Wednesday, September 8, 2010

European Vacation Day 1

We landed in Dusseldorf at about 7 AM. We headed for the immigration check in. It went surprisingly quick. I wasn't asked any questions, the guard checked my passport, looked at the photo, then at me, then stamped my book. It was very uneventful. We then gathered our bags and went on to customs. The guy asked us if we had any food. We said no, and that was it. I chatted briefly with the guard, and he remarked how getting in to the the European Union was easy compared with the US. I agreed saying that the US tries hard to show impartiality, but only succeeds in making everybody's life hard. The guard snorted his laughter and sent us on our way. In to the EU with minimal fuss. Awesome.

From the Dusseldorf International Airport, a very nice, new facility, we went straight to the hotel, the NH Dusseldorf City Center. It was only about 9 AM or so, of course, they did not have a room ready for us. That was bad, because the wife was not feeling very well, and was jet lagged from the trip. We checked in our luggage with the front desk and crashed in the lobby. The good news was that they had a little TV room off of the main lobby, so we could hang out in there, and not bother anyone. More good news was that the Hotel had free wifi in the lobby. The bad news was that you could only use it for 30 minutes...

After a couple of hours, I asked if a room was ready, and they told me that one had just come available, and we could go right up. It was great news! The wife and I got our luggage and headed for the room.

The room was a little small, but very nicely furnished. The bed, while very nice platform style bed, was simply two twin beds pushed together. I don't know if this is typical German style or not. What we did find out was that the beds had typical German style bedding, which is a sheet that covers the mattress, then a thick comforter that sits on top. No top sheet, or other blankets. Interesting. At the time it didn't matter. It was nap time.

We crashed out until about 3 PM, then decided to go walking around. We got a city map and headed on our way to see what we could see. We found the main shopping district in downtown Dusseldorf, the Königsallee. This was originally called Kastanienallee (chestnut avenue), but, during a visit from King Friedrich Wilhelm IV in 1848, someone threw a horse apple at the king. To make nice the city renamed the street Königsallee to make nice with the king.

Königsallee is a very beautiful street bisected by a canal that runs down the center. Old stone bridges cross the canal in several places, and high end shops line the streets.

Königsallee at night

We wandered around the shops and found a good place to meet my wife's friend who lives in Dusseldorf. She made a call and set up to meet later on in the evening.

One of the things that I really wanted to do in Germany was to get a feel for the beer. Dusseldorf is unique in Germany in that it does not use a Pilsner as its signature beer. Rather it serves a different kind, Altbier. Alt means old in German, so literally Altbier means "old beer." That is because it is a lager that is brewed with top fermenting ale yeast, rather than the bottom fermenting lager yeast that is typically used. It is called "old" because this top fermenting yeast was the first kind of yeast to be used in brewing. There is one brewery in Dusseldorf that has been brewing beer virtually in the same spot since the late 17th Century. Of course the original building was destroyed in 1945, along with most buildings in Germany, but it has been rebuilt almost exactly the same.

This brewery is named after the yeast that they use in their brewing, Uerige. One very unique thing about this particular brewery is that they use oak kegs to store their beer after fermentation. This is extremely old school. When it is time to serve the beer, they literally "tap" the keg with a spout by smacking in the tap with a mallet. It is AWESOME!!

Obtaining the "Delicious Droplet" altbier from the oak keg.

Altbier uses the most hops of all traditional German beers, it hangs out between 20 to 50 IBUs. Not really up to the British Porters, or many American Ambers, but still very hoppy for the German beers that normally hang below 10 IBUs. The beer uses barley and wheat malts, and does not have the typical yeast middle flavor that I am most familiar with German Pilsners and Heffiwitsens. The taste was great. It was not too bitter with lots of malty goodness. A slight woody, smoky flavor could be detected just as an undercurrent to the beer's flavor. Just outstanding.
The brewery also produces a Hefeweizen, but I am in Dusseldorf, and wanted none of the beer produced simply to appease the South German tourists! Besides, you are in a brewery that has been making Altbier for nearly 300 years, do you really want to have something other than Altbier? I didn't think so.
Simply as an observation, the Germans LOVE their beer head. The alt was served in glasses that were nearly 1/4 head. A little unusual for an American beer drinker.

After our beer we met up with the wife's friend and headed to... Where else? A Japanese restaurant. It still was in Germany and they served Alt from another brewery in Dusseldorf. We chowed down and caught up. The food was great, and we had a wonderful time.

It was getting late and we headed back to the hotel. Neither of us could remember where we walked, so we had a little adventure finding our hotel at night.
Sleep, sleep sleep.

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