which is the most striking building in the Burgplatz. Locals claim that the Burgplatz is the most beautiful square in Germany, and being here, I found it hard to disagree.
I now walked back into the heart of the Altstadt, spoiling myself with all the German architecture. The center of the Old Town is a plaza called the Marktplatz, which is home to the old Rathaus, or City Hall. Across from it, I found a house with a Glockenspiel and a few touristic gift shops. But by now, it was hard to concentrate on architecture, because of all the bars. With more than 300 packed onto Ratingerstraße, some claim that this street is the longest bar in the world. Pub crawl, anyone? We can make it to at least 200 of them!
Speaking of beer, Düsseldorf’s beverage of choice is Altbier, which has an historic rivalry with nearby Cologne’s Kölsch. Kölsch is a pale lager, served in narrow glasses, while Altbier is much darker in color. The very name refers to the “old”, or traditional way of doing things, before lagers came around. I was told later that it’s difficult to distinguish the beers in a blind taste test, and although I find it difficult to believe, I’d be happy to try.
I now left the Altstadt, and on my way to the hotel, I passed through one of Germany’s few Chinatowns, found near the train station. After a month of Greek cuisine, I was deeply craving some Asian food, and sat down at a Korean joint, serving up Bibimbap. The day had been so traditionally German, that this seemed like an odd choice… but it felt right. I haven’t lived in Germany for a very long time, and there’s no need to overdo it, all at once.
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