The dark side of Düsseldorf

Last night we went on an unofficial tour, led by Josh Simpkins, of Düsseldorf’s Altstadt to explore Düsseldorf’s dark side. Josh has spent the best part of a year researching all the terrible crimes and supernatural happenings in the town and this tour is the result of that. Although the walk calls itself ‘haunted Düsseldorf,’ it actually involves a creepy mixture of ghost stories, unsolved historical murders, assorted grisly crimes and other anecdotes.

Spot the ghost of the white lady….

Josh had the great idea of constructing his own portable projector which he used to illustrate his stories as we went along… suddenly walls, doors, even trees became screens for images from the past… this added a strong visual dimension to the experience.

Of course Düsseldorf by night is beautiful anyway, especially as the old town is still lit by around 14,000 original gas lights. These lend an almost Dickensian atmosphere to the streets when you are listening to ghost stories, tales of serial killers and unsolved murders.

Move over Jack the Ripper… Düsseldorf had worse, much worse…

More information about Josh’s tours and a booking form are on his webpage.

Another scene of a grisly unsolved murder….

A good year for sloes in Meerbusch

A little tip to anyone living in or around Meerbusch. It seems to be a very good year for sloes. These are a native form of wild plum, quite bitter, but when combined with gin and sugar makes a magical concoction called sloe gin.

Sloes growing in a Meerbusch hedgerow

The German term for the bush is Schwarzdorn, so called because in spring the flowers appear before the leaves, so the bushes are black prickly twigs covered with white flowers.

A walk in the Meerbusch woods

Meerbusch boasts a fantastic Stadtwald or public forest which is open to everyone to walk in. It is a mixed forest with quite a variety of deciduous (beech, oak, sycamore) and evergreen (pine) trees.

Sadly Meerbusch has been suffering, like so much of Germany, with a combination of extreme weather and airborne disease which in particular is affecting the pines. Wherever you look it seems that the evergreens are dying off.

Meerbusch forest with dead pines

Let’s hope that enough survive to provide the foundation of new growth in the future.

The one problem with Schloss Pesch….

Schloss Pesch is really easy to get to by car. It is only a stone’s throw from the Geismühle service station on the A57, and right next to the Meerbusch intersection with the A44.

Who builds a highway intersection right next to a beautiful castle?

Of course being this close to a busy motorway junction is both a blessing and a curse. Great for those who wish to make a quick getaway… a source of perpetual background noise and pollution for those who live there.

Perhaps it’s time to reforest the land between the schloss and the road.

Laterne… laterne

It’s that time of the year when strange items start appearing in the German shops. Not the Lebkuchen and Stollen … they’ve been on the supermarket shelves since August, thank you very much. No, I mean these things….

Paper lanterns and lightbulbs-on-sticks

We are into the period where children parade through the streets of every town and village singing songs about St. Martin and carrying (mostly home-made) paper lanterns. It’s not as exciting as in the old days, when the paper lanterns had candles inside (what could possibly go wrong?). In my experience wind and rain were always the biggest menace. For the record, a paper lantern lasts about seven-and-a-half minutes in steady drizzle.

Two interviews with Cathy Dobson about her books

I am honoured to have been interviewed twice now by Scott Butki, the Austin-based book reviewer and journalist. I really enjoy his interviews because it is so obvious that he has really taken the time to read your work, think about it and construct a set of questions which enable you to build up a narrative about your book. Connoisseurs of book reviews – it’s well worth seeking out his other interviews too.
An interview about The Devil’s Missal
An interview about Planet Germany