Reflections on Düsseldorf

I’ve been back home now for nearly two weeks and have had an opportunity to reflect upon my experience in Düsseldorf, Germany during DRUPA 2008. While it didn’t take very long for me to settle back into the world of customers, printing projects, sales and marketing, I couldn’t help thinking and rethinking about what I saw there and the people I’d met. It was gratifying for me to find that many people at Grand River Printing & Imaging had been reading the blog and found it interesting. I also had numerous opportunities to tell others about the blog upon my return and send them a link to it. Many were glad to know that I started this project while I was away and appreciated the effort … So, here I go again.

The things that I learned about the technological progress of our printing and paper industries are significant. We are clearly at a transition in the economics of print media. There is now so much information available in electronic form and the myriad ways in which this can be enhanced and supported by paper-based (or some might say off-line) media opportunities. It really makes one stop and think about where to place resources and what would be the most effective investment going forward.

But enough about printing devices (digital or otherwise) and software. What I thought I should write about is some of the things about Germany that, I guess, are what you would call “lifestyle” issues. This would be things that one might take note of only  because it is different from the way things are done in the US. For example, I saw an interesting contrast in certain types of behavior. No one seemed to pay to ride the trains. Now, for DRUPA attendees the transit fare was included in the price of the entry ticket. This is clearly explained in the DRUPA literature. However, even though there is a place for travelers to insert their tickets, no one seemed to be using them. Of course, unlike cities in the US like NYC where a turnstile blocks unpaid entry onto the subway platform, access to the platforms are not impeded.

On the other hand, when on the surface streets, pedestrian crossings were strictly observed. When the “little green man” was lit up, then everyone walked. When the “big red hand” was lit, no one walked. It didn’t matter if there were any cars or not. Green, walk … red, stop. This is, of course, at odds with the pedestrian behavior in the US where everyone walks when the traffic is clear regardless of green, red, flashing, not flashing.

Something that takes some getting used to is the fact that there are attendants in every pubic restroom. These places, labelled with the letters “WC,” were very clean. Now this takes no getting used to. But, the attendant or custodian of the public men’s room was in most cases … a female. These ladies were the most polite and always graciously accepted tips. Correct me if I am wrong … this is something that you would never see in America!!

Another thing I want to mention is a commonly held conception that Americans have about Germany and this has to do with none other than … beer. It is true that beer is very popular in Germany and it is consumed at all hours of the day. It was not uncommon for me to arrive at the DRUPA exhibition in the morning and find people sitting at tables and chatting with bottles of beer in front of them. It seemed to always be available. Indeed, you could get beer served at any exhibitor booth any time of day of you being met with by one of the sales people. Meanwhile, every day at 5:00 pm many exhibitor booths would serve either Alt or Pils from the tap in little plastic 8 oz. cups.

Take a look at this video and count the number of people walking past the oom-pah band with large steins of beer in their hands (some have two) … and this was at 2:00 in the afternoon!!

The last night that i was in Düsseldorf I had the pleasurable opportunity to visit the Altstadt (Old Town) or the place where everyone goes in the evening after the days events at DRUPA. As its name says, this is the part of town which is oldest and it has cobblestone streets with cafés and pubs with outdoor tables and chairs to sit on. This place was very lively until the wee hours of the morning and, of course, there was a fair amount of beer and spirits being enjoyed. There were also roving musicians playing different kinds of instruments and genres of music.

  

One of the strangest sights I saw in Altstadt was a lifesize wooden figure that popped out of a large chiming clock on the side of a building I was walking past. I wasn’t sure what this human-like creature was supposed and searched on the web to find the following description:

“SCHNEIDER WIBBEL
Chiming Clock with Mechanical Figures
Five times a day (at 11a, 1p, 3p, 6p & 9p), locals and tourists gather in front of the carillon to marvel at the glockenspiel, a chiming clock with mechanical figures which re-enact the story of ‘Schneider Wibbel’. Wibbel was a dressmaker who insulted Napoleon and was sent to prison. Instead of going to prison himself, Wibbel sent his apprentice, who died in jail, leading everyone to believe Wibbel was dead, while in reality, he was alive. Over the centuries, Wibbel has come to represent the typical, ‘clever Rhinelander’. Schneider-Wibbel-Gasse, a small street in the centre of the Old Town is also named after the cunning dressmaker.”

Perhaps Mr. Wibbel was quite clever, but what about the poor unnamed apprentice … a kind of garish story with an equally garish mechanical figure to go with it … enough said about that.

KRD
June 19, 2008 

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