It wouldn’t be the festive season in Düsseldorf without a stroll along the Königsallee, a street renowned for its refinement and culture. Here, Hermès meets Tiffany & Co, Chanel and Cartier, ice skaters twirl on the newly installed rink and fairy lights blink in the trees above. But the Kö hasn’t always been known for its elegance. For a long time whenever anyone spoke of this street it was in hushed tones and in relation to several large handfuls of horse manure…
It’s a wonderfully incongruous story, best told under the sweeping chestnut trees that once gave the street its name – Kastanienallee – Chestnut Street.
It all happened in 1848; a time when monarchies were rising and falling – first the end of Louis Philippe in France, the breakaway of Hungary from Austrian rule and the proclamation of a Venetian empire. In Germany, uprisings and peasant revolts suggested that perhaps here too, the era of monarchs was coming to an end.
Amidst this turmoil the Prussian King, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, visited Düsseldorf. Riding down Kastanienallee from the train station to Schloss Jagerhof, his city palace, the Prussian King encountered an unruly mob. As he passed, the locals pelted him with horse manure, some of it apparently connecting with the royal clothes. The King was offended, turned his horse around and left town immediately. For many years, the future of Düsseldorf – now branded a bastion of anarchy and unruliness – seemed grim.
It would be another five years before the royal face would once again look favourably on the city; having finally been appeased by officials who renamed Kastanienallee, Königsallee – King Street.
Nearly 170 years later, the street’s anarchic past is now well and truly buried beneath a very refined veneer. You can take your time to enjoy one of Düsseldorf’s most beautiful streets because let’s be honest, these days you’re more likely to get hit by a low flying parrot, than attacked by an anarchist armed with horse manure!