Beautifully designed 5 star luxury in Dusseldorf
We arrived in Dusseldorf in a driving rain that was disheartening until we ducked into the splendor of our home for the next 4 days; the Breidenbacher Hof.
The staff at the hotel knew who we were when our taxi pulled up out front (might have been the police notices all over town) and they were so welcoming and gracious that we immediately knew they could not be any long-lost relatives of ours.
Our sodden luggage was discreetly whisked off and our sodden selves were taken to our room where “our personal assistant” showed us how to use the free wi-fi, the iPad they provide, the entertainment system and other assorted goodies in our room. He also explained the electronics which were, for once, almost simple enough for us to use and then he left. We looked at each and agreed that we were going to have to step up our game to we look like we belonged at the Breidenbacher Hof .
We were even fortunate enough to be the dinner guests of Sina Hoekstra, the hotel’s charming Marketing Manager. Their French Bistro was having a special asparagus menu that evening and we did not hesitate to avail ourselves of its flavorful offerings. We also did not hesitate to avail ourselves of some of the fine German wines that were flowing so nicely.
Fattened up, slightly buzzed, dry at last and better informed we retired for the evening in significantly improved condition than when we arrived!
The next morning it was hard to get ourselves to leave the inviting breakfast area and go out for sightseeing in the rain. But we had a guide, Katja Stuben, coming to meet us so we forced ourselves to do it. We were glad we did. Of course Katja seemed to be completely impervious to the raw, rainy day even as she cheerily assured us that we had just missed some beautiful weather!
We walked briskly (this is Germany, even walking is done with maximum productivity) around town to see some of the main sites.
When we reached the old City Hall building shown above Katja explained that the dude on the horse (not her description) married a woman from the Medici family (the ones who built the Ufizi). It was an arranged wedding and she was busy that day so her brother stood in as her proxy at the ceremony. Why didn’t we think of that? (Maybe because we don’t have a brother.)
When she did make the time to come to town she was not pleased by the lack of art, artists and culture in general. So she dipped into the considerable family piggybank and purchased important, valuable artwork and even brought artists to the palace.
This busy gal did a lot to get Dusseldorf on the cultural path it continues to pursue with more than 26 museums, 100+ art galleries and extensive performing arts. It really is a good idea to marry for money no matter what anyone tries to tell you! (Exception: Donald Trump.)
It was obvious as we walked (sloshed) around that Dusseldorf is a very livable and walkable city. Blonde lived in Boston for many years and Dusseldorf’s size, large university population, interest in the arts, history and active city planning for the future reminded her (fondly) of Boston.
We took a stop for a coffee and drank it standing up as is apparently the custom at the outdoor areas in Dusseldorf. Fortunately the rain let up enough for us to re-caffeinate.
We noticed a statue of two children doing cartwheels and our guide explained that Dusseldorf is the cartwheel capital of the world.
(One) legend has it that in the year 1288, after the Battle of Worringen, when Düsseldorf received its town charter, the children turned “wheels of joy”. Clearly they had more politically aware and physically coordinated children than the average city getting political news!
There is even an annual International Cartwheeling Festival in Dusseldorf. At other times children will do their best cartwheels for tips from tourists.
Wait, we were on the lookout for design and got distracted by cartwheels! It was time to head down to the Media Harbor.
Architectural design in Dusseldorf
Dusseldorf’s harbor was an old working port (and part of it still functions as such) that was reimagined as a cultural business area. Creative and knowledge workers needed suitable spaces and the historically labor-intensive port business had been largely automated.
Films are now made here, a radio station has its headquarters and there are art and media agencies.
We saw numerous examples of how Dusseldorf creatively evolves to meet present day needs. One of the newest is the Kö-Bogen which is the creation of the architect Daniel Libeskind. The Kö-Bogen links the elegant shopping boulevard, The Königsallee, via a previously little-used city park to a new retail and office complex connecting two parts of the city. Some of the city’s recently expanded underground runs (discreetly) under the Kö-Bogen.
The Press Officer of the Kö-Bogen gave us extensive information about the architecture as she too acted as if it the skies were not dumping rain all over us.
We are not architecture experts so mostly learned that it’s really cool and has received international acclaim. (Please don’t let her know that was our main take-away.)
Fashion design in Dusseldorf
The next day we were slated to meet with a new guide, the uber-connected Caroline West of “Rhine Buzz”, to take us to a clothing designer. The weather was hideous and Brunette doesn’t fare well in such weather. She also isn’t a major fan of couture fashion so was mulling stayed behind and having bon bons at the Breidenbacher Hof. But she had a last minute change of mind and of we went to the studios of Ruth Heinen, owner and designer of Rita-Lagune Designs.
When we walked up to the studio we were greeted by an affectionate cat and a gown with a train of candies. Just what we expected!
Ms. Heinen explained to us that the dress had been for a benefit and she managed to put us at ease as we felt like two hicks who had bumbled into somewhere we didn’t belong.
That feeling didn’t last long! Ms. Heinen was very disarming, completely unpretentious and insisted we try on some of the clothes. Brunette demurred, Blonde jumped at the chance. She jumped so high that she bought two dresses and picked them up the following day!
We were both so glad we’d gone and not given in to the weather.
Dusseldorf has been one of the fashion capitals of Europe for years and hosts a prestigious Fashion Week each year. The creative energy of the city and the interested and high-income citizens make Dusseldorf a good incubator for quite a few designers. (We may do a whole post on Rita-Lagune Designs because Ruth Heinen was so interesting.)
After a busy couple days barely skimming the surface of the design “scene” in Dusseldorf we were mentally exhausted from all that we had (sort of) learned . But when we walked back into the lobby of the Breidenbacher Hof where the staff not only remembered our names but asked how we had enjoyed each outing, we started to come back to life.
The Breidenbacher’s afternoon tea (complimentary and served every day) and the calorie-laden accompanying sweets gave us the energy to process some of what we learned.
That isn’t true, the teas saved our lives!
Design was only one of the layers of Dusseldorf we were there to explore but forgive us if we need a long nap in a modern but cozy room before sharing more with you.
Disclosure: You might know it based on all of our complaining about the weather but we were the guests of the German National Tourist Office during our stay in Dusseldorf!