The joys of Düsseldorf — no, really!
May 16, 2012 3 Comments
This weekend, I traveled to Düsseldorf to hang out with a band of pirates.
The occasion was the state of North Rhine-Westphalia’s election for state parliament. And the upstart Pirate Party was set to secure enough votes to enter its fourth consecutive statehouse — this time, in the country’s most populous state.
My story on the Pirates will appear in the LA Times in the next few days. But I thought I’d give you a quick visual preview of my experiences in Düsseldorf.
It may surprise you to learn that Düsseldorf, which I’d previously thought of as an airport, was named the city with the fifth-highest quality of life in the world last year. And it turns out to be a rather lovely place.
Unfortunately, it’s a convention city, and I was there during convention time, which meant I had to overpay for an under-quality hotel. But even funky Hotel Fürstenhof was on a gorgeous little square. The view from my window:
The city lies on the Rhine River, and is best known for the area along its waterfront:
But the best part — for this nerd, at least — was the Büchermeile, or “book mile,” that was taking place in the market next to the river:
The other side of the river, on the other hand, is considerably more, um, rural:
Yes, those are sheep.
The other thing Düsseldorf’s famous for is what’s known as the “longest bar in the world” — a stretch of nothing but restaurants and bars in the center of the old city:
But I wasn’t in Düsseldorf to flip through miles of books and drink through miles of beers. I had an election to cover! And it was hard to avoid. Campaign posters were everywhere.
This guy, Norbert Röttgen, was the gubernatorial candidate of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, which did so badly in the election that he stepped down as party leader in the state and, today, as federal environment minister:
Now, in Germany, elections aren’t the money-is-everything affairs they are in America. Campaigns are publicly funded, and the parties are only allowed to put up a designated number of posters, proportional to the percentage of the vote they received in the previous election. So while I saw lots of Röttgen and a fair amount of these guys:
there was hardly any advertising for the Pirates. All I saw, in fact, was a single poster outside the venue they’d rented out for their victory celebration:
The Pirates’ lair was a bit difficult to find, as it was in an industrial part of town, on a street that was occupied by the Red Army Faction in the 1970s. But the neighborhood did feature one very colorful street:
But once I was on the right block, there was really no mistaking the Pirates’ base, given the landmark across the street:
Inside Pirate HQ, when the exit poll results were announced, a roar erupted from the orange-caped crowd and balloon swords waved wildly:
Which meant that these guys:
will soon be working here: