Düsseldorf & Kempen 3/12

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An early spring in Germany's Northern Rhineland...

Düsseldorf's Gehry buildings flanked by the Rheinturm alongside the Rhine River in Medienhafen

Düsseldorf's K21 Contemporary Art Museum grounds

I had a short "sanity vacation" opportunity in conjunction with a business trip to Germany. My business sessions were in a quant little town called Kempen, and my vacation extension was in nearby Düsseldorf. I've traveled a lot in Germany before, but I've never been as far north in the Rhineland. I found both cities rewarding, with less famous landmarks than Cologne, Berlin or Munich, yet the off-the-beaten-tourist-track sights were worthwhile.


The weather cooperated well, giving me a chilly early spring flavor characterized by highs in the 50s °F and lows in the 40s °F. Rain threatened a lot during the trip but I never once had to open my umbrella. As always, my poor command of any language except English was no barrier as long as I was willing to ask questions of strangers. The train system in Germany was efficient, but not perfect, just as I've found it in the past.

Tuesday March 27th - Kempen arrival

I arrived from the US in Frankfurt, Germany at 7am after catching about 4 hours of sleep on the plane. I had a long wait that I spent mostly in the DB bahn lounge for my 11:25am train from Frankfurt's airport to Düsseldorf and then on to Kempen. DB bahn is completely inflexible when it comes to moving up a scheduled train ticket, even when there's plenty of availability. The 1 hour ICE train to Düsseldorf was great, speeding along at 180mph. The regional train from Düsseldorf to Kempen took another 45 minutes.


I checked in at the Hotel Papillon around 2pm. My room was good, even sporting a waterbed! I unpacked, grabbed my camera and walked the town. Kempen's old city - Alt Stadt - was very nice. It has a traditional gate (first picture below), cobblestone streets (second and third pictures below) and some interesting architecture (large picture right). After my walk, I called my clients and met them for drinks and dinner before retiring. Wednesday and Thursday were work days, extended by late night dinners that seem to be typical of business gatherings in Europe.


Kempen Alt Stadt street scene

Kempen gate

Kempen Alt Stadt street

Kempen fountain

Gehry building front

Friday March 30th - Kempen to Düsseldorf

I woke late, walked a block to the train station, bought my ticket (10.20€) and caught the 10:15am regional train from Kempen to Düsseldorf. In Düsseldorf I bought a 3 day Welcome Card at the TI across from the train station and took tram 708 directly to my hotel, the Dusseldorf Renaissance. I checked in around noon, did a quick turnaround and was off to explore the city on foot, camera and lenses at hand. This was what I'd characterize as a "high minimalist" camera equipment trip - Canon S90 point & shoot, Nikon D700 body, 16-35mm & 28-300mm lenses and a circular polarizer filter. I also brought along one of my tripods, but I never got a chance to do any night photography, so it was just dead weight resting comfortably in my suitcase the whole trip. After spending three work days in Kempen with too much food and too little exercise, I decided to do a long walk along the Rhine, starting at Düsseldorf's Alt Stadt, which was a quick ride away on tram 701. I stopped first at the 20th century K20 Grabbeplatz museum, in the Alt Stadt, which in my opinion was just okay.


Although rain was threatening, the waterfront walk was very picturesque (first picture below). I walked ~2miles south from the Alt Stadt to Medienhafen, the site of Gehry's buildings (large picture top of page and fourth picture above). I'd read that Gehry's silver building (there are three buildings total - red, silver & white) is supposed to generate interesting reflections at various times of the day, but overcast skies killed the effect. Walking north back to the Alt Stadt, I first stopped at the Rheinturm, which is the tall radio / TV tower seen in the background of several of these shots. A quick elevator ride took me to a commanding view over Düsseldorf. It was a challenge to get a good shot through the windows in the completely enclosed viewing levels, so the second picture below is what I'd characterize as my best effort. Those are the three Gehry buildings in a row near the center of that shot.


Heading northeast from the Rheinturm, I passed some of Düsseldorf's plentiful outdoor art (third picture below), ending up at the 21st century K21 Standehaus museum. The grounds around the K21 in the late afternoon were very nice (large picture top of page left). The K21 has the reputation of being edgy and excellent. It certainly was not edgy unless judged by someone who had just fallen off a turnip truck on the way to the "big city", but it was worthwhile for an hour's visit. Heading north again, I walked to the Alt Stadt, grabbing a snack near the Marktplatz (fourth picture below). A quick ride on tram 701 brought me back to my hotel where I post-processed and backed-up my shots from the day and retired around midnight.

Düsseldorf waterfront & clouds

View from the Rheinturm

Düsseldorf's outdoor art

Jan Willem statue in Marktplatz

Saturday March 31st - Düsseldorf

I woke very late after a shocking 11 hours of sleep, apparently having not realized how exhausting the pace of the trip had been thus far. The late wake-up meant that I had missed my free breakfast at the hotel, so I just grabbed a quick snack, jumped on tram 701 and rode ~45 minutes to the southern suburb of Benrath, where Schloss Benrath, an 18th century pleasure and hunting palace, is located. The front pond (first picture below) is right at the tram stop and all of the grounds were free to visit. There are also two museums on the property. Circling around to the back, the extensive gardens (second picture below) and pools (third picture below) made for a very worthwhile stroll and visit. The site reminded me of a much smaller version of Versailles, which I had last visited less than a month before. Before leaving, I took a few shots of the front of the palace with my point-and-shoot camera mounted on my pocketable Joby tripod (fourth picture below).


I took U bahn 74 from Benrath to the Mitsubishi Halle in Oberbilk where an interesting exhibition was going on. From there I took tram 715 to Adolph Platz where I bought some souvenirs for my son at Mage before continuing on to the Alt Stadt where I enjoyed dinner at the touristy, but still good Fischhaus restaurant. I started out from there to do a walk along the river for some night shots, but a very cold wind had whipped up so I decided to call it a day. I took tram 701 back to the Renaissance where I packed, post processed and backed-up my pictures and sent out postcards to friends and family. On Sunday morning I woke very early to take the 708 tram to the train station where I boarded the ICE 1013 train that whisked me to Frankfurt's airport in about 90 minutes.


In my opinion, Düsseldorf was a very easy city to visit. Armed with just a tram map and a throw-away street guide I got around without any problems at all. The people I met along my way were friendly and the sights were by-and-large worthwhile. All-in-all, a nice little March business and side sanity trip.

Benrath Palace pond

Benrath Palace near grounds

Benrath Palace far grounds

Benrath palace front

Home Up Austria & Czech Rep. 5/01 Belgium 12/01 Benelux 5/12 Berlin & London 12/98 Central Europe by rail 8/10 Cologne & The Rhine 9/02 Düsseldorf & Kempen 3/12 Frankfurt 12/02 Greece 1/03 Greece 11/06 Ireland 3/01 Italy 4/00 Italy & Zurich 8/09 Netherlands 12/00 Paris 9/95 40th Birthday Paris & Burgundy 2/12 Poland 10/13 Scotland 8/02 Spain 8/03

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