Sunday, February 08, 2009


There are some things which do remind me on a regular basis of some of the reasons I am glad to have moved to Germany. Every little helps and even when I'm caught up in the worst of a what's-the-point-of-it-all mood that applies even more so.

Bread has to be one of the best things about living here. In fact, my only complaint (hey, I'm Irish, I'll always find something to moan about!) is that it means I haven't bothered making my own bread at all since I got here. And since I live alone I can't buy every type of bread every week and just have a bit of each and know someone else will finish it. I had a freezer full of leftover bread before I calmed down a bit and started to only buy one loaf of bread at a time. In fact I just took the last of my frozen bread out of the freezer to make breadcrumbs with for a pasta bake this evening. But the bakeries even open on a Sunday morning now so I can go and get myself a roll or two and have a nice leisurely breakfast.

Which connects to another thing I love about Germany - shops don't open on Sunday. Or bank holidays. Well, actually the state I live in apparently passed a law recently that shops could open on a Sunday (the law allowing bakeries to bake and sell for a few hours on Sunday mornings happened sometime in the last 10 or 12 years - I definitely remember my first couple of years in Germany that bakeries would sell Sontagsbroetchen on Saturday evenings) and there are a couple of small newsagent/tobacco shops which do open but for the most part everything stays closed except for a special Sunday opening a couple of times a year. As I live on a main street this has the added advantage for me of bringing a much quieter place on at least one day a week.

Technically, Sunday (as well as every day between 12 and 15 and every evening after 10) is also a quiet time i.e. you're not supposed to hoover, use the washing machine, cut the grass or anything else that makes noise. Depending on your building and rental contract you might not even be allowed to shower during this time. Sometimes it is a pain and I do sometimes ignore it, for example I didn't get the hoovering done yesterday so I did it this morning and I have a wash running as well at the moment as I didn't get it all done yesterday and I had towels I wanted to run on a hot wash (which I do every couple of months to help also clean out the machine a bit). I know I'm very busy for the next four weekends so it made more sense just to do it now. But, for the most part I try to keep myself to getting things done during the week or on Saturday mornings. It means I have very busy Saturday mornings but by Saturday afternoon things are mostly done and I feel like I have the rest of the weekend to myself. Years ago, when I was a student here shops closed at 12 on Saturdays except for one Saturday a month when they could stay open till 16. Many shops still do close around lunch time on Saturday so I just pretend to myself that I have to get everything done by 12 - it's an added incentive to get things done and not just meander.

I do live on a main street and it is very loud so I won't be staying here for a very long time but oh how fantastic it is to have my own place, something I would not have been able to afford in Ireland. I pay 550 euro a month for a nice, fairly big apartment - the same in Dublin would easily cost 1200 and far more for a decent quality. The area I am living in is really great too. I'm only a couple of stops away from the Altstadt if I want to find nightlife or shopping. But all the shops I actually need are within less than ten minutes walk.

There is a farmers' market twice a week just around the corner and it's a proper one, where all the farmers have to come from within a certain distance from here. I do most of my food shopping there on a Saturday morning. There is a big fruit and veg shop just down the road as well so if I fancy the non-organic, out of season imported stuff it's right there. Lemons and bananas are about it although I recently discovered that the fair trade shop just a few doors up the other way sells bananas sometimes too. There are three butchers, one of which sells a lot of organic meat and one of which is a real hippie kind of place that I like a lot. There are three bakeries within a minute of my house, one of them is a long-established one which has five shops in Dusseldorf and the other which I buy from has two shops in Dusseldorf and is more expensive but does a lot of organic baking. If I need a supermarket there are five within a few minutes walk - Rewe, Kaisers (the two big ones, comparable to Tesco say), Aldi, Plus (similar to Aldi) and Edeka. There are numerous small newsagents/tobacco/lotto shops. Three bookshops. A library. Loads of small restaurants, although there is a predominance of Italian restaurants which is all a bit boring after a while. Have to go further afield for Chinese or Indian for example. There are shoe shops and clothes shops as well although apart from Woolworth, they tend to be a bit on the pricey side. There's the aforementioned fair trade shop, a Bio Supermarkt (organic supermarket) and a healthfood shop. And my bank is just across the road as well. There is an optician and a leonidas shop. Chemists as well, plenty of hairdressers (haven't been able to bring myself to go to a German hairdresser yet though even though I badly need a trim) and even an Oxfam. There's a wool shop only about 15 minutes walk away and I also have two branches of Cash & 'Raus nearby, which is a charity helping long-term unemployed and which sells second-hand stuff. One of the ones near me sells mostly books but they all also sell furniture and I have bought most of my stuff there. There is a great toy shop which nearly makes me wish for kids (and the money to buy the stuff - wow, good toys are expensive) and a hardware and household goods shop which is also a wine shop and which sells everything I could need at prices which are for the most part comparable to the big DIY centres. And the Rhein is only ten minutes walk away.

And finally for now, the public transport here is great. I have a monthly ticket which costs me less than I paid for a monthly student ticket when I was in college in Dublin - 14 years ago!!. I can travel on trains, trams and buses within the Dusseldorf city area during the week and at weekends and in the evenings I can travel within the whole area covered by my local network, which is about an hour or two in any direction. And on weekends or evenings I can bring a second person with me as well, which is very handy for when someone is visiting.

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