We arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany at about 1910, local time. Mind you, we had left our home in central Illinois at 4:30, or 1630, the prior afternoon. Between the drive to OHare, the check-in, the wait, the flight, the layover, and the second flight, we had been “enroute” for about 17 hours. Fortunately I slept fairly well on our overnight flight, but still, I should have been exhausted.
We were met at the airport by my friend Kathrin, who lives in the area. Kathrin was a foreign exchange student who lived in my home when we were in high school. She had visited us in the states one time, a couple of years after high school, but after that, we had never been in contact. Back in those days there was no internet, and the only way to get in touch with someone overseas, was by writing a letter, or making an extremely expensive long distance telephone call. Not the kinds of things that young ladies were inclined to do, even in that era. So, although we had been very close during our time together, we went on with our lives, and let each other go.
When I made the decision to travel to Germany, I knew I had to find Kathrin. It took some time, and some very creative searching, but the internet is an amazing thing, and I was able to locate her. The two of us had been emailing back and forth, and made a few Skype calls, making arrangements for the trip. Skype had given us the pleasure of some lengthy face to face conversations, and catching up, but I was still quite nervous about seeing her again. What if she didn’t like who I had become? What if I didn’t like who she had become? What if she and my son didn’t get along? All those thoughts pumped a little bit of nervous adrenaline through me, taking that tired edge off, as we waited for the baggage.
I saw her waiting, as I came around the corner from the baggage area. As soon we were close to each other, I dropped my bag. I am sure that I was sticky, and smelling of 18 hours of travel, but we were embracing, and my eyes were stinging. I was reminded then that time and distance has no bearing on some relationships, and we were still connected, as we had been before.
She and my son became acquainted while we made the short drive to the house to drop our bags. Then we were off to a local pub in Dusseldorf called Destille. One of my favorite things to do in different countries is visit local pubs, to get a glimpse of local culture. In this case, we were going to watch live music, which is even better. Kathrin’s man is Monty Meerstein, of the Meerstein Express. The Meerstein Express performs gypsy crossover and blues at events throughout northwest Germany. On the night of our arrival, they were performing at Destille.
We were overwhelmed by the gracious welcome when we arrived at Destille. It seemed everyone there, including the band, was excited to welcome friends from America, as much as we were excited to be meeting new friends in Germany. Before the show, and between sets, we talked and laughed, receiving hugs and handshakes. We answered many questions, and asked just as many, and learned a lot. Everyone went out of their way to speak English to us, even those who hadn’t practiced it in a while. I forgot all about the long hours of travel, or the jetlag I was supposed to experience..
During the sets we sat among new friends at long family style tables, which are typical in German pubs. We tried the local specialty beer, Altbier, or Alt as it is commonly called. I am not a beer drinker, but it was okay. We then switched up to rum and Coke, running our tab which the server kept track of with tally marks on the coaster in front of us. Being trusted in that manner in a place we had never been before was strangely refreshing.
And we were all graced with some amazing entertainment. The selections ranged from BB King, to Jimmy Hendrix. The Meerstein Express is made up of Monty Meerstein, on the guitar, Andy Kontra on the bass, Frank Michaelis on the saxophone, and Harry Kleiner on the drums. They each performed with impressive talent and craftsmanship. Having virtually no musical talent, I find it a bit emotional to watch musicians of their caliber. I was so enthralled, I forgot to film until late in the night. In fact, it was almost the last song..
If you are in Dusseldorf looking for a local pub with interesting art, a great menu, and of course, Altbier, visit Distille. You can find them at: Bilker Str. 46, D-40213 Düsseldorf.
Or checkout their website at:
Yes, it is German, but Google translate can help with that if you don’t know the language.
If you would like to hear more of the Meerstein Express, there are several more videos on YouTube. Enrico Palazzo’s channel in particular, has several. Monty is also on Facebook.
But of course, live is always best. The Meerstein Express will be performing live at River Beat, in Duisburg, Germany, on June 10, 2017. If you are in Germany, it would be a great place to be!