Meine favoriten Dusseldorf restaurants and bars

I have the good fortune of living in a fabulous part of Dusseldorf and during my little over half a year in the city, I’ve discovered some wonderful restaurants and bars. I hang out with a colorful cast of fellow American and Canadian expats here in Germany and I found myself always recommending a place to someone. Finally someone said “you need to make a list of all these great places”. Then one night after a fabulous sushi dinner I wrote this list. Enjoy!
Things to know about Dusseldorf restaurants. You always need a reservation for dinner and you want to book it as soon as you have a time and date planned.
8 pm is the best time to grab dinner if you like a crowd, earlier you’ll be eating with crickets.

Zur Martinklause – meine favoriten brauhaus. When you walk in sit down at a lovely wooden table near the bar, order a Fuschen alt, and then look up and admire the lovely wood carvings on the light fixtures. The wait staff mostly speak German and are helpful without being intrusive. The jaeger schnitzel (huntersyle – Mit mushroom sauce) is delicious and comes with potato croquettes. I would take this place over a brauhaus in the altstadt any day. It’s a real neighborhood hangout.

Benzenbergstraße 1, 40219 Düsseldorf

Adjito – interesting Japanese restaurant with sushi. Beautiful rice (and I know what I’m talking about with rice… 🙂 ), nice juice spritzers with interesting combinations of fruits. The sashimi bowl is out of this world. Very reasonable prices. Entomological theme in decorations.

Lorettostraße 18, 40219 Düsseldorf

Frida’s Tapas Bar – fun tapas bar, Spanish style food mit brot, good wine and a nice painting of the lady herself in the bar area – which is a nice large table in case you want a place to gather with 5 or 6 friends.

Bilker Allee 4, 40219 Düsseldorf

New Wok Boy – Thai inspired Asian food. The shop owner is very friendly and happy. Feels like a Chinese restaurant and the food is fast and delicious and very reasonably priced, actually cheap. My favorite is the Buddhist suppe – coconut milk base with tofu, delicious veggies and lots of curry spice. A great way to warm up on a cold rainy day (so pretty much every day of the year).

Gladbacher Str. 8, 40219 Düsseldorf

Restaurant Antalya – lovely Turkish restaurant across from the Dusseldorf Hauptbahnhoff. An assortment of fresh Turkish food and delicious Turkish coffee and tea. Nearly all the patrons are Turkish and it has a nice family atmosphere.

Konrad-Adenauer-Platz 12, 40210 Düsseldorf (I’m not certain of the address but it’s right near the hauptbahnhoff – walk out – turn left and walk kitty corner to the station and you’ll see this place.

Williams Bar & Kitchen – cool atmosphere, interesting cocktails, great burger, and the music is nice.

Friedrichstraße 115A, 40217 Düsseldorf

Restaurant Freiligrath – I popped in here once for a bowl of soup on a Sunday mid-morning (feeling a bit under the weather) and they took great care of me. Found a nice spot in a corner of the bar. Other folks were enjoying a lovely home style buffet.

Neusser Str. 133, 40219 Düsseldorf

Casita Mexicana Bilk – the place to go when you need your Baja-style Mexican fix. The tacos are served the way I like them – California taco truck style (but not with the price tag unfortunately) – small corn tortilla, grilled meat, fresh onions and cilantro. Start off with chips and salsa and a margarita. Nice feature is a menu on the wall that translates between German and Spanish. Fun atmosphere.

Bilker Allee 128, 40217 Düsseldorf

Papa Young Korean Soul Food – fun Korean barbecue. You grill it yourself at your table.

Neusser Str. 84, 40219 Düsseldorf

Gelateria la Luna – ice cream creations that are out of this world and very reasonably priced. Don’t be afraid of the fancy appearance it’s not too pricey.

Rathausufer 11, 40213 Düsseldorf

D’Vine Restaurant and Weinbar – gourmet chef’s menu that is out of this world. Truly some of the best food I’ve eaten anywhere in the world. 5 course chef’s meal with drinks ran about 100 USD. A nice splurge with friends. The wait staff is spectacular and the food is explained to you by the head waiter at the beginning of each course. Interesting ingredients put together in an artistic and palate appealing way. Bonus – the owner is a very active member of the community – one of the creators of the fun and entertaining pop up theatre.

Lorettostraße 23, 40219 Düsseldorf

Fischaus – delicious seafood in the altstadt and it really feels like a seafood place. If it’s mussel season don’t pass on the chance to order a pot of fresh steamed mussels. Don’t worry, you can eat the whole thing yourself. 🙂

Berger Str. 3-7, 40213 Düsseldorf

Cafe Kasbah – lovely spot to stop and warm up with a cup of frische peppermint tea on a cold rainy day along the Rhein or take a break from the weihnachtsmarkt. Looks like they have food too, but I’ve never tried it.

Rheinort 2, 40213 Düsseldorf

Share your favorite spots in the comments!

Budapest is the Best

Budapest is the Best

I started this post at an airport, continued on a plane and then finished at my apartment during a day of intermittent sun and hail – ah yes, springtime in Germany! Hope you enjoy this stroll through Budapest. I had more words on the place then I expected.

Now I find myself, as I often do, awaiting a flight departure at the airport. Makes for a nice time to write about my adventure in Budapest – this time an adventure with a friend, Tilghman – fellow Bayer expat from the US who I often travel with on weekend adventures. A few months back we looked at the calendar for the year and realized we had a four day weekend for Easter. Seemed like a nice time to explore a European city that would require a trip by air. First we considered southern Spain – the city of Seville well know for its Easter traditions. Alas, the flights were pricey! Since we still tend to travel like college students (yes, you’re noticing a trend here) we quickly ruled out this option. We popped in to the eurowings website and searched for direct, cheap flights and found one that departed after work from Cologne airport.

We considered Prague, Dublin, Venice and then settled on Budapest. Budapest has been on my bucket list since I was a kid and found out my great grandparents were Hungarian. The rumor is that they immigrated to the US from Budapest. Exact family history isn’t know, but I was attracted to the idea of reconnecting to my roots. On top of the family connection, I have a lovely friend from Hungary so I always had a warm feeling about the country. Spoiler alert: this country lived up to my expectations and then some!

My travel buddy had success renting a VRBO in Italy once so we decided to give it a shot. We rented a lovely old apartment in a building with lofty ceilings, colonial style architecture and a generous courtyard with a garden.

Here’s the link in case you’d like to check it out. I highly recommend the place. A taxi driver by the name of Atilla (as in the Hun, yes, I’m not kidding), picked us up at the airport. (Traveler tip: I believe it would have been easy to take a train. Will probably do this on a return tip.) Although, I have to say that riding with Atilla was both entertaining and educational.

As we exited the airport we were mildly surprised to see a tank, yes a military tank, stationed at the airport entrance on the main road. Atilla commented on the tank and said basically it was the president making a show. I quickly learned, and experienced this again later…that Hungarians love to talk politics. Not surprising when you learn Hungary’s long and tumultuous political history. On the flight I read a print out of a Wikipedia post about the Buda castle. Here’s the link where you can learn quite a bit about the history of this fascinating city.

During the relatively quick ride from the airport to the apartment, Atilla pointed out some sites along the way and discussed with us the relative merit of different modes of transport around the city. Our initial intention was to walk and we debated the merits of a Budapest card which would provide reasonably priced access to all forms of public transportation. In the end we stuck with walking and it was lovely. It’s a very walkable city and for the most part the weather cooperated.

We dropped our bags at the apartment and headed up in search of a dinner, although it was late, we found it wasn’t too hard to find a place. I had a traditional Hungarian dish with a main course that featured curly haired pork. Somewhat of a local speciality and I was not disappointed. After dinner we felt invigorated and wanted to begin exploring what appeared to be a very interesting city.

During my research for the trip, which pretty much was completed the evening before we flew out, I had read some blog posts about ruin pubs. These can probably be most closely compared to pop up shops – people have co-opted old build is, often those that were partly ruined, into pubs. We headed out on foot to the oldest, most famous ruin pub in the city. This took us from our sleepy neighborhood to a part of town that became progressively more lively with an assortment of bars and restaurants and shops. We turned our second to last corner and looked up to find a beautiful Jewish synagogue with Art Deco design.

Around every corner I was more and more pleased with the architecture of this city, which has been rebuilt countless times over its’ long and storied history.

As we approached the ruin pub it wasn’t hard to tell we were at the right place as we saw a small crowd near the door. We went through the id check and then entered a dark, graffitied foyer. One of the first things I found was a map of the pub – indicating it was large in size, sure enough it seemed to go on for ever. We found a bar on the ground floor and waited to order behind a large crowd of Americans. After a long wait – boy they were taking their time – we found the stairway to the second level to try a different bar. This was a shorter wait and gave us a chance to check out the many art pieces and oddities decorating the bar. It was a very interesting place. I tried their local brew and it was a nice light bier. Our rambling journey through the ruin pub continued and we turned a corner to find a courtyard area where they were projecting old silent films, from the 20’s, on a wall. We paused along a hallway and sank into old movie theatre seats to watch the show which featured men’s fashion in the 1920s. It was a little hard to pull myself away. But finally the excitement of our flight and first experiences in the city began to wear on us and we walked back to the apartment.

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Ruin Pub interior decorating – definitely eclectic.

 

For all my desires to sleep in when I’m traveling, I always seem to wake up around dawn. I keep a pretty regular schedule at home. Hitting the sack around 10 and waking up no later than 6 am. This means that wherever I am, in whatever time-zone, I’m waking up no later than 6 am German time. Can be helpful but can also be difficult. This trip was no different. I found myself wide awake at 5 am and pulled up google maps to locate a cafe. The earliest place I could find would open at 7 am, so I managed to get a few more winks. The sky was as blue as I have ever seen since I left North Carolina – boding a lovely day ahead. I strolled to a coffee shop around the corner called the Embassy Cafe. This would become our coffee shop. The older I get, the more I enjoy routines and well-cultivated habits in life. There’s a small comfort in going to a place where you’re known and recognized as a regular. This would become our small harbor in this city.

I brought coffees back for myself and my travel buddy. Then we sat down at the beautiful dining room table in the living room and began to compose a list of things we wanted to see. In times past, I much more deliberative and exacting with travel itineraries, but lately I have really given myself the freedom to stroll. This time I was traveling with a friend so we mapped out a plan together. A few must-dos on the list: dinner cruise on the Danube, Buda castle, and few relaxing hours in one of Budapest’s many Turkish spas.

The first question was which part of the city to explore first. Budapest is composed of two main regions: Buda and Pest. Within these cities there are many unique neighborhoods, memorials and cafes to explore. Buda is dominated by the castle district where you can explore the Buda castle and also reach the highest peak of the city – the Citadel. Pest has many shopping regions, the Parliament building, Heroes Square and the Great Market Hall. A slight complication in our plans was the weather which promised to be unpredictable and it was.

We managed to squeeze quite a bit into our three days. One of the highlights was a Danube river cruise, but if I had it to do again, I would recommend just to go on a cruise at night with no dinner. The dinner felt like a distraction from the sites – which were beautiful! This has been on my bucket list since I was a kid, so it was exciting for me.

My travel buddy and I really enjoying hiking and walking through cities, so one morning we struck out to walk up the hill to the Citadel. This is no small feat, I tell ya. It’s a long walk to the top. It was very worth it as we took in the sites along the way and then admired the many city views from the top of the Buda side of the city.

One of the most fascinating places we visited was the cave church. My grandmother was a devout Catholic and for some reason, roaming around this hallowed place, I felt very connected to her. I also sat for a while and watched a woman preparing flower arrangements for the alter. It was beautiful to watch her lovingly gather and arrange the flowers with a spirit of peace and contentment.

Another day we began by tending our weary feet (we walked up to 25 kilometers a day!) at the Gelliert spa and famous Turkish bath house. Now, the upside to this bathhouse is that clothing is required, including swim caps in the pool. This is in contrast to German baths which are au natural (if you catch my drift). It was a bit pricey and I have to say I prefer the German baths, nevertheless it was a great way to refresh ourselves for a long day of roaming the streets.

We took off from the spa and headed across the river toward Heroes Square. Along the way we stopped for a coffee at the Book Cafe, but the place was so lovely we decided to make it a longer break with a glass of Hungarian wine and lunch. Just as a pointer, this place is a little hard to find as it’s located inside another building, so be careful you don’t walk by it on accident. The road to Heroes Square is lined with historical sites including a moving memorial to the Boys of Pest who began the rebellion against communism in Hungary. We paused for a long while to read the many historical plaques and study pictures of the boys, they were teenagers, who successful overthrew the communists. A very inspiring and heartbreaking exhibit. This was placed in front of the museum of terror and we decided against going inside. Recently we’d visited a medieval torture museum in Bavaria and it was a more than a little disturbing.

We roamed through Heroes Square and then on to the large city park behind the square. Luckily, there was a market and festival underway which included, yes, I couldn’t believe this was true, CRAFT BEER! I love many things about Germany, but one thing I really miss from the US is beer variety. I was very pleased with the beers in Budapest. These included what I’d consider truly hoppy IPAs. I talked with a Brewer who told me that the industry has blossomed in the last five years with dozens of breweries in the region. We also found them all over in downtown Pest, making for nice places to stop and refuel between tourist stops.

I’m leaving out a lot of detail here, because we really did see a lot in Budapest – including a walk through the Castle, the Matthias Cathedral (truly remarkable art) and the cave hospital. If I don’t finish this post I’ll never have the energy to write about all the other places I’ve visited in Europe, so ask me for more details over a beer sometime…ok.

Perhaps the most moving and memorable moment of our trip was a diversion on the way back to the apartment one evening. We stopped to see the “Shoes on the Danube” memorial.

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This memorial was installed about 10 years ago in memory of the Jews who were lined up, told to remove their shoes and then executed on this very spot along the Danube. Their bodies then floated down the river. This is very difficult for me to write, yet, I believe it is critical that we remember the past and the evil that can enter society. Especially now, as we are driven by fear and hatred to increasing self-protection and separation along religious and cultural lines. We certainly must maintain our society, our freedoms and fight the evil that is growing in power. At the same time I earnestly hope we will remember what we have in common as human beings, we are all people seeking a better life, freedom and the opportunity to live in peace with our loved ones.

Budapest left me with an overwhelming sense of peace and hope rooted in the knowledge that out of centuries of change and strife this lovely city, populated with wonderful, hospitable people has emerged victorious. I hope all of you have a chance to visit this lovely place, which made me even more proud of my Hungarian ancestry.

 

The city of lights

The city of lights

I have to say that until I visited Budapest, Paris was my favorite city in Europe. Why, you may ask…oh, let me count the ways. The endless parks, the beautiful architecture at every turn, the incredible ethnic diversity, the macaroons, the brasseries with their elaborate paintings and high ceilings, the feeling of pride in every Parisian you meet.

My first visit to Paris I went alone and it turned out to be a delightful experience in self-discovery. I left early one morning, I think about 5 am and walked to my local train stop. Caught the train for a fourty minute ride to Cologne and then caught my Thally’s train to Paris. Because I still can’t seem to break out of college student mode, I had booked the cheap seats and I’m not sure what I expected, but it was much less than I found. The seats were wide and accommodating, upholstered in rich, red velvet. I have to admit I felt like a queen. I settled in for the 2 hour ride to the main train station in Paris. About half-way there I walked to the cafe train car and bought a nice little coffee. The whole experience was delightful.

When we arrived in Paris I walked off the train to be treated to some amazing architecture at the station. This was just a preview of what was to come. I found the metro ticket machine and watched to see what everyone else was doing. It appeared that most people were buying a bunch of tickets, so it seemed like this was a good idea. Blessedly, the machine had an option to proceed in English. I purchased a discount pack of 20 tickets, which meant every ride was 1.20 euros. Pretty good deal. I didn’t know how often I’d ride the metro but figured it was better to be prepared. Then I hopped the metro to my hotel.

On this first stay, I had a hotel near the arch de triomphe – it was a nice place but the neighborhood felt sterile and it was a long ways from the area I wound up spending most of my time, which was La Marais. So, on my return, I booked an older hotel in La Marais.

I have been extremely fortunate on my two trips to Paris to visit the city when the weather is beautiful. I found myself roaming the streets, parks and lovely neighborhoods for hours on end. Just taking in the sites of the city. If I was thirsty I would stop for refreshment. If I was hungry I would find a cafe to grab a croissant or macaroon.

One morning I decided I wanted to see the sun rise from Sacre Cour so I headed in that direction on the metro. It’s a long walk and I was wrongly informed that it was a boring walk. (On my next trip Chas and I walked to Sacre Cour and it was fascinating – I highly recommend taking the walk). Sacre Cour is gorgeous and I decided to splurge and pay to climb to the top. I jumped in line behind a lady around my age with short, curly hair and a friendly expression. We soon were talking and I learned she was a lawyer from Marseille in town for work and visiting her aunt who has a flat in Paris.

So, here’s the thing, traveling alone is sometimes nice – you can come and go as you please, there’s no time schedule, negotiations, compromise. But, being alone can be, well, lonely. Not surprising since its part of the word. It’s a strange feeling to be roaming a European city, which is full of people, but at the same time feel moments of such acute loneliness. There is great joy in sharing an experience with a person.

This is then how it came to be that I traveled Paris for the day with a French woman from Marseille. After coming down from the top of Sacre Cour (which does have magnificent views of the city and Eifel tower) we sat at a lovely cafe and had a croissant and cafe while we compared notes on where we wanted to travel next. She actually had a book. I, strangely enough, don’t go for travel books anymore. I do a little googling online, poll my Facebook friends, and then go where my feet and eyes are drawn in the city.

High on my list was the catacombs – she’d never been so we noted this as our last stop. We had one constraint which was to meet her friend and her friend’s daughter and father near the Eifel tower, which is how I found myself inside a funny little vehicle that was a combo bicycle/motorcycle/rickshaw getting to know a French lady and her 8 year old daughter and father – a lifelong Parisian. We took a whirlwind tour of the sites while we chatted in a mash up of French and English. I failed to note that on our way to the Eifel tower we passed a fenced off grassy area in the middle of the city where a flock of wooly sheep were grazing. What a delightful surprise!

I’m going to jump ahead a bit here to the catacombs. After waiting in line for an hour we entered the caves. This turned into one of the most emotionally moving experiences of my life. There are so many bones lovingly, carefully piled under the earth. I think most people find it creepy, but I found it deeply spiritual and a testament to human connection. I walked out feeling a bit shell-shocked. Then I did like every tourist and went to find a magnet. I selected one that said “keep calm and remember you will die”.

In a sad, strange turn of events, the Paris attacks happened exactly one week after my first visit to Paris. Many people did die while enjoying the lovely charm of this city. I was deeply moved by this experience.

 

 

 

 

The bumble bee

I love how life is filled with funny little ironies. Like the irony of being a trained entomologist with a last name that means Bumble Bee in German. Then going to work for a German company and moving to Germany with a German last name. Everyone thinks I’m German, which is actually a great thing when you’re an expat in a new country. I also look remarkably German and by purchasing a German wardrobe I have no trouble to blend in. But, here’s the kicker, my whole life I though I was 1/4 German and it turns out I actually have not a drop of German blood. The great grandparents I thought were German were actually Hungarian.

I first discovered that my name means bumble bee when I was searching for something on google and found the German soccer brand Hummel with the bumble bee as their logo. It was delightful and a nice surprise. I have now embraced this as a logo (my spirit animal one might say). I like the idea of being like a bumble bee. They’re delightful creatures and if you’ve had the chance to see them at work, they’re industrious little suckers – moving about with steadfast mission and purpose. Not always the fastest guys, but working nonetheless with a  mission in mind – collect the pollen to feed the brood. They live in small, loyal families. They can sting and not die, unlike their honeybee cousins. I like this about them that they don’t die in their self-defense, but can survive and live to fight another day. Their colors are bold and bright delivering a warning about the weapons they carry.

The clothing in bright colors, the small community, the industrious spirit, and love of flowers. These have been in my nature for pretty much my entire life. But the defense abilities, packing a punch and continuing to carry on, this I have begun to build in my time in Germany. And I have to say it’s refreshing, empowering and a welcome change.

So, this blog is about my life in Germany where I regularly introduce myself as “Hummel wie die Hummel” – Hummel like the bumble bee. A German friend suggested I should use this phrase so people learn my name quickly. This intro has two great benefits: people do learn my name quickly and they also smile. So, we’re always off to a great start. As are we, as I share my journeys with you.