A weekend in Düsseldorf
“Should I buy my ticket in advance?” A pause.
“Do you trust me?”
What a forboding question that is. A single ticket from Frankfurt to Düsseldorf costs nearly €80. A €160 round trip is something I would be open to avoiding. German trains work differently to British ones. There are no ticket barriers anywhere but ticket inspectors regularly walk the trains dressed in berets like they are members of the military and assuming all the power they think that brings. The ICE trains have rather more appropriately dressed conductors but they essentially carry the same function. I was assured that unlike on the underground trains, if we were caught without a ticket we could just buy one on the train. Now, the chance of getting a free train ride seemed enough to make a little added stress on the journey worth it. Our journey was unfortunately a little disrupted by someone jumping in front of a train. I was desperate to go to bed by this point but I was getting a free train journey, I couldn’t complain.
Düsseldorf itself is beautiful. Roger and I wandered round yesterday. It was nice to be guided round by someone with initmate knowledge of the place, not just explore as a tourist. First, we stopped at Heinemann for breakfast where I enjoyed gluten-free bread and the novelty of sachets of Nutella. No marmite though! Although it’s a chain, the place had character and the gay waiter, sashaying in and out of the kitchen, was a sight to behold. We visited the old town and the most German pub I have ever seen. It brewed its own beer which it poured from wooden barrels on the bar, it used the old barrels as tables and traditional food was being cooked in the middle of the room, passed round every so often to grateful, peckish customers. Later we walked down to the river Rhein and saw the church with the wonky spire. Even as a relatively international city, Düsseldorf felt very German, unlike Frankfurt which I feel sometimes lacks identity.
In the evening, Roger, his parents and I headed into down to Block House for dinner. It is a German steak house but is rather American in the way it does things. I had a Turkey Ceasar Salad. It was delicious with slices of grilled turkey on top, cheese, lots of green leaves and lots of dressing too. It would seem that copious amounts of salad dressing is not just an Altenberg phenomenon!
After a long few days and having not got into bed earlier than midnight since I arrived here, as soon as we got in I was ready to go to bed. I even slept in this morning. There is a common misconception here than black tea is exactly the same as ‘builder’s tea’. It’s not. No arguments here guys. As an avid tea drinker, I love all sorts of tea: green tea; fruit tea; peppermint tea; Earl Grey tea and even black tea. However, English breakfast it is not. This is why it was so nice to wake up this morning to a proper cup of tea, (Twinings too would you believe!) and some gluten-free cornflakes. It took ‘it’s the little things in life’ to a whole new extreme.
After a pretty slow start, Roger and I decided that a lazy Sunday was in order for today. I have lazed around quite comfortably, basking in the sun on the balcony, hastily catching up with friends and organising meetings and snatching chapters from my book or moments asleep. Yesterday, we went to the Japanese quarter in town and bought some sticky rice. There is a massive Japanese community here and it was weird to walk around down streets with no German in sight, just Japanese characters in the windows and on the walls. We used the rice this afternoon to make rice balls for lunch. They had a tuna filling inside that Roger made and were very yummy :). We have also wrapped some up to take with us on our journey back to Ffm later, little triangular packages of goodness.
We are heading back to Frankfurt later this evening and I am very much looking forward to seeing both friends from Cardiff and from school tomorrow who happen to be here. Wonderful coincidences can’t be passed up. Even more so, I am excited about seeing Ramsey on Tuesday and heading over to Erfurt together. I can’t wait to make my little home there, put all the pieces of me into it until it feels like somewhere that is mine. I can’t wait to stop living out of suitcases and lugging my things around with me.
It isn’t the big things that make us feel at home, is it. It’s the smell of freshly baked cakes in the oven. It’s the warmth of a cup of tea in your hands. It’s the weight of your favourite spoon as your eat your breakfast. It’s the ability to understand whispered conversations without really listening. It’s the comfort of a bed made just right. It’s walking into a shop and knowing where to find what you need. It’s feeling cosy and not cold. It’s feeling close to the things that are important to you. It’s losing yourself in a good book and feeling safe to shut your eyes at night to sleep soundly and sweetly. It’s waking up, drunk with sleep and knowing exactly where you are, recognising the lamp on your table or the pictures on the walls. It’s a home cooked meal and the satisfaction of a job well done. It’s picking up a newspaper and knowing what’s going on in the world. It’s not having an expensive car but knowing how to get about without one. It is not having a large house but simply having somewhere that is your own. It is not luxury that makes somewhere a home. It is all these little things and more. I can’t wait to feel at home.