I was out and about in Düsseldorf this week when I spotted a rather funky little vehicle parked in the multi-storey car-park on the Carlsplatz.
From the nation which brought you the Porsche 911….
Now obviously Germans are usually a bit picky about their cars. Brands like Audi, Mercedes, Daimler-Benz, Porsche… all tend to head into the territory which marketers like to call “aspirational.”
So I was a bit flummoxed by the appearance of what looked like a complete Noddy-car in the midst of all the serious looking black prestige vehicles. A three-wheel one-seater, designed to look more like a grasshopper than a limousine.
On closer inspection, all became clear. This was a green car. It runs on electricity rather than fossil fuel. This little chap was docked into the re-charging station, getting its batteries ready for its next trip.
Electro-car recharging station
There are a handful of these docking stations scattered around Düsseldorf these days. With petrol prices where they are, maybe we’ll start to see people swapping the Mercedes for one of these little bobby-cars.
Today I was down in Düsseldorf, so I took the opportunity to pick up some groceries in the Altstadt.
First stop was the bakery. As with all the best German bakeries, there was a baffling array of different types of bread, and of course I wanted to try them all. In the end I settled on the Senfkrüste as well as a crusty white.
Next, on to the market on the Carlsplatz. I decided not to stop at the butcher’s today…
… because to go with that bread I really wanted some nice cheese…
After the e-coli scare, at least salad is back on the menu again…
The fresh asparagus was tempting…
But in the end it was the mushrooms which beckoned…
…with fresh herbs…
…and of course some fine ingredients for a dressing… including the famous Düsseldorfer Senf (mustard)…
So that’s dinner sorted. What are you having? 😉
Düsseldorf and Köln are the Rhineland’s rival cities. Neither town has a good word to say about the other. At Karneval time the Kölner greet each other with the words “Alaaf!” while the Düsseldorfer shout “Helau!” During the rest of the year, the Kölner listen to the rock band “BAP” while the Düsseldorfer bop to “Die Tote Hosen”. And of course the Kölner drink Kölsch (literally “from Köln”) while the Düsseldorfer quaff Alt (literally “Old”).
So the new advertising campaign from the Kölsch brewery “Früh” (literally “early”) is bound to cause some raised hackles to the north.
The ad shows an empty Kölsch glass, and the words “Bevor es Alt wird” – literally “Before it becomes Alt” (a nice play on words – the capital A indicates that it is referring to the Düsseldorf beer, rather than meaning “before it gets old” – which would be “Bevor es alt wird”).
Düsseldorf is, however, striking back. Their riposte has been a picture of a Früh Kölsch with the phrase: Früh übt sich, was ein Alt werden will. Literally “Früh must practise to become an Alt” but also a play on an old saying: “Früh übt sich, wer ein Meister werden will” – He who would become a master must start practising early.
This ad is the result of a grassroots initiative to promote Düsseldorf Alt and protect it from the attacks of the Kölsch breweries. There is currently a competition running on their site where people can vote for the best anti-Kölsch ads.
There is bad news for Düsseldorf though – apparently sales of Kölsch are actually rising in the northern city. Unthinkable! Quick everyone… down to the pub!
Roll up ladies and gentlemen… for one day only a preview of Summer in Germany! 22°C and brilliant sunshine! Tomorrow will be back to chilly and rainy, so enjoy it now!
On a lovely day like today, the best place to be is down by the river. In Meerbusch we’re lucky – we are right next to the Rhine. Later on the banks will be packed with people having picnics and barbecues… but first thing in the morning it’s deserted, apart from the odd dog walker.
Here are some views from the fashionable side of the Rhine…
Still a little hazy first thing as the sun comes up
Looking downstream towards the new bridge
The barges are out early
Sheep grazing with the new bridge in the background
One of the many tributories which flow into the Rhine
Has it come to this? The Eurovision Song Contest being nobbled? Gott im Himmel! Sacre bleu!
I give you the glorious Fascinating Aida’s advice for Lena for Eurovision in Düsseldorf…. (or something)
Surely that’s just not cricket!
We are preparing for the onslaught.
In 13 weeks and 3 days from now (there is, of course, a countdown on the official website) Düsseldorf will be hosting the Eurovision Song Contest and the preparations are in full swing. The local football club, Fortuna Düsseldorf, is vacating its stadium and moving into a “mobile stadium” next door for the period. The city is advertising for volunteer helpers, particularly those who speak minority languages, to support the various delegations. Düsseldorfers are registering online to rent out their spare rooms.You’d almost think we’d all become Swabians!
For those of us lucky enough to live in the city, there is good news and bad news.
The bad news is that the tickets for the final sold out within about 3 nanoseconds of them going on sale. So we’ll have to watch it on TV like everyone else. Or if we live around Stockum or Kaiserswerth, we could just open the window and listen.
The good news is that there will be plenty of great events around Eurovision which we will be able to join in. Obviously there are the “public viewings” – a word which mysteriously entered the German language during the 2006 World Cup and means anything from watching the TV in the pub to joining the masses in a public square where a giant screen has been set up.
There will also be a “fringe” (readers from Scotland will understand what I mean by that) – the so-called Rahmenprogramm – including a Eurovision Song Contest for kids, flashmobs and the like. The city is currently polling the public for ideas.
Now, I happen to know for a fact that there are plenty of highly creative readers of this blog, so I’m throwing this one open to the public. What should we suggest to them?
Cliff Richard eternal youth makeover sessions? (With Lordi as make-up artists)
Vote rigging workshops?
Pure mathematics seminars on the “nul points” theory?
Ring-a-ding-a-ding bell-ringing contest?
Now that Christmas and New Year are over, the Germans are starting to look forward to Karneval. Karneval is all about drinking. Of course technically speaking, we are in the Karneval season already. It began on November 11th last year with the Hoppeditz Erwachen session. The start of Karneval involves much drinking. This is when the “Hoppeditz” – the chief fool – claims power and the Fünfte Jahreszeit (fifth season, ie the silly season) starts. The motto of this year’s Karneval in Düsseldorf is: “Jebuddelt, jebaggert, jebützt” – local dialect meaning, “dug, bulldozed and plastered.” (edit: apparently jebützt means kissed – more on this in the comments). Don’t ask me to make sense of it… unusually for the Germans, nothing at Karneval makes any sense. Not surprising really, considering how much drinking is involved.
From November to the start of the pre-Lent festivities, nothing much happens outside of the actual Karneval Verein (the organising club who stage the Karneval celebrations each year). They hold sessions (these involve much drink, silly hats, comedy and song) and meanwhile everyone else gets on with their normal lives.
Then on Altweiberfastnacht – March 3rd this year – the Altweiber… the old women of the town, in hideous fancy dress, will storm the town hall led by the Hoppeditz, evict and emasculate the mayor and install their Karneval Prinz in power for the duration of Karneval. Hoppeditz and the Prinz will give a speech from the balcony of the town hall to the Alterweiber and other fools in the square below. Then everyone will get enormously drunk for five days.
The Hoppeditz arrives to oust the mayor
Hoppeditz Erwachen - meet the new mayor!
Düsseldorfers who at other times of the year are pretty sensible
Karneval’s highpoint is Rosenmontag, when there is a huge Karneval procession through the streets with elaborate floats, often with witty political messages.
Did I mention the drinking?
For more about German Karneval traditions, see my post over at Birds on the Blog:
John F. Kennedy, doughnuts and some very messy Germans
This evening we went to a concert in the world’s most heavily fortified church.
The Bunkerkirche in Düsseldorf has to be one of the most unique churches in the world. The land was acquired in 1928 with the intention of building a church on the site. Lack of funds during the 1930s depression meant that although plans were drawn up, construction was delayed for over a decade and then in 1940 the land was confiscated by the Nazis.
In 1941 the site which had been intended for the church was used to build an overground air-raid bunker. The building was deliberately constructed to look like a church from the air, in the hope of deterring allied bombers from targeting it.
After the war, the land (complete with fortified bunker) was returned to the Church and the bunker was converted and consecrated in 1949, in a lovely symbol of turning swords into ploughshares.
Interestingly, for a building which was constructed for entirely different purpose, it actually has rather impressive acoustics.
The concert (works by Schütz, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Bach, sung by the excellent choir and the fabulous Stringendo orchestra from Meerbusch) was a real treat… and the experience of being in such a historically unique setting added to the experience.
Just a quick alert for anyone in Düsseldorf on October 3rd. I will be appearing at Teatime and Cellos on Planet Germany.
The event is organised by Rhinebuzz. It will be an afternoon of fabulous classical music interspersed with me reading funny passages from Planet Germany . It starts at 5 p.m. (that’s 17.00 if you’re German) and will be at Kwadrat, Blücherstrasse 51, Düsseldorf.
I really hope to meet some of my regular readers there!
Next time the Düsseldorf city authorities decide to close one of the bridges over the Rhine for resurfacing, they should phone me first and check my schedule.
On Thursday I had a speaking appointment at the Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft in Düsseldorf at the Goethe Museum. Normally this is a 20 minute drive from where I live – but because all the traffic from the closed bridge had been diverted to the bridge I was trying to use… it took me two and a half hours to get there. I was chronically late and thoroughly embarrassed.
Thank goodness for the very patient and delightful souls who waited for me … and managed to remain in enough of a good humour to laugh at all my jokes!