Six people—one each from Austria, China, Colombia, France, Norway, and the United States—all walk into a Korean restaurant in Germany.
This is not the beginning of a joke. It’s the start of my adventure in Düsseldorf.
I didn’t know much about Düsseldorf. I still don’t. The fact is, I was there with my degree program to attend ProWein, the biggest international wine trade expo in the world.
ProWein was massive. Picture nine warehouse-sized halls packed with more than 55,000 trade visitors and 6,200 exhibitors, including every imaginable wine producing country. That includes some countries you may not have realized produce wine, like Turkey, Moldova, China, and the UK. Spirits were also represented.
It’s good to have a plan whenever you attend a conference. With an expo the size of ProWein, it’s an absolute requirement, or you’ll end up ambling about hypnotized by the sheer volume of people to talk to and wine to discover. And by discover, I mean to taste. Not drink—taste. The difference? Tasting is supposed to involve a more objective engagement with and evaluation of a wine that ends with the person spitting it out. As you probably have figured out, drinking involves swallowing.
I tasted a lot, but I will admit to drinking wine too. When presented with a line of vintage Pol Roger Champagne, spitting is not an option. At least not for me.
But for others who were there on business, maybe. For most people, ProWein is about wine producers connecting with importers and distributors. Attendees might be looking for new connections, but the main activity involves connecting in person with already established relationships. For producers, this might involve introducing the latest released vintages or new wines. For some, it could also mean scoping out the competition.
I was there as a student, so I had a promotional project assignment. That took only a portion of my time. Fortunately, I also had the opportunity to learn about new wines, regions, trends, and potential employers.
It was easy to be immersed in the expo and forget there was an actual city beyond the conference center walls. I could have easily spent a whole week exploring just one hall. But Düsseldorf beckoned.
The city’s friendly population of 600,000+ enjoys a green and open Rhine waterfront with long promenades and multifaceted and, at times, Amsterdam-like architecture. There are ample open spaces, parks, and bike lanes. Even more important, at least for me, Düsseldorf offers a full array of international food options. Lots. Much more so than in Dijon.
We were there for four nights, and I ate a different cuisine at each dinner: Korean, American (don’t judge—I had to get my burger fix, and I was not alone!), Vietnamese and Thai (at one meal), and Italian. Only one word for it: delicious! A nod to our host country came daily at breakfast and lunch, so I was ready to offer my palate a more international experience at night to match the global wine experience at the expo.
I left Düsseldorf energized and exhausted at the same time. My body, mind, and soul all sated by the international adventure that fed me—literally and figuratively. Prost, Düsseldorf!