It is sometimes difficult to experience a city like a local when travelling. I mean, we try: we stay in Airbnb’s, try to get to know our hosts and we make an effort to do things other than the typical touristy activities in each town. In Germany, we got even luckier. Dan’s lifelong friend, Trevor, recently moved to Germany to be with his girlfriend, Sina.
In my opinion, Trevor totally lucked out scoring a job with Trivago; which, based on our short stop at his “office,” appears to be the best job ever. We arrived in the late afternoon as he was finishing up and while we waited for Sina to join us we grabbed a couple free beers from the fridge and played pool in the ‘chilling’ room. Had we been hungry, there was a fridge stacked with sandwiches, salads and wraps; a counter full of cereals, coffee and tea; and even almond milk! Work hours are not strictly regulated as long as the job gets done and you can help yourself to any of the free items whenever you please. Not bad! On a side note, it was also the first time we’d been in an office in almost a year, it felt weird!
After a couple beers at the office, Trevor’s friend – also named Dan – and his girlfriend, a Düsseldorf local, joined us for an evening out. They wanted to give us a ‘true-German’ experience and they did a pretty damn good job!
If you ever go to this part of Germany, a night bar-hopping in Düsseldorf is really a must.*
I’ll start by explaining that Düsseldorf is well known for it’s beer: Altbier (German for ‘old beer’) to be specific. Eight bars in Düsseldorf brew Altbier on the premises, which, given the size of the town is quite a lot!
We started at a local pub known for its authentic food and fast beer service. After travelling a few months in Europe, “fast service” really lost its meaning and when I heard the term I was hoping at best for North-American style service. Not quite what we received: this service was something else; even if you had a couple of sips left in your beer glass the waiter would semi-forcefully push away your old glass and put down a new one.
Before we left, we had to pay the bill, obviously. However, like the service, this wasn’t your typical bill. Every time the waiter came around he marked off lines around one of our coasters equaling the number of beers we had ordered and added a numerical value of the cost of our food and any specialty drinks. Add up the lines times the price of beer plus the other values and you get the total you owe. This billing technique was used throughout our night out in Düsseldorf. Dan told us that these coaster tabs are treated as legal documents and are taken very seriously sometimes (like when some of the marks get smudged…).
We next stopped at a window and ordered shots of ‘Killepitsch’, a specialty supposedly meant help warm you up which was appreciated as the weather was getting chilly! I learned from Wikipedia that Killepitsch is a herb based liquor made from a combination of 90 fruits, berries, herbs, and spices by a German company called Peter Busch GmbH & Co. KG in the city of Düsseldorf.
We then hit up a few more bars, all offering their own version of the Dusseldorf Altbier. To finish off the night we tried a shot of another Düsseldorf specialty, something golden and similar to Goldschläger (I don’t remember it’s proper name).
The next day was dreary and rainy so we took the opportunity to sleep-in and relax; something I value more and more the longer we travel. In the afternoon, the boys went for a bike ride to a near by castle and Sina and I went out and picked up all the groceries for our Thanksgiving feast we were planning for Saturday.
In the evening I made dinner, secretly loving the fact that they had an oven which I don’t get nearly enough when we’re travelling, and made roasted vegetables and chicken using up the last of our garlic, rosemary, and chili pepper flavoured olive oil from Croatia.
In the evening, we went out in Witten and played ‘Schocken‘ at the bar. Schocken is a very popular German drinking game played with dice which Dan and I first learned from Trevor and Sina in Vancouver. Supposedly, it’s played extensively around Germany in pubs and bars – and when we asked for dice and cups for the game to play with our beers, it was quickly provided. According to my quick research, there are many variants of the game and an infinite number of names for it but they’re all basically the same… which is the case with pretty much every bar game out there!
On the way home Trevor and Dan grabbed döner boxes, a huge thing in Germany. Doners had been huge in Greece and many other countries but to my surprise, the döner kebap sandwich was allegedly invented in Berlin…
On Saturday Dan joined Trevor to work up an appetite for our feast at rugby practice while Sina and I went to the mall in Dortmund hunting for a dress for me to wear to the wedding we are attending in Poland. The meal plan for our German-Canadian Thanksgiving dinner was goulash with potatoes and a side of Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts, I’ve recently realized aren’t gross vegetables your parents force you to eat but actually taste amazing when cooked correctly – i.e. cut in half and roasted on high with a light seasoning.
The goulash involved chopping 1 kg of onions (!!!) and after that task was completed we decided we had more than earned our first glass of wine. Goulash is basically a beef/pork/vegetable stew with a tomato and red-wine base. The recipe had been passed down to Sina through generations and originally came from Hungary; so, I guess it was a Hungarian-German-Canadian feast. The dinner was amazing and we set up the living room table to make it feel as Thanksgiving-y as possible.
Following dinner the boys went out for a ‘boy’s night out’ in Bochum and the girls stayed in polishing off a couple more bottles of wine. It felt nice to have some company of the same sex for a change and made me re-appreciate my time with Dan again, too much time together 24/7 can get to you!