Interesting facts are always gleaned when visiting a new area, and such was the case with a recent visit to Dusseldorf, Germany, where I learned that the first Japanese to register in Dusseldorf was in 1905, but only in 1946 did more than a few Japanese immigrate to Dusseldorf. These visitors liked it so much they stayed and formed a small community. Later, when Japanese companies were becoming prosperous enough to expand their offices to Europe, many elected this city for their headquarters.
Dusseldorf now claims to have the third-largest Japanese population in Europe after London and Paris. It even titles itself as Klein-Tokyo am Rhein (Little Tokyo on the Rhine) and an annual celebration held in June called Japan Day attracts more than a million visitors. An interesting blog from Japanese ex-pat Makiko Itoh tells about her eating blitz of Japanese restaurants here and her evaluation of them. Be sure to read the comments, too, at www.justhungry.com/dusseldorf-germany-japantown-frugal-eats.
A short stroll around the area was unimpressive. A visit to the tourist office offered a combination walking tour, bus tour and short boat ride. A walk through Konigsallee — the Rodeo Drive of Dusseldorf, with high-priced designer stores — was not impressive since these areas seem to be the same the world over, but the rents here are said to be the highest in the world so they must impress others enough to warrant the overhead. Dusseldorf holds an annual Igedo Fashion Fair that attracts leading designers.
One of the interesting things I learned on the tour was that in the distant past an archbishop in Cologne levied high taxes, and so citizens asked Dusseldorf men to help overthrow the bishop. It was successful and the children were so happy on hearing about the victory that they started doing cartwheels. This has become the symbol for the city and an annual cartwheeling contest is held in commemoration of that event.
Altstadt (or Old Town) also contains a very long series of more than 260 drinking establishments, so the area claims the title as the “Longest Bar in the World.”
The Rhine River boat tour revealed how low the river level has fallen. There were interesting buildings along a new riverside development, including one of an easily recognizable Frank Gehry design.
I visited Cologne, Bonn and other smaller towns using a rental car before returning to Frankfurt for the flight home. It is a pleasure to drive the autobahn and it is probably a good thing to have a car without too much power — or one might be tempted to keep up with Porsches, Ferraris and the like zooming more than 120 miles per hour on the no speed limit sections.
Cologne is noted for having the third largest church in the world, and for the invention in 1708 of a fragrance called Eau de Cologne, created by Italian Giovanni Maria Farina and named after his new hometown. Another scent named 4711 for its address, Glockengasse 4711, advertises heavily, but the original eau is only available at the Farina shop at Obenmarspforten.
My next stop was Bonn, the former German capital. It is a beautiful, quaint town. The one thing I enjoyed the most was visiting Beethoven’s birth home. The audio tour relates previously unknown facets of his life (for me) and in between commentaries his music is heard.
I had been advised to visit a vineyard in a small town called Winzerhof by someone whose friend had a bed & breakfast there, but on arrival only the grandmother was home and since she spoke only German, it was too difficult to inquire about a stay. Incredibly, the tourist office in this town was closed on a Sunday. I decided to just drive along the beautiful Rhine vineyards and to see the famed Loreley Rock (near St. Goar) that supposedly lured sailors to their doom on the Rhine.
Before some real-life Loreley tried to do the same to me, it was time to return to the safe harbor of Las Vegas.
The Kaeru Kid writes about his various adventure travels. He lives in Las Vegas and includes tidbits about the city at the end of each article. He can be reached at KaeruKid@yahoo.com.
Las Vegas Tidbit:
Readers of this column know I am a huge fan of good magicians. I just saw “Open Sesame” starring Luna Shimada and her German husband Losander at the Royal Resort Hotel on Convention Center Drive. They are great and deserve a better venue and larger audience.
There are a couple of other forgettable magicians on the bill. Luna’s father is famed magician Haruo Shimada. You can see an excerpt of her act on YouTube. Best of all, the show is bargain priced ($29.95) and one child is free with every adult ticket (children over 12 are half price). Even these low prices can be cut in half by visiting www.tix4tonight.com or going to any of the half price ticket outlets.