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Phespirit goes to Germany
Düsseldorf     July 2009

Sunday morning; day one in Düsseldorf. It started raining when Phespirit left Hotel Famosa at 9:30am, gently at first as he made his way towards the start of Köngisallee, then with increasing ferocity as he walked northwards along its tree-lined paths. He got halfway up this 'internationally famous shopping street' before conceding his umbrella could withstand it no longer. After briefly sheltering in a shop doorway, he ducked down a side street to seek sanctuary for quarter of an hour in Johannes Kirche.

Remarkably, when Phespirit emerged from the church he found the rainfall had stopped completely. Not merely abated slightly; stopped completely. And so he continued on his trail of sightseeing around the city for a further seven hours before finally taking the weight off his feet on the old town steps between Schlossturm (once part of an old castle, now home to a shipping museum) and the mighty River Rhine. Just as on the night of his arrival, the early evening clouds parted to allow a hot July sun to burn out the day. Many people had converged at the riverfront to enjoy this summer moment. The Kirmes annual funfair was in full swing on the opposite bank, which added screams of happy terror to the background hubbub of barge engines, billowing flags and murmuring voices.

Then a clown appeared, dressed in grey and white with a red plastic nose. He set about entertaining the people who were sitting on the steps by crudely capering around with anyone unlucky enough to be walking past. This mostly left the victims bemused and/or irritated, but it raised a few chuckles from the onlookers, with applause forthcoming at the end of the 'act'. The only bit Phespirit found funny was when an old alcoholic, two bottles in hand, stumbled by and instinctively tried to steal the clown's props while he was otherwise engaged, resulting in a complete sense of humour failure when the clown eventually saw what was afoot. Now that's good comedy .....

After a relaxing day strolling and lounging around Unterbacher See on Monday, Phespirit spent Tuesday in Aachen. There are plenty of interesting towns and cities within easy reach of Düsseldorf, but when browsing the guidebooks Phespirit had been particularly captured by the idea of visiting Aachen. It has a pivotal place in history as the centre of Charlemagne's Holy Roman Empire, and it was also a stopping point for Phespirit's father on a motorcycle tour of northwest Europe in the 1950s. For Phespirit's trip a few clouds remained in the sky but there was much more sunshine, and temperatures were pushing thirty degrees Celcius. A good day.

Temperatures pushed way past the thirty-mark on his final day, in which he called at Mönchengladbach before boarding a late-afteroon train to Weeze via Krefeld for his flight home. Somehow a short break that threatened to be a wash-out had ended up a scorcher. Bursts of sunshine aside though, it has to be said that these cities do not have the most glamorous reputations in Europe, and this trip did little to elevate those reputations for Phespirit. As a diverting change of scenery on a shoestring budget, however, they were just fine.

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