For starters, I woke up at the not-so-early time of 11 o' clock, took a shower, got dressed and headed downstairs. Hilariously, my host family and fellow IIK students had been looking through a sports gear catalogue, wherein on the cover, was the same Germany away jersey I happened to pick out moments earlier. I asked, then I begged, Sadeq to come run with me. But to no avail. Despite him promising me the night before that we'd go out and run at 12 the next day, he was busy faulenzen.
So that meant I could go alone, go faster, with few to no Pausen. Fine by me!
I ran to a quite large Volkswagen dealership called Volkswagen Zentrum. One way, the dealership was 3,1 kilometers away (that's roughly 2 miles each way for you Amis back home). The path went from enchanted neighborhood to industrial very quickly. Along my way, I'm sure I confused many a German by wearing a German national team jersey given how expensive an item it is in Germany. (In Germany they cost 80€, while in the US $80, or the equivalent of 64€!) I must have either looked like a very wealthy German or an absolute foreigner.
I ran down Sandträgerweg, which transformed to Königsberger Straße, where I turned right onto Ronsdorfer Straße, which bent and curved until my straight-line American brain was totally befuddled, where I came across Hellweg and somehow, by God's grace, returned home. I had no phone with me, was growing increasingly tired and thirsty and would have had to walk the rest of the way if it was much longer. It would make sense to take two rights to end up where you started, right? The German roads with their tendency to undulate and swivel made me grow to distrust my navigational judgements. But they paid off and the familiar golden wheat fields greeted me yet again and the sun shined on Michael Lenoch that day.
My first mistake of the day then, was wearing the shirt you see below.
That shirt represents a soccer club in Nürnberg. Later from a local, I found out that they're a horribly low-tier team. But I had no idea. To me, it was a German shirt, and Germans would respond to a German shirt with open arms. To my American readers, this was worse than wearing Bears memorabilia in Green Bay or vice versa. I could see the intense anger in the passersby that stared at its white lettering, and soon afterward, deeply into my eyes. Soon I was made well aware I should have never worn that shirt for the deep devotion to Düsseldorf's home-grown club, Fortuna. By the day's end on the S-Bahn ride home, I started a conversation with a guy who glanced at my shirt. I unabashedly asked him "Magst du es?" (Do you like it?) He pulled out one of his headphones and explained to me why I was getting stared at all day. I explained to him that I got it simply as a souvenir while visiting Germany with my family in 2009 for the first time, not to signify my allegiance.
I went to a Flohmarkt (flea market) where locals sold their used or unwanted items and there were a few specialty stalls. My host family's daughter, Nicola, and I rode by bike to the location. The scenes were absolutely idyllic! Take a look!
The very German band sang American songs... in German. And crazy people danced as if it was Lollapalooza.
I was genuinely surprised to see a car from FLORIDA in Germany. Definite WTF moment for me.
After the Flohmarkt, my Gastfamilie and I went to the local Aldi for some groceries. After that, I had to split up from them as they drove and I rode a bike. We were off.
I tried to re-locate where Nicola had locked up the bike for me, and again, somehow found it. Thank goodness! I unlocked the bike and was on my way... or so I thought.
Like almost every other member of the male species, I refused to ask anyone where to go and was dead-set on a pre-determined path like a broken GPS. And like almost every other male, eventually found himself lost. In fact, I ended up in a very posh area where I saw Range Rovers and elegant, tree-covered sidewalks. I saw a group of girls around my age and swiftly rode my bike to them. I started by saying "Entschuldigung? Weißt ihr wo Gerresheim ist?" After asking where I should go, none of them knew. I then explained that I was from America, Chicago specifically, and all their eyes lit up and said "Cool!" (I should really tell people that I'm from Chicago more often!) I later said I was studying German at IIK and hope I can be a journalist in Germany some day. I'm sure we could have carried the conversation on because (and I kid you not) the girls seemed entranced about how exotisch America is, but I worried (because I knew my host family worried) if or when I would return. I sped off as fast as I approached them wished them farewell with a friendly "Tchüß!'
While riding my bike on the European sidewalks, I felt my sense of speed multiply from what large, American suburbs I'm used to. Thankfully, no sidewalks in Europe end as abruptly or unexpectedly as they do in suburban America. At a certain point along my journey, I realized I'd better sacrifice whatever absurd phone rate it'll cost to use my phone to find out where I am and where I need to go. I was soon on my way and fork-deep into a leftover bowl of chicken and broccoli which was everything I needed after running four miles and biking even more.
Later then, I headed with Sadeq and Ahmed, where we headed to the Altstadt, which was extremely crowded thanks to the Japantag celebration that day, where anime and manga fans would cosplay as their favorite characters (or at least the ones they resemble the most).
Along our way to the Lebanese restaurant, we encountered the most stereotypical German drinking scenes. It was like college on stereoids. It was awesome! A whole table of burly men sang in harmony as they saluted each other with their great, big beer glasses.
At the restaurant, my three Israeli friends felt right at home and ordered Felafel. The place was so crowded. I ordered just pita(?) bread with hummus at first. Little did I know, my friends also ordered a Felafel for me. I received my bread (whatever kind it is!) and hummus and began eating it with my friends who had already received their Felafels. Later, the server came back with a Felafel for me. He asked me if I already paid for it. I knew if I said "no," he would know I was lying. So I took the high road and reluctantly paid for it. The food was great, but extremely salty and called for a drink to go with it. But wait! A tiny glass-bottle coke costs 1,6€. By no means worth it! Even though I was horribly thirsty, I sipped the sweet drink so I could top off the meal with coke rather than a dry, uncomfortable feeling in my mouth. Money is so much more painful to spend when you can hold it, smell it and see it. That's why credit cards are the easiest way to burn money.
The site of the bridge from afar.
Then Sadeq and I headed for the bridge for the fireworks show. Unfortunately we lost Fadi, Veronika, Sorina and Ahmed along the morass of wacky and colorful-costume-clad anime characters. Sadeq and I made it on the bridge alive though.
The bridge while the sun was still out and it was [relatively] warm.
The pros set up shop, with tripods and all.
As we and the masses waiting for the explosive entertainment (see what I did there?) there were a number of ships that swam under the bridge. Some appeared for more geriatric sorts than others, but I had the envy of my life when I saw a boat with a large crowd dancing on the deck with a DJ playing "Welcome to St. Tropez."
A more geriatric boat.
A rainbow of neon boats!
God did I have the envy of my life hearing that song and seeing all those people dancing on that ship... Shame of shames!
The bespoke people dancing on bespoke ship!
After a long hour of waiting in the cold (although Sadeq and Ahmed had told me to bring a jacket, I refused to), the fireworks began.
A large of Germans photograph the spectacle.
I find that I'm really "over" firework shows. They seem to captivate me less and less than they did when I was younger. Once you see one fireworks show, you've seen them all.
I quickly grew bored and stopped taking photos as the been-there-done-that-feeling set in. So I asked a girl behind me laughing if she wanted to take my place so she could take some pictures. She said no, that's okay. Then, intriguingly started a conversation with me because I had nothing but a t-shirt and shorts on (maybe I should wear just t-shirts when it's really cold out more often?). Either way, it's really quite comical the way I'm beginning to meet more and more people.
Our conversation then drifted on to where I'm from and she appeared more interested, so well, we kept talking. With her was her friend who was quite drunk at the time. She was really funny. I asked them where they needed to go and they said to the same train as us so we decided to go together.
It was hard to stay together thanks to the enormous amount of people trying to go one direction at once, so rather than walking on a [stereotypically] efficient German sidewalk for transporting pedestrians, we walked on a clunky, slow path that consisted of circumventing people more than anything else.
But we survived.
We not only survived, but we also boarded the U-Bahn successfully too! As soon as we arrived where our paths diverged at the Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof, Sadeq had the bright idea to go back thanks to a call he received from a friend, inviting us to a club.
We went back to the Altstadt and braved the drunken people, for what? Not much. We did get to see the absurdly polluted city as a barge, carrying eight American-sized (that tells you they're BIIIG) garbage trucks just to clean up the tornado of a mess that was the Japantag.
All those reflective objects you see are BEER BOTTLES. All of them. It looks as if a riot happened there!
A brief video highlighting the vibrant nightlife in Düsseldorf.
However, we did meet a German-Moroccan who asked Sadeq if he's from Düsseldorf, but he said no. Then he approached us again and asked me the same question. Before he could walk away, again dissatisfied, I stopped him asking where he's from. That really got him started.
Along our fruitless walk looking for our friend who sent us the invite, he talked about the political strife and economic turmoil of Sadeq and my home nations: Israel and the United States. He was fun to talk to, but spoke extraordinarily fast. Again, another very interesting way to meet a person.
Es gibt viel zu tun in Düsseldorf! Und natürlich, noch viel mehr!