Saturday, 27 October 2012

Essen's 'Bixi' bikes - I didn't have time to try them out

This week I flew out to Essen in Germany. It's a kind of satellite city of Dusseldorf and I had to fly into Dusseldorf airport (or Flughaven) then take a short train journey of about 20 minutes to Essen.

The Holiday Inn, Essen. Similar to Dusseldorf but slightly
better. The room was larger here and there was free WiFi,
which is annoying as I had to pay in Dusseldorf.
Once again, I was staying in a Holiday Inn and, for an international hotel brand, it's amazing how much they differ from one unit to another.

Essen offered free WiFi and a different restaurant menu to the one in Dusseldorf, although the latter was better located in terms of virtually everything. It was right next to the main railway station and tram network.

I think I preferred the Essen hotel, not only because of the free WiFi, but because the room was a little bigger and the restaurant offered good food and some decent beer too.

Both nights I had roasted salmon as a main course plus an excellent tomato soup starter. The Essen hotel's restaurant was a little more polished than Dusseldorf's, although the adjacent bar allowed people to smoke so occasionally I got a waft of cigarette smoke (well, only once) but it brought back memories of England's pre-smoking ban days, although not necessarily pleasant memories.

In Germany some bars still allow smoking and, for some reason,  pubs on street corners are more likely to accept the cigarette than others. I think there's some kind of law. In fact, I went into a bar called Sausalito's – which happened to be on a street corner – where I enjoyed a wheat beer and, lo and behold, I found some of my fellow customers enjoying a cigarette. Strange, but true and in many ways a step backwards.

A wheat beer in Sausalito's where customers
are allowed to smoke.

There are people in the UK licenced trade who want smoking in pubs and clubs re-introduced, but somehow I don't think it'll ever happen as the Brits are now accustomed to smoke-free pubs and I think they like them. Who wants to return to smelling like a bonfire after going out for a beer?

I didn't realise how close my hotel was to the city centre, which, I have to say, was not as pleasant as Dusseldorf.

There was no 'old town' just a load of shops so I wandered around in the late afternoon last Thursday looking at stuff I couldn't afford and stopping off for that wheat beer near a square.

Essen's council is in the process of building a Ferris wheel, which looked a bit odd as it was only half finished, but that was the only thing I could find of interest apart from the shops...oh, and Essen's answer to the Montreal 'Bixi' bikes. I had planned to ride one, but it was late in the day and it transpired that I needed some kind of credit card to use them.

I spent hours wandering around Essen's shops and malls and on my way back to the hotel was tempted by an Indian restaurant. The very idea of a curry and a decent, chilled lager or two appealed, but I decided to go back to the hotel for dinner and eat the exact same meal as the night before: tomato soup followed by roasted salmon and washed down with a Konig Pilsner – excellent. Besides, I had to be up at 5am in order to catch a train to the Flughaven and then a flight back to Gatwick.

Essen's answer to Bixi or Boris bikes. I didn't take a ride.

The flight home, like the flight out, was pleasant enough, although it was early so I couldn't really order my usual bottle of wine. As we started our descent into Gatwick, I was amazed by the amount of cloud. It wasn't until we were virtually on the ground that land came into view and guess what? It was raining.

The half-finished Ferris wheel in Essen
I went straight to the office and then later I went home.

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