Cologne VS Dusseldorf: Part #2
Cologne VS Dusseldorf: Part #2
Dusseldorf is about thirty minutes by Train from Cologne, directly south and also on the Rhine. The two cities don’t like each other. Historically, merchant ships on the Rhine had always docked first at Cologne. Here they traded all of their finest goods, and made the majority of their business before continuing on and flogging their remaining leftovers and scraps to an impoverished, Rhineland backwater which called itself Dusseldorf. It’s no surprise then that there was animosity as Cologne grew wealthy and had a stunning Cathedral built while Dusseldorf simply eked out an existence. Its fortunes did go up in 1288 though, when a major power struggle between the nobles of the two towns culminated in the Battle of Worringen, leaving Dusseldorf as the victors and the fledging city being bestowed official ‘town’ status. But Cologne stayed rich and actually benefitted from the altercation, as it ensured the towns autocratic rule by the corrupt Archbishops came to an end. Fast forward to the modern era and Dusseldorf has closed the gap, leaving the citizens of Cologne to grumble that Dusseldorf is simply copying them, though with a smug reminder that they don’t have a Cathedral.
The traumatising boredom of Cologne hadn’t left me feeling positive. The area around Dusseldorf train station is not impressive and I decided to walk from the station to Backpackers Dusseldorf in the hope of seeing something interesting on the way. I didn’t though, and it took about half an hour to get there. Once again I was gutted to see that my hostel was largely deserted when I arrived, though it was more modern and less haunting – and this time I was happy to see that I had a room all to myself. In the common room there were 2 English guys and a girl in their 30s watching MTV – apparently living there until they found an apartment in the city. But they seemed irked by my attempt to be friendly and their attitude compounded my disappointment. I still felt like a fool for spending 4 days here when I could have gone somewhere I’d actually been meaning to see for ages like Berlin or Budapest. The only good thing I could say was that I was highly motivated to find a way to enjoy myself so as to not remember my West German investment as a tragic write-off.
So I headed out for what would become a massive circuit of the city. Starting at the Rheinturn tower, I made my way along the rather nice riverside promenade and then to the Old town which certainly has more charm and ‘old town’ feel to it than Cologne’s. Everywhere there are places selling the regional Altbier, a pale ale which is the pride of the town. Nowhere more so than the area known as theAltstadt, a place which has forged Dusseldorfs new nickname of ‘the longest bar in the world’, a name which is almost literal given it’s a dense area containing some 200 bars and clubs – I’d be coming back here later. A couple of times I stopped to ask for directions and the locals all seemed very friendly, especially when I noted that I was enjoying Dusseldorf more than Cologne. The fact that the sun had come out also helped this cause. After some wurst and a waffle I went to check out the cities free history museum which was sort of interesting if not the most well maintained. I looked around a few other places, but seeing not much else of interest headed back to the Hostel to hopefully find some company for checking out the Altstadt that night.
It pleased me to no end that the Hostel was now showing signs of life. My room was still free and I found myself chatting to a bunch of Spaniards in the common room, though they were reluctant to come out later as they had an early flight in the morning. So did I, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I then topped up at a decent Indian restaurant next door and returned to the Hostel, pondering what to do when I ran into a hot Brazilian girl. She was also travelling alone and when I mentioned the Altstadt district, she was keen to go with me. Ding ding ding – We have a winner. On the last night of my 7 day trip I finally made it a good one. We walked along the beautiful Rhine promenade, had a few fine altbiers at the Altstadt, made out, then back at the Hostel proceeded to make maximum use of having a room with no one else in it. For me, Dusseldorf had just won another battle over its neighbour.
I’d normally end things there but I just have to mention the vending machines from the airport bathroom the next morning: Travel sized sex toy dispensers for men and women. On offer were things such as edible underwear, miniature dildos and most amusingly – a vibrating penis ring. Now who the fuck needs this. AND for a plane ride I thought as I took a photo for evidence. But just as I did, a plain looking businessman came out of the stall behind me, inserted some coins with the casualness of getting a coke, then left the bathroom with his newly purchased penis ring while I just stood there blankly. West Germany: it can be so fucking boring it hurts, but on the other hand it might just surprise the shit out of you.