“I have really f*cked up. Oh my God… David, I have REALLY f*cked up.”
“Clazz… where are we???” My friend David had brought up Google maps and was frantically zooming out. “Erm… Clazz, where is Dusseldorf??!”
It was 11.30pm and we had arrived in Germany. Moments earlier, I’d been preparing to jump on a train for a few minutes, check into our hotel, and then have a well-earned drink or two to kick-start our very brief, spontaneous trip to a couple of German cities.
Only we left the airport to find there was no train station at all. And when I brought up a map of Dusseldorf airport, I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t showing a pin of where we were. Had it just not loaded yet since I took it off flight mode?
And then I googled “Dusseldorf Weeze airport” and the first thing I saw was “it is 85km from Dusseldorf” and my entire face went white. It was almost midnight and we were almost A HUNDRED KILOMETRES from our hotel.
Let’s rewind a few hours though, to get a full picture of what a nightmare day this was for my friend. The plan, originally, was simple: he was flying down from Orkney to spend a day in Edinburgh, I would meet him after work, and we would fly to Germany that night. I was on my way to work when he messaged me, and I thought he was joking.
His flight was cancelled.
For some reason unbeknownst to anyone with logic, the airline refused to put him on another flight, and just gave him credit to book a new flight himself. When a flight is cancelled, especially from somewhere like Orkney, it’s inevitable that the alternatives will sell out pretty quickly. By the time he got onto the booking system, all flights to Glasgow and Aberdeen were full, and the next one to Edinburgh would get him in too late. The only option was Inverness, followed by a four hour train which, if no delays, would get him in just in time for the flight.
It was complete madness, but clearly he made it. Instead of meeting him in a pub, I met him at a tram station on the outskirts of Edinburgh and then jumped back on the tram to get to the airport, on which I nearly got fined because I’d only validated my ticket for the first journey – I didn’t even realise this would count as two.
Anyway, after being brushed off with a warning, we got to the airport, whizzed through security in record time, got on the plane, and thought that was the end of the misadventures for the weekend. If only we knew.
Back at Weeze airport, the information desk was barely open, a lady who might have worked there organising some leaflets nearby. We approached the desk and she came over, and I felt ridiculous as I asked how we get to Dusseldorf. She told us we could get a bus to a nearby town called Kevelaer and then a train from there. But the bus wouldn’t be for another hour, she said. Typically, our flight had been slightly delayed otherwise we would have made the previous bus.
Panicking, we went outside to decide what to do. We didn’t even know where the bus stop was. We were faced with a line of taxis, and a few people were milling about. I wondered if any of them had been as stupid as me. As we were weighing up our options, a guy approached and asked a few of us if we wanted to share a taxi with him to this nearby town. We’d then catch the train to Dusseldorf and at least there would be a group of us. Everyone was either from Germany or lived in Germany, including two American students studying near Dusseldorf, so no, they hadn’t been as stupid as me. They’d deliberately come here, and I don’t know if that makes it even worse.
We reached the train station, and when I went to buy a ticket, my bank froze my card. What the hell was going on?! We really were so far in the middle of nowhere that my card was stopped for fraud for the first time ever on my travels.
Thankfully I had other cards, and after a short delay, we were finally on the train and on our way to Dusseldorf! We could finally relax. We’d be getting in later than expected, but we could deal with arriving at 2am. “It’s all part of the adventure,” we told ourselves. And everyone we had found ourselves with was great, which helped immensely – I have no idea what we would have done without them.
Especially with what happened next.
There was an announcement on the train, and it suddenly stopped at a town called Krefeld, terminated, and everyone had to get off. Apparently due to the delays, it now had to go back to Kleve.
“Yeah, this happens,” one of the guys said. “Trains just randomly stop, and sometimes they don’t turn up either. Welcome to Germany.”
Well… you can guess how this is going to go.
We waited on the next platform for half an hour, and the board kept adding a delay to the next train to Dusseldorf. Then a gas train turned up and parked at the platform. Someone said we’d probably have a sudden mad dash to another platform, so all eyes were on the boards. Eventually, it went past the time on the board, and it stopped updating any delays.
And some time after that, it disappeared from the board altogether. The next train, it said, would be after 6am.
Everyone was up in arms, though they were all saying this is normal in Germany. One girl had the Deutsche Bahn app on her phone with a live tracker and announced that the train we had been on had now arrived in Dusseldorf (it was still parked at the platform right where we had got off, so it hadn’t even gone back to Kleve – you can see it in the photo above).
It was now almost 2.30am, and we were still miles from Dusseldorf. It was no longer a fun misadventure – I just wanted to get to our damn hotel. We decided we’d have to get a taxi the rest of the way, though now there were plenty of us, and split between us it only cost about 8€ each.
We finally, finally arrived in Dusseldorf after 3am, and had a ten minute walk to our hotel. Some of our new friends had even further to go, three of them getting more trains to other towns.
We’d made it here, but now the real worry was how on earth we were going to get back to the airport. The public transport in reverse, I could handle – the public transport with how disastrous it had been, and especially early on a Sunday morning, seemed like the worst idea we could think of.
I was too tired to even think straight. In fact, I was totally delirious by this point. Did someone really start singing head, shoulders, knees and toes in the taxi, or did I just imagine it?
In a panic, we booked a refundable room in a hotel by the airport for the following night, in case we decided we needed to get there the night before, forgoing our hotel in Cologne completely. We’d have a proper look in the morning though – I have never needed to fall asleep so quickly on checking into a hotel.
Thankfully, Saturday went a lot more smoothly… mostly.
While we were getting ready and generally waking ourselves up from the nightmare of last night, I looked up taxis. It would be mega-expensive – essentially doubling the cost of the entire trip – but it would also mean we would get the full day that we’d planned. Plus if we did the public transport route that evening, there was no guarantee that the same thing wouldn’t happen and it would just be the two of us sharing a taxi half the way anyway.
I figured it was much better use of our time actually spending it in places we wanted to be, otherwise what was the point of the trip?
In the morning, we went for a wander around Dusseldorf. I won’t be writing a dedicated blog post, because it really was just a walk for an hour or two. Most of the photos I took are in this blog post. Unfortunately, in keeping with the theme of the trip, it also turned into a disaster.
We had a lovely wander along Konigsallee, a tree-lined (and designer-store-lined) stretch of water through the city centre, following it until we reached the old town. It’s not exactly a typical “old town”, but it’s a nice part of the city to walk through. It calls itself “the longest bar in the world” as there are about 300 pubs and bars packed into this tiny area! And we missed out on a night out there.
We walked down to the river and I pointed out one of the ridiculous things I’d spotted on Google maps.
Underneath the bridge on the other side of the river is labelled “Cybergoth Dance Party” – because it’s where this video was filmed! Hilarious. I love that someone’s actually put that on the map!
From where we reached the water, it’s a nice walk along the river towards the Rheinturm – the tower dominating the Dusseldorf skyline.
One thing I noticed was those trees – they were everywhere, in the old town, along the waterfront, by the tower. They’re so knobbly.
We also found this curious track on the ground, which turned out to be for the INTERNATIONAL CARTWHEELING TOURNAMENT. That’s right, if you enjoy cartwheeling, there’s no better place to come in the summer than Dusseldorf. There are lots of symbols of cartwheeling around the city, including statues and manhole covers.
However, this is when our luck turned again. The heavens suddenly opened, and we decided it was probably only a shower, so we kept pushing through until we got to the tower. I wanted to take some photos of some interesting architecture at nearby Neuer Zollhof, and as I wandered off, the rain got heavier.
I felt my hood and it was crisp. I suddenly realised it was no longer rain – it was sleet, seeping rapidly into my jeans. The only trousers I’d brought on the trip. David was the same in his only pair of jeans. Within minutes, we were both absolutely drenched, and we still had at least a 15 minute walk back to the hotel.
Was this trip actually cursed?!
I only stopped by the buildings at Neuer Zollhof for a minute to take a photo, and then ran for cover. The buildings were designed by Frank Gehry, the architect responsible for the famous Dancing House in Prague (which I love!) and many other unique buildings such as the MoPOP museum in Seattle and the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.
In my haste to get out of the freezing rain, I even forgot about nearby Teletubbie Park (the other ridiculous thing I found on Google maps, complemented by a fantastic 1 star review that complains that there are no teletubbies), which we could have literally walked through to get back to the hotel.
We finally got back anyway – it was now SNOWING – and we had 15 minutes before we needed to check out. I grabbed the hair dryer in the room and set to work on my trousers, but there’s only so much you can do in 15 minutes, and by using it on the jeans while I was wearing them, I turned my legs bright red and itchy.
When we left the hotel 15 minutes later, you wouldn’t know it had been raining. It was bright blue skies and sunshine. I angrily sent a photo to Ash, saying “is this taking the f*cking piss?!”
I won’t let it taint my view of Dusseldorf. It’s an okay city. It was a bit like visiting somewhere like Birmingham – probably a great city to live in, but not a lot to do if you’re visiting (unless you’re into art – Dusseldorf has lots of art galleries, and some of them are supposed to be fantastic!). But I certainly didn’t hate it, even with the sleety rain doing its best to put us off.
However, it was not the focal point of the trip for us. We were off to Cologne for the rest of the day – somewhere I ended up really enjoying. I’m glad we got our evening there too, and the taxi in the morning worked out well. Plus our train from Dusseldorf to Cologne – less than a half hour journey – was our only train without a hitch.
It was even sunny! Here we are with our “what do you mean something is ACTUALLY going to plan?” faces.
I’ll be writing a separate post about Cologne, as we managed to do quite a bit there despite not having a whole lot of time.
Ordering the taxi was a slight ordeal in itself though. I’d found a quote on SunTransfers, a website I hadn’t even heard of but had come recommended when I searched for ways to get to Weeze, but I was worried about booking through a third party in case it wasn’t reliable, and we all know the last thing we needed was for something to be unreliable! We waited until we got to Cologne to ask our hotel if they could order us a local taxi. This was quite funny because I explained our situation to the receptionist, and her response was, “Weeze? Where is Weeze?”
She hadn’t even HEARD of this ridiculous airport that we’d accidentally flown to.
Anyway, she called a taxi company and they said it would be 70€ more than SunTransfers were quoting. Absolutely no way, I couldn’t stomach it. I went to book the one on SunTransfers, and… it said I couldn’t book it as it was now within 18 hours of departure. If I’d done it that morning, it would have been fine, and now I’d messed up AGAIN.
There was an option to enter a booking code if it was more than 6 hours before the departure, so I entered the live chat with an agent to organise getting a “booking code”. This was actually the best way to do it really, because the person I spoke to went off and actually contacted local suppliers and confirmed that one was definitely available before giving me the code – I felt much less stressed knowing that we weren’t just booking it blindly.
Not only that, but I got a call on WhatsApp later that evening from the driver himself, confirming everything with us and even offering to pick us up a bit later. This was a huge relief, because you have to put your flight departure time, and SunTransfers then gives you an automatic pick up time that, particularly for a tiny airport like Weeze, is FAR too early. I ended up putting our departure time in for almost an hour later to manipulate the pick-up time. I had been worried that would cause issues, but our driver said he was often having to arrange later pick-ups because some transfer companies leave way too much time.
Anyway, we could finally relax, having sorted everything out.
In fact, the whole trip from then on went very smoothly, right up until we got the Edinburgh airport bus home and it broke down! You could not make it up.
We had had the worst luck with all the public transport. From David’s flight, to the airport bus, the thing that shocked me the most wasn’t Loganair’s inability to get him to his destination. It was Germany’s inability to get us to our destination. What happened to German efficiency?! Since when were German trains that bad??
And yet it’s become a running joke there – all night, people were saying “this is very normal, welcome to Germany”, the girl laughing about the ghost trains on the app. When we met our taxi driver for the return journey, we told him what had happened and he went “ah yes, that sounds right for Germany.”
But there is one thing for certain – I will never be flying to “Dusseldorf” Weeze again. That it’s advertised as Dusseldorf at all is an absolute joke. In fact, the airport itself is just called Weeze. Only Ryanair flies into it, and I feel like this is their flagship parody airport – you know when people used to say Ryanair doesn’t actually fly you to your destination? Sometimes you even end up in completely the wrong country? Well, this is on the Netherlands border!
I can’t believe I finally fell for one of their tricks. It just didn’t even occur to me that Dusseldorf would have two airports, especially when Cologne is half an hour away with its own airport.
When we flew home on Sunday, our flight was one of three that day. THREE flights for a whole day!
Anyway, the important thing is we can laugh about it now. What a ridiculous weekend. Ridiculous and, in the end, far more expensive than we had anticipated. We’d only gone because the flights had been £12 each way. Now we can see why! Bargain flights – but you get a lot more than you bargain for.
Have you ever had a big travel disaster?
14 thoughts on “The Dusseldorf Disaster: How I Really Messed Up On A Trip To Germany”
I went back and forth between being stressed out for you and laughing! Maggie
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So did we!! 😂
Oh my goodness, this is so stressful! We made a similar mistake with Baden Baden when we visited in February – we flew in to Stuttgart instead of Karlsruhe and there were no trains so we ended up having to pay 400 Euros for a taxi! Nightmare; I still lose sleep over it.
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Oh nooo! That sounds even worse!! I’m just so glad we had other people doing the same thing as us, or we’d have had to get a taxi both ways. We live and learn!
Oh my goodness, what an ordeal! I’m glad you can look back and laugh about it now, but I can only imagine how stressful it must have been at the time.
Hahahah I could feel my entire soul leaving my body when it dawned on me!! I was so glad that a few of us banded together. We were laughing right up until that train didn’t turn up, to be honest. But definitely an adventure to talk about for years!
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oh wow, that was definitely an experience for you. It causes me anxiety just reading your ordeal! But what a fantastic story that will make 🙂
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I have anxiety thinking about it, to be honest! But I’m glad it all worked out. We said afterwards imagine if my friend DIDN’T make it and I’d have had to deal with that on my own! I think I’d have broken down and slept at the airport LOL.
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Such an entertaining post but what a series of disasters! Hope you made up for it when you got home – time to properly chill out and recover!
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Hahaha, thank you! It was a mad weekend even without the disasters to be honest – it was literally a Friday night – Sunday trip and then I was back to work on the Monday! No rest for the wicked. 😀
Wow, what the adventure you had! It’s one thing to experience one set-back, but to experience multiple back-to-back on a single trip is another! Despite all of the mishaps and inconveniences, you did make the most of your time in Dusseldorf, and hopefully the experience didn’t sour your view on it for a return later on– perhaps for a better trip?
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Haha it felt never-ending! Thankfully the Cologne part of the trip was really smooth, loved it! I’ll be writing a separate post on that. 🙂 It’s a shame we didn’t have more time in Dusseldorf, but there wasn’t that much we wanted to do anyway so I don’t feel like we missed out too much.
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Oh my goodness! What a trip!
I had a group of 30 teenage musicians touring Italy. It was our last night in Venice with an early flight home. Upon double-checking our actual ticket (instead of the printed itinerary) I realized the agent had actually booked our flight out of Milan! Re-organizing guide, driver, and wrangling 30 teenagers into a very early start was a nightmare of stress!
It’s like when one thing goes wrong with a trip, everything goes wrong. At least it was a memorable trip, I bet you’ll be laughing about this trip years from now.