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here’s an eye-catching, larger-

than-life caricature hovering

above the shoe department

(35,000 pairs and counting)

of the Breuninger department store in

downtown Düsseldorf.

Breuninger is the city’s signature store,

set in a curvaceous Daniel Libeskind-

designed building called the Kö-Bogen

whose curves make it light on its feet,

and whose ‘cuts’ in its façade sprout with

greenery, echoing the city’s Hofgarten

just the other side of the water.

The figure, then, seems out of keeping

with this shiny designer image. She’s a

brassy, sassy, heavily made-up lady of

indeterminate age, skin unseasonably

tanned, Champagne flute in hand, toy dog

to the fore. Those in the know will instantly

identify her as a Düsseldorf speciality, a

Kö-tussi – a not completely flattering tag.

Her real-life equivalent is to be

seen just outside, tottering down the

city’s main drag, the leafy, canal-lined



City of plenty

Once a simple fishing village,


today is rolling in money,

with the culture, architecture and

lifestyle to match

Königsallee, popping in and out of

designer stores, greeting fellow Kö-tussis,

and spending freely. Every Düsseldorfer

knows a Kö-tussi, even if few will readily

admit to being one themselves.

For this is a city with shedloads of

cash, and where cash is good. It pays

for designer architecture from world-

renowned figures like Libeskind. It

patronises great arts and culture in a

succession of big public galleries. It pays

for the brand-new underground railway

line with creatively-decorated stations. It

creates a seed-bed for good places to eat,

drink and sleep. And it is what makes this

the sixth most ‘liveable’ city in the world,

according to the annual Mercer survey,

and the second in Germany after Munich.

But although money can give the

place a facelift, as it also does with

the Kö-tussis, it can’t completely mask

everything that hides underneath. For

in essence Düsseldorf is not much of a

looker; proximity to the Ruhr’s coal-

mining and heavy industry, plus two

World Wars, have made sure of that.

Take the lift up to the top of the towering

Rheinturm, a TV tower-cum-restaurant

viewpoint which looms 240 metres above

the former harbour, and the smokestacks

of the Ruhr slide into sight. So too does the

other key ingredient of the city’s history,

the Rhine, which divides Düsseldorf in half

right by the tower’s foot.

In fact, the city started its life here as

a simple riverside fishing village. It was

first put on the map by its 18th-century

elector Johann Wilhelm II, who married

a Medici, started the opera house and

became a serious patron of the arts. Its







Photo: Chris Goettert

Photo: U. Otte