Dusseldorf

OVERVIEW
My European adventure began with arrival in Dusseldorf – not a normal destination for long distance travelers to start, but it had been the cheapest inbound destination when I booked so I thought why not. It’s largely a business-based city, although it does have a very upmarket shopping strip, Koenigsallee (the Kings way – think Prada, Agent Provocateur etc) which is wide and pleasant to walk down. There were quite a few beggars along it however, although I didn’t see them sleeping on the street so much throughout the city as in Melbourne. Being about 6 degrees I started to think about whether in colder climates there is a stronger incentive for the local government to do something about homelessness.

Overall it felt much like any other modern city, and though we made some attempts with our patchy and rather pathetic German, almost everyone spoke English anyway so it wasn’t terribly hard to get about. I actually feel like for me at least, it wasn’t a bad starting point as the excitement levels sort of ramped steadily upwards, and really the first day after landing you’re too groggy to enjoy all that much.

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FOOD

My first German meal was a plate of Schnitzel and fried potatoes bigger than my head, which was fitting. Unfortunately, while the potatoes were deliciously crispy, the whole thing was rather bland and tasteless.

Having tasted German food in Melbourne, both at restaurants and my partners Oma’s, I expected my experiences in Germany to exceed them, but alas this first experience wasn’t the case. The restaurant was packed full of locals though, including what appeared to be business lunches, so it was obviously popular – not some poor quality hole in the wall that residents know to avoid.

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What did make an impression though was the incredible array in the window of every bakery we passed. The bread was dark and glossy, in a seemingly endless array. Some loaves that I didn’t recognise the names of gleamed to the point that they almost looked like they were coated in gold dust. If I had a week there in an apartment I’d be buying a different loaf of bread every day and having them for breakfast and lunch. In fact I think I might need a month to try them all.

The Christmas markets in Dusseldorf left me a little underwhelmed, but in the regular markets I was similarly excited by a stall selling nothing but potatoes. Dozens upon dozens of different types of potatoes. We really only have about 5 or 6 kinds in Australia (growing up I really only remember three). White skinned, brown skinned, Russet, and recently Dutch cream, Royal blue, and Kipfler.

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It sounds ridiculous to say that on my first arrival in Europe, the thing I was most excited about was a potato stall, but there you go.

ARCHITECTURE

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There’s also quite an interesting modern-architecture area of town with many buildings designed by Frank Gehry, but honestly it’s not my thing. Oh and buy the way, if you’re thinking of getting a travelling tool, DO NOT buy a Victorinox Swiss army knife in Australia. The Swiss Champ retails for about $189AUD, but with the current exchange rate in Germany they were around $120 even at the Victorinox flagship on Koenigsallee – and in Zurich you can pick one up for about $103. If you get the Zurich card you’ll snag a further 10% off as well – but more on that in my Zurich chapter.