A Double German City Adventure on the River Rhine
Where: Düsseldorf & Cologne. Germany, Europe.
When: July 2006
What: Rhineturm Television Tower, Largest Digital Clock in the World, Kolner Dom, River Rhine Cruise, Hohenzollern Bridge, Düsseldorf State Parliament, Frank Gehry Architecture.
How: River Boat, International Flights, Deutsche Bahn German railway.
Country counter: +1 country
Illnesses or mishaps: Embarking upon a tourist river cruise along the River Rhine in Cologne - quite possibly the dullest tourist experience I have ever endured.
This was my first trip to Germany and researching the place it quickly became apparent that Cologne was an easy day trip away being, as it was, only thirty kilometres from Düsseldorf on the Deutsche Bahn. This was the first time we'd doubled our trip and ventured outside the immediate place of the inbound flight - an experience was to come in handy for our twelve country Inter-rail adventure the following year. Located in the west of Germany, Düsseldorf and Cologne are merely an hour's flight time from the United Kingdom. As it was, combining Düsseldorf with Cologne was the perfect mix as they seemed to mutually compliment each other: Düsseldorf offered an insight into modern, contemporary Germany while Cologne proffered something a little more of a bygone Germany.
Düsseldorf is clean and grimly functional. Its landmark, and arguably its only landmark, is the striking Rhineturm Tower. This is invariably the image which presents itself on any internet search about the city. More interestingly the tower comes with a not unimpressive record attached: it is the largest digital clock in the world, with the time being represented through a series of lights up the tower's spine. The local German time is displayed in a binary formation. And this underscores a key feature of the Düsseldorf identity: it is a forward-looking city. The State Parliament building at the foot of the Rhineturm is nothing to write home about when viewed from the ground - but actually impressive when viewed from hundreds of metres above in the observation area of tower. From this vantage point you are able to fully appreciate the series of futuristic-looking interlocking circular shapes. The futuristic nature of Düsseldorf is enhanced by a series of creative buildings along the River Rhine: the metallic waviness of the Frank Gehry building and the equally experimental Neuer Zollhoff building, also designed by Gehry. Further along at Media Harbour we happened upon the WDR Television station filming a programme involving performing pets. As we watched for several minutes, along with the rest of the crowd that had gathered, we saw poodles jumping over little picket fences and smaller, fluffier dogs running through large slinky-style tubes. These shenanigans were all playing out a mere stone's throw from the Parliament and was thus as incongruous as it was offbeat.
Cologne was a short trip away on the Deutsch Bahn - our second city stop along the River Rhine. Another German city, another phallic concrete TV tower and another river with bridges. However, Cologne did, at least, offer a little bit of Germany's past - a welcome contrast to Düsseldorf's contemporary countenance. Cologne's Gothic Cathedral is truly immense and was, for the four years between in 1880-1884, the largest building in the world. It is also the most visited monument in Germany. From inside it afforded us great views of the city with a wonderful aspect of the Medieval Quarter and Fishmarkt Square. Our short stop in the city drew to a conclusion with a tourist cruise along the river - quite possibly the dullest I have ever been on.
Night-time Düsseldorf complete with moon, the cables of the Theodor Heuss Bridge, and the Rheinturm TV Tower. It has the largest digital clock in the world, which you can see along the spine of the tower at night. Local time is calculated and displayed as a binary clock by a series of lights.
Futuristic Düsseldorf: the unique metallic waviness of the Gehry building.
Futuristic Düsseldorf: the unique metallic waviness of the Neuer Zollhoff building.
The giant spires of Cologne Cathedral - the most visited monument in Germany.
Cologne offers a slice of a bygone Germany.
The less-than-enthralling River Rhine cruise.
travel tips, links & resources
- Combining Dusseldorf with Cologne was the perfect mix as they mutually complimented each other: Dusseldorf offered an insight into modern, contemporary Germany whilst Cologne proffered something a little more traditional history.
- Travelling between the two cities is simple, inexpensive and easy on the Deutsche Bahn.
- The river cruise we undertook in Cologne along the River Rhine was pleasant enough but, at time of travel, the sights to be seen from the water were few and far between. If you enjoy travelling by water or just wish to take the weight off of your feet then the cruise is fine. However, don't think you will see very much along the way.
- The towers in both Dusseldorf and Cologne offer the chance to travel to the top and take in views of their respective cities.
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