For the final stop on my backpacking trip around Germany, I went west to the country’s biggest state, North Rhine-Westphalia. There are tons of interesting cities in that region but I decided to focus on the two I had heard the most about Düsseldorf and Cologne. So, I strapped on my backpack and moved onwards with my adventuring.
The train to Düsseldorf from Hamburg was super overbooked. Because I traveled with the Summer Ticket, I wasn’t entitled to a reserved seat, meaning that I had to gamble whether or not a seat was free. I ended up having sitting on the floor for the second half of the train ride because they drastically overbooked the train. It was a bit annoying but not the worst thing in the world.
Once I got to Düsseldorf, I checked into my Hostel which was absolutely stuffed to the brim with a British Bachelor party. The thing I didn’t know about Düsseldorf before deciding to go there is that it’s a big part city on the weekend and there’s really not much else to do there other than that.
Once I had walked up Königsalle (King’s Alley) and seen the famous shopping street (which honestly looked like every other shopping street in Germany in terms of stores available), and wandered around the Altstadt (old part of town), there was kinda nothing left to do.
Of course, I mean that in a general sense of the word. There was lots of the city I hadn’t seen and I didn’t go into any of the numerous renown art museums (not really my thing), but I felt like I got a feel for the city and it wasn’t long before I was back at the hostel wondering what the heck I was going to do the next day since I has scheduled my hostel for two nights.
Boy was I glad in the end that I had prebooked two days in Düsseldorf because after a little searching online, I found out that there’s a little town called Wuppertal near Düsseldorf that has an attraction unique to the entire world. It’s called a Schwebebahn in German which translates pretty poorly to a suspension train in English.
What it really is, is a subway that hangs from it’s track instead of sitting on it. There are not too many of these in the world and this one is unique for reasons I don’t really know (maybe because it hangs over a river the whole route?).
What I did understand is that it’s insanely cool and feels like the future. I rode the entire length of the route, turned around and came back; grinning like a giddy child the entire time. Definitely a highlight from my entire trip and memory that will last a lifetime.
After I was done loitering on the Schwebebahn, I hopped on a bus and made my way over to the Neanderthal Museum that’s in the Neander Valley right outside of Düsseldorf. This wasn’t the very first Neanderthal bones that were found in the world but they were the first to be taken seriously because their discovery coincided with the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species.
The museums itself gives a pretty general overview of the history of the human race but is geared for a younger audience. However, they have the bones on display and I thought it was pretty cool to stand literally inches away from another human species. You can also visit where they found the fossil but it has been reclaimed as a wildlife area and is basically a plot of land with poles in the ground. A beautiful bus ride later and I was back at the hostel enjoying great conversation with fellow travelers.
The next day I hopped on a short regional train down to Cologne. The weather was really bad when I was there so I mostly spent my time church hopping since Cologne has their famous 12 churches in a ring around the city. The big cathedral was spectacular and I highly recommend going in the morning before everyone else arrives because it just looks so much more grand when you practically have the whole interior to yourself.
Other than that, I visited the Roman/German Musuem. The city used to be the northern reach of the Roman empire and so it’s very important archeologically. The museum has an impressively large collection of artifacts if you are into that sort of thing.
Besides the regular roamings of a backpacker, I ended up spending a lot of time in cafes and ice cream bars trying to escape the rain. After a few days I decided I had gotten a good feel for the city and that it was time to head home and start preparing for the coming semester.
And that, what my backpacking trip around Germany. As for some quick statistics, I ended up spending an average of €22 a night at hostels, €7.50 a day on local and regional transportation, and about €130 in admissions to museums and things like that. Although that figure includes my trip to Neuschwanstein which skews the figure a bit. Without the day trip to the castle the figure drops to about €60 total. Hope this information helps, and I’ll leave links to the other posts from this trip below in case you missed a stop.
Missed a post? Check them out here:
- Neuschwanstein Castle: The Honest Truth About Germany’s Most Famous Castle
- Munich: The Most Hyped City in Germany
- Leipzig; One of Germany’s Hidden Gems
- Hamburg; A Surprising Blend of Old & New, Man & Nature
- Düsseldorf, Wuppertal, Köln; Funny Names, Cool Destinations