I had good intentions of getting up early to leave Berlin and drive to Dusseldorf, but it was past 10 am by the time we got moving. The drive to Dusseldorf on the autobahn was uneventful and we reached the city by 3:30pm. Unfortunately, we took the wrong turn off the freeway and had a difficult time finding Marc’s street. I knew it was by the harbor along the Rhine River, but it was a case of “can’t get there from here” once we took the wrong turn. His apartment is in a newly redeveloped and fashionable area of the city called “Media Harbor.” Many advertising, TV, and publishing companies have their offices in this area. His apartment is across the street from three bizarre looking buildings designed by American architect Frank Gehry.
Marc lives on the fifth floor of a modern apartment complex with a balcony and a nice view of the Rhine. His younger brother Christoph lives on the third floor. They are partners (along with their older brother Hans-Peter) in the electronics company started by their father. Their plan was to walk along the waterfront to the old town of Dusseldorf.
It started raining heavily, but we ventured out anyway carrying bright yellow umbrellas with the name of their company on them (yellow is their color for all of the company promotional products). They showed us all of the sites of Dusseldorf. After a while the rained stopped, and we walked all over old town Dusseldorf before taking a taxi back to our hotel, which was just a couple of blocks away from their apartments.
It was entertaining to talk to them. They have traveled to a lot of places around the world, including several countries in South America. For dinner they took us to the RheinTurm (the Rhine Tower). This building is a TV tower that is about 600 feet high and has a revolving restaurant near the top. The restaurant is in the shape of a flattened donut ring and revolves around the base of the tower once per hour. We had a fantastic view of the city and the surrounding areas in the early evening before it got dark. We spent the next three hours eating a fine multi-course meal while slowly spinning around.
Our car was parked in the hotel ramp. We had a difficult time parking the car the night before. This ramp had narrow lanes and very small parking spaces, with cement posts every couple of spaces. This was common in several of the parking ramps we had parked the car in during our travels. Our car was a station wagon, relatively small by US standards, but large by European standards. A peculiar feature of the car was that the reverse gear was attained by pushing a button on the shifter knob while simultaneously pushing the shifter into the location normally used (for American cars) for first gear. First gear was close to the same place when pushing the shift, but without depressing the button.
When were trying to leave the ramp, we missed the automatic door opener box. With Lisa driving, we drove up a very steep ramp to get out of the underground garage, but the door to the street wouldn’t automatically open. I got out of the car and walked back into the parking garage to find the opener. In the meantime, the car slide backwards down the ramp slightly. We were in the very tough position that every driver who drives a manual transmission car dreads: starting the car and engaging first gear on a steep slope. This car didn’t have enough power to kick in to climb the hill! If Lisa gave it too much gas we could crash through the door. But not enough gas stalled the car. Which happened to her a couple of times. Add in the crazy situation with the reverse gear and first gear and it was a difficult driving situation. When the car slid backward at a crooked angle and stopped, the back fender rested about two inches from the garage ramp wall. We couldn’t go backward anymore without scraping the car. I got the door opened and Lisa managed to get the car going forward, up the ramp, and out into the street. What a relief! Next time we drive in Europe, we’ll have to get a smaller car. A Miata would do just fine…. Don’t know where we would put our luggage and the kids, but we would handle the parking garages better!