Truthfully, I’ve never heard about Essen before and didn’t research the place prior to arriving by train. It was about 4 hours away from Berlin and the ride was a smooth, comfortable one. The train had ample space for our luggage and even had a cafe on board.
Arriving in Essen, the sights were breathtaking and felt so similar to New Jersey. It was a very comforting feeling compared to being in Berlin, and I think we all immediately felt closer and instantly attached to the place. A pro was that our stay for the two weeks was this amazing place: “Unperfekt Hotel”, which means imperfect hotel. It was founded by a couple about 5 years ago and they even had a book about the building’s history on the kitchen table. Of course, it was in German, so we couldn’t understand most of it.
Essen is a mix of industrial sites turned into parks, and residential areas surrounding them. Although a lot of contaminated sites/sewer water has been cleaned up over the recent years, there were still a few open sewage waters that smelled quite foul when we walked over the bridge. Luckily, the smell subsided as we got further into the park, but the process of cleaning is to be completed in two years.
It’s a little harder to travel around compared to Berlin- the rides are longer and the destinations further in between distance-wise. So far, we’ve been to the Landschaftpark Duisburg Nord, which is a place that all of the Landscape Architecture students have heard about from our faculty. Seeing it in person was such a treat; the park itself was huge and had neat programming throughout. There was a diving tank, a rock climbing wall, and even a farm with animal pens.
We also visited a castle in Dusseldorf, the Schloss Benrath. It was such a fun experience because of the huge slippers we had to wear inside-to prevent damage of the floors. The castle is also known for its unique, pink color and the lions in front of the entrance.