Düsseldorf is a city for exploring on foot. So, when I twisted my ankle stumbling out of the bus toilet after not being able to find the flush button, it was more than an inconvenience. And when I twisted it twice more on the nine minute walk to our hotel, it seemed like our holiday might be a real dud.
Düsseldorf was not to blame, and in fact, our string of bad luck started before I even had to pee. First, Brian said, "We can catch the train to Amsterdam at 8:46 or 8:51, or really whenever." That was a bad thing to say when he meant that the last train to catch our connecting bus was actually at 8:51 a.m..
So, we missed our train. The next train gave us a two minute window to get from the terminal to the bus stop, and it was a slim chance we were willing to take. We made it, breathless from running, with 30 seconds to spare! Victory was short-lived when the driver asked for our tickets and passports, and I could tell from the look on Brian's face he forgot his.
Luckily, but a bit unsettlingly, he was able to convince the driver to let him on with his temporary Netherlands residence permit. The bus was full, and our trip was quiet as the adrenaline rush dissipated. Until I had to pee.
So now we're caught up. Even though I was crying in the street and rummaging around my purse for some Advil, I knew this would not stop us from having a great time. I rolled my ankle in Kenya, and then a week later in Tanzania, and then another week or so later in Ethiopia, and I still completed a hike down from the mountains (crying, popping pills, taping up my ankle with duct tape and limping with a crude walking stick), so I would persevere. Düsseldorf was just going to have to cooperate with me.
We made it to the hotel, finally, but there was no ice machine and no fridge. I made do with a cold, wet towel wrapped around my foot, propped up on the blanket, and then we fell asleep all day. We wasted a day sleeping and I didn't think I could walk far enough for schnitzel dinner.
Brian went out for medical supplies, and found that not only were all the apothecaries closed, but that grocery stores didn't carry anything but bandaids. So he came back with a box of bandaids, sandwiches and assorted snacks. We picnicked in bed watching dubbed gangster movies, and slept all night.
The next morning, Sunday, I taped up my ankle with a criss-cross of bandaids and we headed out. As luck would have it, most everything in Düsseldorf is closed on Sunday, and there wasn't a single open apothecary along our route. I took great care with every step.
When I say "our route," I mean that in the loosest way possible. Although we wanted to hit the river, how we got there and back was totally by chance. Düsseldorf has museums, but we didn't feel like bee-line from one destination to another. Wandering proved to be a wonderful way to explore Düsseldorf. There was so much attention to detail in the way the city has been constructed.
From creative architechture, bronze statues and city parks, Düsseldorf is a city for people. Out on a Sunday, when everything is closed, people are everywhere. Recreational bike rides, picnics on the pier, walks in the park, a drink or two (or three) with friends at the market, you name it, people were out enjoying themselves.
What really got us on day one was the exquisite parks on what seemed like every other corner. Surrounded by big city on all sides, they were little oases of peace and calm. We saw lots of Canada Geese and other birds, also just enjoying life in the Sunday slow lane.
As we walked down the river, we came to Burgplatz square where we visited the small Shipping Museum and learned about Düsseldorf's port history. We stumbled across an incredible sculpture called Stadterhebungsmonument, capturing some of the city's potent historical imagery.
We enjoyed a schnitzel and a few beers on the square, feeling very European in our sunglasses on this warm spring day. The lack of Dutch wind was particularly peaceful!
After our lunch break, we continued to wander, slower and slower as the day went on. We found a riverfront market stretching as far as the eye could see. I couldn't resist pushing through the mass of people past beer tents and food stalls and vendors of all kinds, all while keeping a close eye on the ground.
Here, in this park, my ankle finally had enough. I knew I still had to get back to the hotel, and more importantly, I had to also make it to a beer hall for schnitzel dinner. So here was the end point of day one in Düsseldorf. I managed to keep my ankle in line, and we saw more than I could have hoped at the beginning of the day with my "gimpy leg."
I hoped my good luck would continue tomorrow, when we would explore a very different side of Düsseldorf. Stay tuned for Part Two!