About 3 weeks after getting back from my trip to Pokemon Go Fest Chicago I was back on a plane (although it was a much shorter flight) and out to Dortmund in Germany for another Pokemon Go Fest.
This trip was a little different however as I was taking my girlfriend with me and turning it into a little holiday with her as well as a trip to play Pokemon Go in a massive picturesque park.
This was not my first time in Dortmund however as I had attended the 2018 Safari Zone that had taken place in Westfalen park and although that trip was tainted by the fact that I was unable to actually play the game (there was issues logging in for some players — me included) I had a good time exploring the city.
Compared to my trip to Chicago, the travel aspect was pretty crap. Instead of booking individual flights and hotel or AirBnB I had booked a deal via Expedia similar to how I had last year, but because this year we were taking additional luggage things were so much more awkward.
Both trips I had flown RyanAir as they offer cheap direct flights from London Stansted to Dortmund Airport but the additional bags (in 2018 I had one backpack) and the fact that I was travelling with someone (in 2018 I flew alone so seat allocation wasn’t a problem) meant that the experience was terrible as every little convenience you’d get included in a normal flight was charged extra, so the £119 cheap flights quickly escalated to £188 at the end.
We also made the mistake of trying to save €7 by taking the Airport Express shuttle instead of a taxi to the hotel. The shuttle was packed and due to our British way of queueing (i.e. respecting positions in the queue, not pushing ahead etc) we found ourselves standing for 30 minutes with everyones luggage crushing us whenever the bus came to a sharp halt.
But we made it eventually and after paying the accommodation tax (something that Dortmund adds to private hotel guests — it was €40ish for our 5 night stay) we were able to drop our bags and scout out the local area.
What Dortmund has to offer
Aside from Pokemon Go in Westfalen park, Dortmund city centre itself has a bunch of shops, pubs and markets to keep you occupied, fed and intoxicated — here’s my highlights!
A nice little Hausbraueri on the main ring road that surrounds Dortmund city centre.
A pint of Hövels Original goes down really smoothly and as the location is a little out of the way it’s rarely full of people which is great as they have a really nice beer garden to sit in (I’m currently writing this post from said beer garden!).
This coffee shop was something I must have missed last year but they do really good coffee, amazing coffee art (made the girlfriend happy) and offer a ‘french breakfast’ deal (coffee and croissant) for €3.50.
Their slogan of ‘Life is too short for bad coffee’ is right on the mark and they give you the choice of beans they’ll make your coffee with when you order it which I found to be a great little touch to the experience.
My girlfriend’s stepdad is Canadian and she’s had the pleasure of experiencing Poutine in the Great White North so when we were walking by Thier-Galerie and saw their signs we knew we’d end up eating there.
I’ve never had Poutine before and I still technically haven’t as I decided to go for the currywurst Poutine they do but my girlfriend had the Quebec classic version they offer and said it was spot on aside from the fact they used thick cut chips instead of french fries.
The next time we had it (we have made multiple visits) I realised that we could even change up the types of chips so I had currywurst again but with sweet potato fries which is a meal I’ll definitely be recreating at home.
The main event — Pokemon Go Fest Dortmund
Our trip wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for our want of walking around a vast park for 8 hours catching loads of little creatures with our mobile phones.
Compared to last year’s event the 2019 event worked really well. As 2018’s event was open to the public and involved just turning up there were massive queues and both the network and Niantic’s servers struggled to keep up with the demand.
This year as it was a ticketed event with a geo-fence around the park ensuring that you could only see the Pokemon if it was your time period to play there meant minimal queueing and we were able to get into the park early (as I got there 30 minutes early assuming the worst).
The reason the event was ticketed and worked well I’ll put down to the fact it was a ‘Go Fest’ and not a ‘Safari Zone’. The Safari Zone events are smaller affairs and while usually ticketed they don’t offer much more than just increased spawns and don’t feature the access to new functionality that Go Fests do.
That being said the Safari Zone I went to in Amsterdam in 2017 gave me an in-game badge to mark the fact that I had attended the event but Dortmund 2018 didn’t give players a badge which I found odd and if I’m perfectly honest irks me a little as I want to be able to show off where I’ve visited playing the game.
The spawns in Dortmund’s Go Fest and quests were on par with Chicago as you would expect, however unlike Chicago there were still dead-zones in the park, namely around the Boat Lake which meant that we stayed away from that zone and due to this missed out on a number of the Pokemon in that area.
Chicago vs Dortmund
There were a few differences between Chicago and Dortmund (aside from location, language, culture etc) which didn’t exactly affect the game but affected you as someone playing the game anyway.
The biggest one (at least according to my legs) was the fact that Grant Park in Chicago was relatively flat and as such you could easily walk around it for 8 hours without really feeling the strain on your muscles.
Westfalen park in Dortmund on the other hand is pretty much one giant hill and while there are sloping walkways, you tend to avoid these, as that is where the slow moving herds of people congregate.
Of course the weather in Dortmund was better as we weren’t evacuated during our day in the park but that’s not something I can put on Niantic!
Both locations suffered from a similar lack of spawns for regional Pokemon. As someone who lives on the west side of the Greenwich Meridian Line I have only ever seen pink Shellos so I was looking forward to getting a number of blue Shellos (spawns east of the GML) to trade back home but unfortunately I only saw one.
We experienced similar in Chicago, seeing at most 2 Tauros and no Solrock or Illumise. For foreign players these Pokemon are key to a good trip as they enable trading or are kept as souvenirs.
The biggest difference between Chicago and Dortmund however was the PvP area. In Chicago it was a big stadium with multiple podiums to cater for each round but in Dortmund there were circles drawn on the ground.
Additionally where Chicago’s PvP had 3 rounds:
- Round 1 — Keychain
- Round 2 — Ambie headphones
- Round 3 — T-shirt (and Medal for winner)
Dortmund’s PvP had 4 rounds:
- Round 1 — Keychain
- Round 2 — Poster
- Round 3 — T-shirt
- Round 4 — Medal
This confused me a little when I was taking part as my third battle was actually the hardest battle in my tournament so I had assumed that was the last match.
One of plusses from Dortmund’s PvP however was the WiFi they offered to those competing which meant you were not at risk of losing due to signal issues.
Was it worth it?
Of course, it’s always worth travelling, exploring and experiencing new things and as it was my girlfriend’s first trip to Germany it was made even better as I could help her get the most out of her trip.
I was also able to add to my real-life PvP medal collection as I won all my rounds in Dortmund’s PvP tournament and claimed that prize. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like I’m getting tickets for the Go Fest in Yokohama, Japan so I won’t be able to add the third medal and walk around town like a decorated Olympian back home.
I think if Niantic host another Go Fest in Dortmund we’ll probably choose a different airline to fly out with as our experience of Ryanair was pretty crap but we’ll definitely be back again.