18th Jun 2012 - 19th Jun 2012
DAYS 51 AND 52: JUNE 18 AND 19, 2012
Fresh from his triumph as guest editor (all enquiries to the Lidl portacabin in Cricklewood), Stef has taken us on a splendid whirlwind tour of Dusseldorf’s sweet offerings over the past two days. This is an old stumping ground as he lived and worked here for eight months as part of his university year out in 2009. It was a bitter-sweet time for him as he was first allotted a flat owned by a dead ringer for a Denis Neilson-style serial killer who prowled around the kitchen with a knife, and Stef was not certain he was looking for the raw onions. Things improved after Stef high-tailed it over the back wall, found himself less edgy digs, and began to enjoy the Dusseldorf experience.
He was happy to share this with us and we have had a grand time. Stef introduced us to his former place of work, and to a shopping mall which had won the award for the best designed escalator (mainly on the basis that it was impossible for the customer to find the way down and was subsequently condemned to a lifetime circling the German equivalent of Dixons). He also took us up the lift of Dusseldorf’s tallest tower – 1700 meters in 3 seconds, leaving our bottoms in our boots. But I’m told it was a lovely view.
We criss-crossed Dusseldorf by tram, we walked the beautiful cobbled streets of the city’s Old Town, sampling the cuisine of several fine restaurants and cake shops, visited the product of Henry Moore’s scalpel in one of the lovely central parks, and (Jannie’s favourite) passed a 24 hour full-service laundry. We went out to Schloss Benrath on the outskirts of town, another stately mansion with majestic gardens to rival Schwetzingen, near Heidelberg. And we whiled away a happy hour in H & M trying to find anything that fitted any of us. I was tempted by a rather swish, beige, smoking cardigan but was threatened with divorce by my wife, who had no leg to stand on holding up spandex running shorts. Rachel looked fetching in a straw trilby; but only Stef emerged victorious, purchasing a fine ensemble of jaunty yachting jacket, matelot tee and boatman’s shorts. All he needs now is a whistle and an inflatable dinghy.
Football mania continues here as in other German cities and we enjoyed the atmosphere on Sunday evening standing in the crowded Old Town streets as Germany played Denmark. But the best game of football we have seen by a mile was in Heidelberg, a six-a-side match in the German Blindpersons’ League, played on a pitch near the centre of town. None of us had ever seen blind people play football before: it’s a game of the most remarkable skill and determination. The ball has a bell in it so that the players can hear it when it moves; and the two goalies are either fully or partially sighted. But that’s about all the help they get. Everyone else has to play by a mix of instinct; listening for the ball and other players’ shouted guidance; a fearless ability to enter the fray; and immaculate close dribbling skills. It was mesmerising to watch; and it looked good fun to be playing, too.
We have been spoilt for choice in our accommodations so far on this trip but I’m afraid to reveal that our Dusseldorf dwelling,the Hotel Haus Hillesheim, falls a little short in the hostelry league. An early give-away was that our reserved parking place had been, well, given away. Breakfast has been about as interesting as a discussion at the European Council, with the Alpen-substitute mixed with yogurt proving an excellent consistency for grouting the shower. Service at reception is of The Penge Charisma Class of ’84 variety. And they have a cat. It’s about as far from mein host of Heidelberg as it’s possible to be. I sense a 2* Trip Advisor Review coming on.
We waved goodbye this evening to Stef and Rachel at Dusseldorf station as they headed towards the airport and back to London. It’s been lovely spending a few days with them and we now have Nathaniel and Amy’s visit to look forward to. They will be joining us tomorrow in Berlin. We’ll be back to having no knowledge of the language between us. But that’s never been known to stop Nathaniel in the past. He and Amy also have previous form in Berlin, so we will be looking to them to lead us downwards into the capital’s spiralling depths.
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