Rain and a ride into the Ruhr

Ihr seid das Ruhrgebiet
Und das Ruhrgebiet bin ich.
Zwischen Rhein und Weser, das Herz der Welt,
hier bist Du keine Nummer, keiner sieht auf Dein Geld.
Eine grüne Oase zwischen Kohle und Stahl,
wenn wir zusammen feiern, ist uns alles egal.

Wolfgang Petry

You are the Ruhr and the Ruhr I am. Between the Rhine and Weser, the heart of the world, here you are not a number, no one looks at your money. A green oasis between coal and steel, as we celebrate together, we do not care about anything

As I mentioned in my last blog post, at the beginning of the week all the Language Assistants from the area surrounding Düsseldorf gathered in a Jugendherberge (youth hostel) to start what was called the Kompaktkurs (literally compact course). It was the first time all the different nationalities came together and was a chance for us all to integrate and get to know some new people. I’m not sure how successful this idea was, as after 2 months most people have settled and have their ‘friendship groups’. The first day of the course started off with a visit to the Bundestag, which is basically the local Parliament. For anybody who doesn’t know, after the Second World War, Germany was split up into 16 Bundesländer (Federal states). Each of these Bundesländer have their own Parliament who decide on education systems, transport etc. Almost everything in Germany has been denationalized, meaning that among many other things, the School systems in each Bundesland are different. Anyway, going back to what I was saying, Düsseldorf  is the Landeshauptstadt (State capital) of Nordrhein Westfalen and therefore houses the state Parliament. We were given a few talks, mainly about the History of the Bundesland and then were taken up, by a huge glass lift to look into the room where all the important things happen.

Image

We were also told about the importance of the building’s architecture, it’s strange shape reflecting the diplomatic style of the Government. It is also supposed to make the voters or citizens feel that they can see into the building and watch the people they have voted into position. All very cunning!

Image

An aerial view of the Landestag in the bottom left hand corner

After our short tour we were then all invited into the ‘Restaurant’ area and treated to Kaffee and Kuchen, not just 1 piece of cake but infact 3! Thank goodness I’m not on a diet! All the Assistants were expected to stay in the Youth Hostel, even though many of us lived extremely close by. Unfortunately I had spent the entire weekend before the course lying in bed with an awful cold so was given the ‘go-ahead’ to sleep at mine. It was a bit of a shame missing out on the ‘bonding fun’ but being able to sleep in my bed was worth it.

The following day, it was an early morning for me as I had to travel across the city to meet everyone for breakfast. We ate, got ready pretty quickly and were soon ready to depart. Despite the fact that on the previous day we were told by one of our hostesses that the german stereotype of punctuality was in fact true and not a myth, one of the coaches didn’t arrive on time and was an hour (yes! an hour) late! Typically this was the bus I was supposed to be taking and to say the least, one was not amused! Eventually we were off on the bus, heading out of Düsseldorf into the Ruhrgebiet. The Ruhrgebiet is the old, industrial part of Germany which previously was the country’s most polluted area with numerous coal mines and steel factories. Today is still contain’s many factories but is also an area of culture with several museums, art galleries etc that have since been built on old mining land. Our trip took us to the Zeche Zollverein in Essen, a UNESCO site and supposedly the „schönste Zeche der Welt“ (the nicest mine in the World).

Image

Zeche Zollverein

Image

Ruhr Museum

The old building is now a museum and after a guided tour we were given the chance to explore a bit and took the opportunity to go up to the roof to admire the views out over the Ruhrgebiet. From Essen, we jumped back onto the bus and travelled in the direction of another town called Oberhausen. Oberhausen is also a town which used to be a major industrial site, however nowadays, the town is renowned for something quite different. On the old site of the coal and steel factory lies Centro, Europe’s largest shopping centre. Naturally this was a popular stop for the group of students and it allowed us time to grab some lunch.. turned out to be a KFC, very classy oder..?!

Image

Centro

Unfortunately we didn’t get enough time to look around the shops, as we had to make our way over to the Gasometer for an exhibition. But I will most definitely be returning! The exhibition that we went to see was called the ‘Big Air Package’ by Christo and was essentially a huge fabric balloon inside a renovated Gas Tower. I’m not really sure I appreciate such forms of art, but then after 50 minutes sat inside a huge white bubble looking up at the ceiling, maybe you can understand…

Image

The view

Once our time in the bubble was up, we were all driven back to Düsseldorf and unfortunately due to the fact my cold has worsened, I had to say goodbye and missed the last half day as I went back to my flat for sleep, warm tea and an early night.