Travel with Brunch: The German interlude
It was a beautifully balmy Sunday morning in Düsseldorf, Germany’s worldly city famed for its fashion and art. I’d been there for a week by then and given in to the temptation of stopping at the tranquil Hofgarten Park each time I passed by. This time it was after a hearty French breakfast of buttery croissants and scrambled eggs with potatoes – a first for me. I could tell now why Germans love potatoes or kartoffel as they’re called here.
Now my Google search told me that the Heinemann Konditorei Confiserie is not only one of the oldest confectionaries in town but one that’s sure to lure even those on the strictest of diets. Severely guilty of a sweet tooth, I couldn’t help but pack generous slices of the famed black forest cake and a baked lemon cheesecake from the patisserie perched on the ground level of the restaurant where I had just washed down my breakfast with a strong cuppa.
Leisure meets luxury
Back in the park just to see ducks and swans – and many other birds whose names I’m ignorant of – happily sunning themselves right in the heart of the city was no less than a luxury. But that’s what Düsseldorf affords its visitors. I was just a short walk away from Königsallee – the swish shopping street that locals call Kö – dotted by hundreds of international as well as German designer stores frequented by men and women of significance who navigate it in the coolest of cars. The day before, I’d enviously watched several supermodel-like women walking with Pekingese and Maltese dangling from their precious totes around this luxury fashion boulevard. No wonder Düsseldorf is where numerous fashion events, trade shows and congresses are held all year round.
Sundays here are rest days and barring cafés and restaurants, malls and all stores including supermarkets remain closed. Those who cannot make time to do the day’s groceries in advance can pick them up from the supermarket inside the Hauptbahnhof or the main railway station of Düsseldorf. Despite the language barrier (the people here speak only German), moving around Düsseldorf in public transportation was a breeze.
All I needed was to learn to say ‘danke schon’ – that’s ‘thanks a lot’ in German – and purchase a Rheinbahn ticket online by downloading the app on my phone. This helps you navigate the city via buses, trams and subways. Interestingly, it’s assumed that you’re honestly boarding with a pass or a ticket; they check only occasionally.
Going with the flow
Apart from the app, the aroma of freshly-made fluffy pretzels doubled as directions leading me to most subway stations when I’d lose my way in the city ruled by the river Rhine. Since I lived on Scheibenstraße street, about a 10-minute walk from the river, the water body and its myriad attractions beckoned me every single day. From long solitary walks on chilly nights to thoughtful evening sunsets on the benches and sun-walks on crisp afternoons, the Rhine became part of my routine. An hour-long cruise on this beautiful water body marked the beginning of my 10-day short love affair with this silent suitor.
It was on one of these leisurely afternoon walks that I discovered Altstadt or the old town, where over 260 pubs line the “longest bar in the world.” The narrow cobbled streets were also where I discovered more bars, breweries and eateries and then finally found the statue of Jan Wellem in bronze, that’s turned a bright green, right in the middle of the historic Marktplatz, not to mention the St. Lambertus Cathedral that’s known for its distinctive twisted tower. Moving further ahead towards the Rhine promenade, I chanced upon the rather small river called Dussel that flows into the Rhine and overheard a guide mentioning this historic church to a group of tourists huddled around him.
“This church was constructed in the 14th century. However, its tower had to be rebuilt in 1815 after a fire broke out. There are two stories behind the twisted tower. One is that it was rebuilt with wet arbors that made it twist after drying up. The other is a legend that when a non-virgin bride came to the alter pretending to be a virgin, the tower became crooked. It will return to its original shape once a real virgin walks up to the altar!” he said to peals of laughter. There were guided tours of the cathedral, but I rushed back for my own little private solo tour on the basis of this well-informed commentary.
Every day by sunset, the pubs lining the promenade lit up and strains of lively yet not loud music began to flow into the river. One night a group of musicians appeared on the steps nearby to practice for the upcoming music festival, and runners and fitness enthusiasts appeared on roller skates and segways while the Rhine glittered in the moonlight…a sight that stays fresh in my memory many months after I return.
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From HT Brunch, December 8, 2019
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