Day forty six: smile and people will talk to you

Cologne to Düsseldorf (via train)

Today I have learnt two things. Well, the first reaffirming something I already knew – be flexible and when the weather is shit, don’t force yourself to have a crap day. The second, smile and be open-minded – you will have more fun that way.

When I woke up this morning and it was pouring with rain, I didn’t have to think too hard about my plan. I was meant to have a short ride to Düsseldorf (I’ve done over 600 kilometres this week!) but when I learnt that there wasn’t that much to see on the way, it was the right choice to take a short 20 minute train journey instead.

And I’m glad I did. I got to Düsseldorf by lunch time after a relaxing morning with Michael and Corinna. I was in a good mood. Fully rested with ten hours sleep and having had good conversation last night and this morning (it’s amazing how you crave this when you’ve been on your own). On the train here, I met two brilliant Dutch ladies who were coming back from a trip in Italy and then along the Rhine too, and wished me well for my last couple of weeks. Here in Düsseldorf, I’ve met to three more groups of people – a group of German cyclists who chatted to me about the practicalities of Brexit, some young lads listening to the worst cover band I have ever heard (they covered Beastie Boys, Blur and then Nirvana in a row – it was gold) and then a brilliantly optimistic man who had opened a lovely independent clothes store (if I was rich and had space – I would have bought everything there). Meeting new people, asking questions and hearing their stories made me feel even better. And I’ve just noticed something – I have become more confident, comfortable and open-minded as a result of this trip. Being on my own has forced me to do so and it feels quite different to my first week when I was in Southern Italy. I’ve never been shy as such – although working in PR with lots of over confident women, sometimes may have felt it. So aside from fitness, I’m starting to see wider benefits of this trip already.

I’m glad I’ve visited Düsseldorf too – I’ve only been able to walk around for an afternoon but I know I definitely want to return. It’s an artsy city, similar to Berlin I guess, but with less tourists. I’m staying in an old industrial district but old factories have been renovated and the area now has trendy boutiques, coffee shops and bars and restaurants. I wandered into town and through an amazing market with locals buying everything (no need for a supermarket) for their weekly shop. There were also lots of delicatessens and wine stalls, with friends meeting on a rainy Saturday afternoon over a glass of wine. I then got to the old town. By old, it is the original streets but most of the buildings are built post-war as it was heavily bombed. There’s lots of concrete but I didn’t mind that – even in the rain, I found the buildings all interesting. There were tons of German style bars with people drinking the local dark beer, watching the footy. The whole city (maybe it’s just because it’s a Saturday) has a good vibe about it – it’s young, buzzy and cultural. I’ve walked past lots of museums an galleries – which hopefully I can explore properly when I’m back. On the other side of the bridge is the media harbour, which is home to lots of interesting modern architecture. A walk there was pushing it though today in the rain (the river looked even bleaker than yesterday), so I’m going to try and cycle around tomorrow morning before heading north. I ended my walking tour by heading back to my Airbnb via ‘Little Tokyo’. Düsseldorf is home to Germany’s largest Japanese community so I got to enjoy a delicious bowl of hot ramen, perfect after feeling a bit cold and wet from the rain.

So after yesterday’s misery, yes, the news still remains. But there is no going back now and I have decided to make the most of my trip and have extended the route a little further into Holland and then south through Belgium, with my final country being France where I will get the ferry back to the UK. With a final date, I now know I need to make the most of my last two weeks. I’m going to try and meet as many people as possible – it definitely adds a richness to the experience. So with my new outlook, I’m back on the bike tomorrow and back to the Rhine.

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