Sunday, May 16, 2010

August 3, 2008

The next morning, I awoke feeling generally rested but still a little out of sorts. This day was planned as a recovery day. We were going to take it easy and not stray from Düsseldorf. In the afternoon, we were going to hit a local beer festival.

We got breakfast in a small café. Knowing that we’d end up drinking a lot that day, my wife and I both decided that we’d get the healthiest thing possible for breakfast to diminish the caloric damage done by all of the impending drinking in the afternoon and evening.

After walking around and exploring Düsseldorf for about an hour or so, we began to head towards the beer festival. It was a subway ride and short tram ride away from my wife’s cousin’s apartment and where we had eaten breakfast. The festival was very similar to some that we had attended back home. These were a little more family friendly. There was less variety of beers, and more variety of foods available. After a while, we wandered out towards downtown Düsseldorf.

On our way we saw a goofy-looking mansion. It looked incredibly out of place in Germany. It was pink, very ornate, and had beveled edges on its roof. Germans only make things stoic, gray, and with perfect right angles. So this place stood out like a drag queen in a redneck bar. I later learned that it was one of Napoleon’s homes. Other people were wandering over in droves to look at it, so we went along with them. At the top of the front steps there was a pair of concrete lions flanking the steps. I immediately climbed up onto one, sat down on it, and raised a fist victoriously over my head while my wife’s cousin took a picture. From a healthy distance, a security guard yelled something at me in German. I got down immediately and he lost interest. We wandered around the mansion some more, posing with things and taking pictures. Once it had ceased to be funny, we left.

The bar scene in Düsseldorf is amusing, to say the least. Germany has no open container laws at all, so you can drink in the streets without being concerned about any legal repercussions. However, you’re not allowed to smoke in any bar. Bars have gotten around this by handing out waivers at the door. You can’t get into the bar without signing the waiver to allow other patrons to smoke in your presence. Good shit. Very funny. Likely that’s where things are headed back at home anyway. So my wife’s cousin took us to one of her favorite local bars. She said it was the nearest thing to a punker bar that they have. We entered, sat down, and puzzled at the music playing over the stereo. It was some very bad 1980s cock rock, and the décor looked very country-western. A server came to our table with our waivers. We signed them and ordered. There were only two options. This bar really reinforced my theory that Düsseldorf is in fact just a satellite of Pittsburgh. Oddly, the server kept track of our orders by making tick marks with a pen on a cardboard coaster. This was another comical expression of the honor system at work in Rheinland. Nothing prevented us from throwing out the coaster, taking a new one off the pile, and making our own tick marks- in substantially lesser quantity. We didn’t do this, tempting as it was. Eventually we moved on to other bars, dinner, and more bars. We planned the next day, which would be Amsterdam.

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