Germany's oldest Märchenwald is a gentle, kitsch little fairytale fun park set in a forest near Altenburg. Throughout the hillside park, cute little cottages house vignettes from famous fairytales. There's scenes from Snow White, The Frog Prince, Rapunzel, Puss in Boots and lots more. Each little cottage has a recording of the story which either starts automatically or at the push of a button.
It's been a while since I last took the tour at the Chocolate Museum, and things have changed. Back in 2003, when I last dutifully walked around the exhibits, I was desperately disappointed by the lack of a chocolate river and the fact that there wasn't an Oompa Loompa in sight. I was impressed however by the layout and the exhibits but it was hard work and I came away thinking that it was much more for adults than kids. This time round, with a five and seven year old in tow, I didn't take any chances and took the kids tour with a guide.
Fans of children’s illustrated books and cartoons might be interested to hear about this little gem of a place I found at the weekend. The Bilderbuch Museum in Burg Wissem in Troisdorf is a museum dedicated to picture books. From the outside it looks like a picturesque schloß with its turrets and moat. On the inside it’s a cross between a library, gallery and a kids idea of heaven – with a huge playroom, dress-up costumes, toys, and picture books galore. Until 3rd March there’s an exhibition of newspaper cartoons by Winsor McCay on the first floor.
Walking along the Rhine, whether in Düsseldorf, Cologne or Bonn, is always a pleasure. Each city has its own riverside charm: Düsseldorf the glorious Rhine promenade linking the river to the heart of the city; Bonn its endless quiet, treelined paths. And Cologne? Cologne just got better, for Südstadt dwellers in particular. The new development that begins beside to the Chocolate Museum and stretches almost to the Südbrucke, is pretty much complete.
Get off at the tram stop Zoo/Flora in Cologne and you will suddenly be spoilt for choice for things to do. Should you take the cable cars across the Rhine or visit the Zoo and Aquarium? A leisurely walk around the Flora and its botanical gardens or how about a visit to the Sculpture Park? On a grey Sunday afternoon I chose the sculpture park and it made for a nice change. Firstly because it didn't cost a thing (unlike the Zoo and the cable cars), and second because it was pleasantly thought provoking. You can't help asking: Why the car crashed around a post in a hole in the ground?
The Freilichtmuseum in Kommern is a wonderful open air exhibition that gives you the chance to step back in time and experience village life around the Rhine region in bygone times. The museum founders have rescued buildings destined for destruction, relocated and rebuilt them in a gorgeous forest setting. The whole museum sits in an area of natural woodland interspersed with pastures and glades filled with wild flowers.
The great thing about living on this side of NRW is the ease of access to neighbouring Holland and Belgium. The little town of Nijmegen is only an hour and a half from Cologne, an hour from Düsseldorf and a great place to visit for shopping, sight-seeing and a delightful little slice of Holland. Nijmegen is considered to be the oldest city in the Netherlands and celebrated its 2000th year of existence in 2005.
Sometimes we forget what architectural gems we have on our doorstep. In New York a new skyscraper has been completed by Frank Gehry - you may love it or loath it - but it's definately impressive. In Düsseldorf we have our very own Gehry materpieces. The wobbly and mirror surfaced buildings in Düsseldorf's habour area are some of the most exciting buildings in the region. Gehry uses a deconstructivist architectural style which "subverts its original spatial intention".
The France Festival will be taking place this weekend in Düsseldorf to commemorate Bastille Day. The three day festival celebrates all things French and will feature music, poetry, theatre, film, dance and lots of French food and wine. This year you can hear singers like Lisa Zenner, who mixes Latin American rhythm with a chanson style, plus Jean-Claude Séférian, as well as a variety of street musicians.