Rainy Day Dusseldorf, Germany

A Shot in the Rain:  Dusseldorf, Germany

A rainy day in the Neander Valley near the Neanderthal Museum

Dusseldorf is not the first city most Americans think of when planning a trip to Germany unless your interests are in the German fashion industry or you’re traveling to one of the many international trade shows held there each year. You might find yourself in Dusseldorf as a departure city for a Rhine cruise or as a gateway to nearby Belgium or Holland. But if you just passed through without stopping to take a look, you’d be missing some truly unique sights that the city has to offer.

The city is pretty compact and easy to negotiate with public transportation once you get your bearings. I would have appreciated a tourist information office inside the train station to help me figure out whether I needed a subway or streetcar line to get to my hotel. Fortunately, someone directed me to the streetcar office across the street from the station, where a nice gentleman sold me a ticket and told me the 709 tram across the street would drop me off a few feet from the Sorat Hotel.

I explored Dusseldorf from the Old Town along the Rhine Promenade to the funky modern architecture of the Media Harbor. I discovered the city’s commitment to contemporary art in some of its many art museums. I enjoyed a taste of nightlife at Roncalli’s Apollo Varieté, and I seriously investigated the traditional German custom of afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake). I also paid a visit to the Dusseldorf Film Museum, and took a rainy side trip to the nearby Neander Valley, discovery site of the Neanderthal man and home of the Neanderthal Museum.

story and photos by Kayte Deioma

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Stage Magic: Roncalli’s Apollo Varieté

story and photos by Kayte Deioma

In 1976 – six years before the first Cirque du Soleil production – Circus Roncalli was born. It was the brain child of Bernhard Paul, an Austrian who left his job as Art Director at an international advertising agency to follow his dream of starting a circus. His new spectacle was dense with theworld’s finest physical circus acts. For over 30 years Circus Roncalli has toured Europe, becoming a much-loved tradition.

The original Apollo Theater on Dusseldorf’s Graf Adolf Platz provided variety shows including singers, dancers, comedians, acrobats and later film components from 1899 into the 1950s. It was torn down in the 1960s to make way for an office tower.The New Apollo is a glass-enclosed dinner theater tucked under the Rheinknie Bridge, overlooking the Rhine River.

In1997, Paul combined his successful Roncalli circus acts with Dusseldorf’s long history of vaudeville-style variety entertainment to open Roncalli’s Apollo Varieté in the New Apollo Theater. Once again, acts from around the world come to astound and amaze visitors with their feats of human strength, agility and dexterity, as well as musical and vocal prowess.

The many faces of Chris in "Mondkuss" at Roncalli's Apollo Varieté in DusseldorfThe shows change every couple months, with new performers taking the stage. The spectacle that I attended was called Mondkuss (Moon Kiss). Our MC was the multi-talented Chris, a quick-change artist in drag, who converted from little old lady to sequined mermaid and from singer to tap dancer to trapezeRola Rola with Dany Danielartist in the blink of an eye.

Chris was accompanied on stage by a tightrope walker, juggler, trapeze artist, hand-stand acrobat, vertical rope performer, and a balancing act. Ernest PalchikovSoprano Elizabeth Haumann added vocal contrast, singing sometimes solo and also in duets with Chris. Songs were in both German and English, with at least one other language thrown in for good measure.

In June and July 2007, Circus-Theater BINGO will take the stage with their production of Cult, including eighteen performers from the Ukraine and Moldavia. Among the acrobatics, it will contain more dance elements, pantomime and the multi-genre music quartet, Bryats Band.

Marco NouryThe amount of any language used in a production varies by show, but there’s always plenty to enjoy for those who don’t speak German. Most shows are family friendly, but some include adult content, so check with the theater before booking tickets for children.

Apollo TheaterDinner is available either upstairs before the show in the glass-enclosed dining room overlooking the Rhine, or in the theater itself before and during the show. Only beverages are available in the balcony seats. Show tickets can be purchased without dinner. You can also dine Upstairs dining room at the Apollo Theater overlooking the Rhine Promenadein the upstairs restaurant without seeing the show. Smoking is allowed in the theater except during the smoke-free Sunday matinee, but I didn’t notice is being overly smoky.

Occasionally, special one or two-night productions will interrupt the run of a longer show. For those planning a corporate meeting or conference in Dusseldorf, Roncalli’s Apollo Varieté also provides an opportunity to work your program or product into a special performance by their artists.

MC Chris at Roncalli's Apollo VarietéRoncalli’s Apollo Varieté
Apollo Platz 1
40213 Dusseldorf
49 (0) 211-828-9090

Art City

story and photos by Kayte Deioma

Dusseldorf is all about art and aesthetics. From its architecture and public art installations to its ten art museums and numerous galleries. You’ll see Kunst, the German word for art, everywhere. You’ll find the museum kunst palast (sic), Kunsthalle, Kunstverein, Kunstsammlung, Kunstacademie – palace, hall, association, collection and academy respectively – as well as the shortened K20 and K21 for 20th and 21st century art.

Obviously, if you only have a short period of time, you can’t see everything. You can choose your art museums based on your interests – the museum kunst palast for art from the Middle Ages through the present, K20 for 20th century art, K21 for 21st century art, the Hetjens for ceramics, or the Kunsthalle for changing contemporary exhibits, for example. Or you can do what I did and make a decision based purely on geography.

K20 Collection of North Rhine Westphalia

I started at Grabbeplatz, a square just north of Old Town flanked by the elegantly curved black façade of the K20 Versammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (North Rhine Westphalia Collection) to the north and the Kunsthalle and Kunstverein sharing a utilitarian building to the south.

The K20 collection was built around an initial acquisition of around 100 paintings and drawing s by Paul Klee, which is displayed in three dedicated galleries. There are also two rooms devoted to Chinese-influenced German artist Julius Bissier and another two dominated by Gerhard Richter, one of the few living artists whose work is on display in K20.

Not so numerous, but equally impressive, are the works of other 20th century artists including Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Magritte, Chagall, Kandinsky, Ernst, Beckman, Pollack and Warhol. There is also a significant amount of space devoted to temporary exhibits. The marvelous collection Picasso: Painting Against Time was having an extended run while I was there.

To facilitate visitors being able to visit both K20 and K21, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen offers a combination ticket and a free loan of aMuseums Bike to ride across town from one to the other. You can check out a bike key at either museum with ID and a refundable deposit.

Kunsthalle and Kunstverein

Across the square both the Kunsthalle and Kunstverein offer rotating exhibits of work by contemporary artists. It’s a large, well-lit space, but there were disappointingly few pieces in the Kunsthalle exhibit. A couple of them were interesting, but most forgettable. The best thing I can say about the work is that it was a temporary exhibit and will soon be replaced with something else.

Across the hall the Kunstverein had devoted their entire space to an exhibit of photos and video by Irish artist Gerard Byrne, which was more interesting in concept than in execution.

Kunst im Tunnel

I had better luck when I stopped across town at the Kunsthalle’s other location, Kunst Im Tunnel (KIT), literally art in a tunnel at the foot of the Rheinknie Bridge. They’re open until 7 pm, an hour later than other museums, so I stopped there before going to a show at the Apollo Theater next door.

You enter the Tunnel through Café Curtiz im KIT , the glass-enclosed café set back from the Rhine, behind and above the Apollo. Look for the KIT painted on top of the building. Inside, a stairway will take you down into the irregularly shaped tunnel to see the current work on display.

The Kunst im Tunnel exhibit After Sputnik: New Pictures from the Dusseldorf Photography Scene, is a project of the 701 e.V. initiative, focusing on the work of young Dusseldorf artists. This particular collection of photographers were all students of Thomas Ruff (whose work you can see at K21) while he taught photography at the Kunstacademie Dusseldorf from 2000 to 2006.

It’s a really interesting venue with a long curving space divided into a couple smaller galleries. In the first gallery, the floor slants up to meet the ceiling, and the walls converge in a dark corner – an appropriate space to show off Lisa Nguyen’s Shipwrecked consisting of Durotrans light panels suspended from the ceiling and mounted on display tables.

It’s much brighter in the larger galleries. The After Sputnik exhibit includes clever, thought-provoking photo series by photographers such as Robert Voit, Natalie Czech and Martina Sauter as well as an intriguing video installation by Juergen Staack and Sonja Rogusch. After Sputnik continues through July 15, 2007.

K21 Collection of North Rhine Westphalia

I didn’t have a chance to visit the K21 Collection of North Rhine Westphalia, but I did walk by the building after hours. The 21st Century art collection is located in the historicStändehaus, the original state parliament building, completed in 1880 and restored in 1947 after it was damaged in WWII. The Parliament moved to a new, modern building on the Rhine in 1988. The Ständehaus re-opened in 2002 as K21.

It’s an odd juxtaposition of the old and the new. Even on the outside of the building, quirky modern pieces have been strategically placed to hint at the buildings contents. A metal sculpture of a giant pistol is bolted to the cobblestones next to the 1897 bronze fountain of Father Rhine and His Daughters by Karl Janssen. A large baby-blue padlock hangs from a hook on the historic façade, and a bright yellow banana is painted near the front entrance. The swanky Bar am Kaiserteich at the back of the building stays open after the museum closes.

More Art

There are many other art institutions I didn’t get to see, including the Hetjens Ceramic Museum, the Art Academy and Dusseldorf’s oldest art museum, the museum kunst palast. Yet I came away with a clear sense of the city and state’s commitment to fine art, not just as a record of the past, but as a thriving expression of the Zeitgeist of today.