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From coal to culture: The rebirth of the Ruhr area

The German Ruhr area, the dusty blanket of the industrial past of forsaken and shines today as a modern art and cultuurmetropool. The big five – Dortmund, Bochum, Duisburg, Essen and Oberhausen – tensioning the crown!

Dortmund © Getty Images/iStockphoto

200 museums, 250 festivals, 120 theatres, 100 concert houses, 100 cultural centres, 3 large musical theaters, 3500 industrial monuments … It is an understatement to say that the Ruhr area (Nordrhein-Westfalen) considerably in recent years has invested in culture. Germany is – perhaps surprisingly – the destination number one in Europe for culture lovers. The Ruhr area is germany – with great surprise – become the cultuurregio par excellence.

Gone are the dark clouds

Once it was otherwise. Not so long ago called the ruhr area mainly images of mijnbouwwerkers with soot on the face, and the dark clouds that rise up from the chimneys of big and gray industrial complexes. The characteristic schachttorens, furnaces and storage tanks determine also today still part of the skyline of the Ruhr, but they have a new destination as symbols of the industrial past of the region. More still, some of the old industrietempels have a total change undergone. The former gist – and warehouse of the Union-Brauerei in Dortmund, from miles and miles away recognizable by the huge “U” on the roof, has been transformed into an internationally-lauded art center. The museum of the Dortmunder U-Turm presents a fascinating collection of photographs, sculptures and paintings from the 20th and 21st century exhibitions. The Zeche Zollverein in Essen, where until the mid 80’s coal was mined, embodies the transition from industrial to cultural metropolis. The complex is dominated since 1989 on the world Heritage list of the Unesco.

Cultural capital of Europe

The conversion had its heyday in 2010, when the Ruhr area was declared cultural capital of Europe. Not only in Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen and Oberhausen – say, but the “big five” of the region – has attracted this recognition, a stream of foreign tourists, also in the smaller cities and towns benefited. Since then, the number of cultuurgezinde visitors only. One of the biggest publiektrekkers is the Ruhrtriennale, a cultuurfestival with music, dance, theater, performances and visual arts at various spectacular locations around the region. Contrary to what the name suggests, the Ruhrtriennale place each year. Only the artistic director to three years other master transferred.

Link between the past and the future

The Deutsches Institution-Museum in Bochum is the largest mining museum in the world (good for 400,000 visitors per year), brings a eresaluut to the industrial past of the region. Fly high, literally and figuratively: after a descent into the mine take the visitors elevator to the top of the 63 meters high shaft tower, where they face an impressive panoramic view awaits. Also, the Henrichshütte in Hattingen, where in the Second world War, thousands of forced labourers employed, explains the link between the past and the future. The industry is regarded as one of the “hidden pearls” of the Ruhr area. And if you’re in the area, also visit the DASA (Arbeitsschutzaustellung) in Germany, where you get a glimpse into the daily life of the ancient labourers strike.

A deep dive

Still room for an extra serving of culture? The Ruhr area have some suggestions. The Red Dot Design Museum in Essen is home to one of the most important collections of contemporary design in Europe. Modern painting, sculptures and photography you can find in Essen, the Museum Folkwang, by the British architect David Chipperfield has been transformed into a museum with worldwide appeal. Cross certainly also the Gasometer in Oberhausen, a former gas tank converted into a majestic exhibition hall. In the Archaologische Park in Xanten (near Duisburg), with artifacts from the Roman time, a dive is still a few centuries deeper into history. What are you waiting for?

Dreams of Germany

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  • Once grey, now green: The Ruhr resurrected from its ashes
  • From coal to culture: The rebirth of the Ruhr area
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  • Read all articles about Dreams from Germany

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