My flight got canceled the day before orientation for my study abroad program in Florence, Italy. I was stuck in Dusseldorf, Germany, which I had never heard of, until the airline found another flight for me to book. My layover went from being a five hour one to a 10 hour one. However, I managed to find an unexpected silver lining when I decided to explore this small city on the outskirts of this historically rich country.
I walked into a local restaurant called Albert’s. The man who was my waiter made me feel right at home, which in turn culturally shocked me because I had never had a server speak to me as if I were an old friend. He spoke seven languages. His accent was thick but his English never faltered. What really warmed my heart was that he carried a conversation with me in Spanish, which is how I communicate with my family back home. He then went on to explain the menu, and give me tips on where to visit during my time at Dusseldorf. His first suggestion was the harbor, which is a very popular destination for tourists. They can sit on steps and look out into it, or even sneak a peak of it from the local parks and restaurants. The harbor is part of a large body of water known as Medien Hafen, which is a popular form of transport in the city, it houses one of their largest bridges.
Due to the fact that I am in college and “balling on a budget,” I took his suggestion and passed by the harbor. I also managed to visit the Gehry buildings, which are known for the modern architecture. Each building was a piece of art, that tied into the modernistic and environmentally sustainable feel of the city. Most individuals used bikes as their main form of transportation, and those who chose to commute by car drove fuel efficient vehicles, there was no SUV in sight throughout the whole city.
Over all, my 10 hours in Dusseldorf were spent exploring the city and getting a feel for its citizens’ lifestyle. During my layover I got my first taste of Europe and I found it to be everything I expected and much more. My time spent in this small city prepped me for Florence, there I learned that it is customary to ask for the check because it is considered rude for the waiter to bring it without you asking, and that you pay a sitting fee instead of tipping. I would definitely recommend passing by Dusseldorf during your stay in Europe, it has not been saturated by tourism and it is rich in its authentic culture. My stay here just made me more excited for what was to come this semester abroad!