A friend was working for a German telecom company in Düsseldorf, Germany, and I decided to end my 1993 trip by seeing him for a couple of days. So I took an overnight train from Prague, being awakened by a German passport agent who merely looked at the cover of my passport from five feet away and said, “Oh, American…” and shut the door. So much for border security.
I woke up again with the sun rising over the Rhine Valley as the train wound its way beside the river. Truly a great way to wake up if ever there was one. Every hill had vineyards and was capped by a castle or the ruins thereof.
After some confusion over the EuroCity supplement and a German-speaking conductor (German is not a language I speak–yet), I made it to Düsseldorf. The cab driver had been to Texas (it seems like every German is required to spend a vacation in the western US) and griped to me that there were no female cab drivers in America. This complaint would have received more sympathy if she hadn’t taken an hour of aimless driving, asking people, and looking at the map to find my friend’s apartment on a fairly major street. At least she capped the fare at 50 DM. Ouch.
Still, I made it and had German beer with my friend, saw the Düsseldorf Jazz rally, and ate at a Düsseldorf Chi-Chi’s. Yes, an American Mexican chain. Go figure. At least the food was as mediocre as it is in the US, not worse. Plus the beer was infinitely better, unless the beer is the Mexican Negro Modelo, which hasn’t been at any Chi-Chi’s I’ve been to.
The second day I basically slept and read, being too exhausted. A pseudo-Italian meal finished the visit, and we walked back through Düsseldorf’s old town (rather better built and cleaner than most Eastern European ones, unsurprisingly) and across a bridge over the Rhine. The next morning I took the train back along the valley, pulled up at the cool underground stop beneath the Frankfurt Airport, and flew home with a German who was flying for the first (!) time, on the required vacation to the American West. Huh.