Sunday, 24 May 2009

20 Years On: Day Trip to Düsseldorf

This was the single trip I made on my own when I was living in Köln, North up the Rhine by train to the next major city, Düsseldorf. I made a couple of trips down the river to Bonn, once with a friend visiting from the UK and once with a set of my British friends from Köln (and I remember it raining that day too). Though it would have been nice to go to Düsseldorf with someone it was surprisingly successful. I do not know why I left it so late in the morning to depart; I never make impromptu decisions to go anywhere so it must have been planned. I went back to Düsseldorf in 2004 and it did not seem to have changed at all.

I remember being intrigued by the amount of signs in Japanese there were throughout the city which seemed to jar with the very European looking canals and buildings in the centre of the city. Düsseldorf has always had the greatest presence of Japanese of cities in West Germany. Of course, in the 1980s the Japanese were seen very much as the Chinese are now, the people you had to do business with if you were to prosper.

I also remember seeing a lot of bad contemporary art in both Düsseldorf and Köln. I suppose it went with the territory of having all these wealthy business people. In Düsseldorf I remember a life-sized reconstruction of part of the Amsterdam red light district you could walk around and a replica of a military equestrian sculpture tipped through 90° so the horse's backside was on the plinth, it had been daubed with colours and surrounded with plastic soldiers and military vehicles.

Interesting range of names of British students who formed The Raj. I never knew Biff's real name, she got it for being rather a boisterous girl in her youth. I remember Lynn ended up as that, rather than 'Lyn' or 'Lynne' as you would expect, as her father was drunk when her birth was registered. Joss's full name was Jocelyn, one of these names that has moved from being male in the 1920s to female by the 1980s like Hilary and Evelyn. I remember Ismail was a 20-year old Moroccan who spoke fluent German, French and Arabic, but also had some Farsi, Afghan (Pushtu?), Japanese, Italian and English.

'The Bunker' was one of the two bars and one tea room at the foreigners' blocks. Note, also that with no internet or emails and only some students having telephones in their rooms and most of us having to use callboxes (phone booths to US readers), the main way of communicating with people back home was still by letter, this makes 1989 seem a century away.
Again, I am not certain about all the locations shown in these pictures, so if I have made a mistake, please let me know and I will amend the captions.

Wednesday 24th May 1989
Today I woke promptly and after breakfast and a bit of reading I went to the station and caught the train - the 11.04 to Düsseldorf, going there by the West bank route, arriving at 12.00. I went to the Jagdhof and looked at the Goethe museum, then walked through the Hofgarten to two art galleries: one with poor modern sculpture and one with a good range of 20th century art. I then walked around the Altstadt and looked in the Ship museum and walked around more of the town before coming back via a few bookshops. I caught the 17.43 train back. Back in hall I chatted with Paul before we went to 'The Bunker' [bar] barbecue. We were joined by Jane, Emma and Jenny, then Matthew, after that Fiona came, followed by Biff, Lynn & Lee and finally Gabrielle and Joss. We sat eating and drinking and also danced. Paul and I stayed on the longest with Julie & Ismail and Julie's sister too. Monika also popped by and we had a conversation in German. Then Paul and I came back. I had had about six bottles of Becks. I began a letter to Barbara. I got to bed by 04.00.

Weather: Sunny and hot.
Ornamental Canal in Düsseldorf, West Germany in May 1989

Avenue in the Jagdhof grounds [?], Düsseldorf, May 1989

Spire close to the Jagdhof in Düsseldorf, May 1989

Statues close to City Art Gallery, Düsseldorf, May 1989

The Ship Museum, Düsseldorf, May 1989

Mobile Jazz Band Stopped for a Break, Düsseldorf, May 1989

This jazz band was driven around the pedestrianised area of central Düsseldorf playing from the back of their car.

The 'Studio Am Burgplatz' Puppet Shop, Düsseldorf, May 1989

Cat in Bookshop Window, Düsseldorf, May 1989

Seeing a copy of „Chronik des 20. Jahrhunderts“, i.e. 'Chronicle of the 20th Century' seems ironic given what was going to happen in the next couple of years after this photo was taken. Even the most ardent German nationalist would not have predicted a reunified Germany in less than three years. To think the events of the 20th century were almost done and dusted was a major mistake many of us made.

Statues and a British Telephone Box in the Forecourt of the 'Ssst' Gallery in Düsseldorf, May 1989

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