Friday, July 3, 2009

Dusseldorf, Day 4

Friday, July 3, 2009

When I woke up to a blanket of clouds and a dreary chill on my third day in Germany, I immediately decided to stay local for the day. Our hotel, as it turned out, was located a mere ten-minute walk from the Alstadt (Old Town), which, even in the rain, seemed so much more manageable (and familiar, by this time!) to me than hopping the tram, taking an illegal ride to the train station, and schlepping my stuff onto a train and then into Bonn. Illegal because, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out the ticket-purchasing process, and despite the fact that there were a plethora of people on the tram each time, I shied away from asking. For some odd reason, I found myself inwardly cringing at the thought of being identified in approximately 1.2 seconds as a tourist. And since I look Germanic enough to pass for a native, I opted to hop on the tram breezily, surreptitiously avoiding the tiny red box that passengers used to validate their tickets.

After making that not-at-all difficult decision, I had a luxurious morning, lounging in bed with a whole pot of coffee just for me before I took a hot shower and headed out to see a bit more of Dusseldorf. By this time, I'd walked down into the Alstadt for dinner twice, and fortunately, the sights that I elected to visit, the Goethe Museum and the Hofgarten, were just a bit past those charming cobblestone streets.

I marked a path towards the Goethe Museum first. Although most everyone would recognize him as the author of the play Faust (including me), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a tremendously significant figure in Germany's literary history, so I considered myself lucky that such a lovely museum devoted to his life happened to be located in Dusseldorf. He never actually lived in Dusseldorf, but visited frequently, and the collection of his works and artifacts is quite impressive. I was able to see Goethe's own copies of Grimm's fairy tales, correspondence between Goethe and his friends, lovers, and teachers, even a page from his personal agenda, shakily written just before his death. He never completed the tasks listed on the page.

A highlight of the museum was a peek at a first edition of Faust, and a Salvador Dali sketch, submitted as possible artwork for a publication of the play.

I strolled through the Hofgarten, which is essentially a large park spanning many city blocks, on my way back to the Alstadt, where I planned to find something reasonably priced and somewhat delicious for lunch. I opted to head straight towards the water, on a street that I had not crossed before, and I was rewarded with incredible views across the river. There was a beautiful promenade right next to the water, and I sat on a bench for a while with my book, though my hunger eventually overcame me.

Food in Germany had thus far been a big disappointment, although the various forms of breads I encountered were outstanding. My mother-in-law, a native Dane (and thus accustomed to various European cuisines), encouraged me to try the simple native specialties, bratwursts and wienerschnitzel, so on this day, footsore and starving, I was thrilled to find a little restaurant in the Alstadt with a small spit in its front window, which carefully turned, blistering the sides of bratwurst. I immediately ordered one, and was thrilled to discover that it was ensconced in a crusty white roll. I ate it in about five minutes, right there in front of the window, where I was sheltered from the rain that had begun to fall. It was GOOD. Vaguely spicy, with a crisp outer coating over the juicy sausage, made even more delicious by the roll. I could easily have devoured two, but I restrained, walked through the Alstadt a bit more, stopping to take note of Coldplay's presence in Germany

and eventually stayed the afternoon in a kitschy, funky cafe, where I had a heavenly hot chocolate, read more of my book, and tried to justify eating another bratwurst for dinner.

All in all, it was a great day.

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