Friday, 25 September 2015

Stadt in Überblick: Düsseldorf

Although I left Germany over a year ago - and I've never lived here - I really want to talk about this city because it's one of my favourite places on earth. Well, at least in Germany. Since Firu moved to Nordrhein-Westfalen in 2012, we've been going back and forth to this city, be it just to pass by on our way elsewhere or to actually spend our time there together. Every year we came here at least twice, and it's always been such a pleasure to witness the changing of the seasons in this city. Although, of course, since I left the country, I had to say goodbye to this lovely place as well. I'd be lying if I say I don't miss it.

What attracted me to Düsseldorf was this fact: it is the Japanese community central in Germany! As you should notice, I am a Japanese culture enthusiast. And, having to live far away from the Country of the Sun, a place like this became a sort of haven for me. The place itself is divided into around 3 areas: the metropolitan district, the old town and the Japanese/East Asian quarters. When you walk through the Oststraße, you can see dozens of Japanese stores/restaurants/café lining the street, packed with Japanese workers, housewives and students - even cosplayers on a daily basis! The history dates back to the 1950s, due to some business collaboration between Japan and Germany in the field of ores and machinery. Over the years, the number of the Japanese population grew, turning Düsseldorf into the biggest Japanese haven in Germany, replacing Hamburg after World War II. Every year in May, the city holds a Japanese festival called Japantag, located by the Rhine riverbank, which celebrates the Japanese community throughout the city.

Unlike Karlsruhe, Halle or Kassel, Düsseldorf - or Düssi for short - is a big city. However, it 's a city which lives side by side with culture. It has tons of museums, art gallery and theatres with immaculate architectures. Saku-chan once introduced me to K21 Ständehaus - which is huge and incredibly awe-inspiring - and Kunstpalast Museum - which has an amazing collection of Japanese artefacts. There was a time when I was going to apply to the Kunstakademie here but, since they focus more on fine art than design, I hesitated. The old town is also quite remarkable - and packed with people -with local restaurants and stores. The best view in town is overlooking the River Rhine, especially during sunset. Like I said, I've never actually lived here but I have a fondness for the city. Here are the few places I've become accustomed to in Düssi:

Location: across the street from Hotel Nikko

The one thing that attracted me to this café is the amount of gorgeous cakes and pastries displayed on the store window. Just look at them! They're marvellously appetising! They also have some more cakes in the fridge. Incredibly tasty, I must say. Aside from dessert, they also provide savoury meals, such as curry rice, pasta and other family restaurant-type dishes. The drinks are also quite delicious. My favourite is the matcha latte. It's so rich in taste and also a treat for the eyes. Although, I must warn you: it can get quite pricey. But the ambience makes up for it. The interior actually reminds me of antique cafés I've seen in Japanese dramas, complete with one hunk of a waiter/master. It is also a favourite spot for young women to hang out and chat.

Location: right next to Relax Café & Bar

One of the most popular restaurants in Düsseldorf, especially among businessmen - Japanese and otherwise. Takumi has the best ramen in Germany! Their noodles come straight from Sapporo, Hokkaido, which is also known to have the best ramen noodles in Japan. Mostly, their most popular menus have meat. But, if you're a vegetarian, they also offer vegetarian options. The interior is exactly like a run-of-the-mill ramen place in Japan, complete with free refillable ocha per table. They don't take cards of any kind, so make sure you come with cash handy - and a full group - in order to get seated right away. Otherwise, you'd have to wait by the door or outside. It gets pretty packed around lunchtime. Also a little pricey, to be frank.

Location: one traffic light after Hotel Nikko in the opposite direction from the Hauptbahnhof

When I was living in Germany, one of the biggest heartbreaks I had to go through was not being able to cook takoyaki. Luckily, Shochiku sells frozen octopus balls. Firu and I loved buying their takoyaki whenever we were in town. We could just pop them in the oven and eat them while they're hot - for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The place is packed with tons of Japanese products, including Ramune. We tried it out for the first time here and it was super delish! We kept coming back for more Japanese goodness. It felt almost as if we were actually doing groceries in Japan whenever we were inside. It felt almost like home.

Location: four doors down from Hotel Nikko

This is the first and only bubble tea café I've ever been to. Yes, I like bubble tea and I purchase them practically by the carton, but the places I've been to are nothing in comparison. Sphere Bay has an amazing customer service and immaculate plating. The warm bubble tea is served in a jug almost the size of a beer jug, on a Japanese wooden plate. The place is actually rather small but put to use in such an efficient way. They provide the customers with papers and coloured pencils, in case they want to draw something and let it get hung on the walls. They also serve snacks, such as onigiri or cupcakes, as a side dish to your bubble tea. Needless to say, the taste is also top-notch!

It's not often that a town gets a special place in my heart, without having to be a hometown for me or my loved one(s) for some period of time. Düsseldorf has become just that. It's introduced me to a lot of culture I wouldn't've otherwise known. It's become the location for some of my dearest memories. And I just couldn't stay away...until now. I think a part of me will always long for this town, even after I've gone to Japan someday. We have a weird relationship, where I always come back but I never stay for good - and don't think I ever will. But distance works best for our relationship. Alas, I must bid you farewell, old friend. Maybe one day I'll come back to Germany, just for you. But, until then, I wish you well!

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