Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Ruhrgebiet

Ruhr Map by Daniel Ullrich (see URL below)
Ruhr Map by Daniel Ullrich

This post was originally written in Portuguese.

The Ruhrgebiet, or Ruhr Area, with its 5,3 million inhabitants, is Germany's largest metropolitan area and fourth largest in Europe (after Moscow, London and Paris). It is located around the rivers Ruhr, Emscher and Lippe, tributaries of the Rhine, in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, western Germany, near Belgium and the Netherlands. The Ruhrgebiet consists of 11 cities, four districts and no central authority. It's an unusual decentralized metropolis where 2,1 million inhabitants live in the four largest cities: Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg and Bochum and the rest are scattered in the cities of Gelsenkirchen, Oberhausen, Herne, Mühlheim, Bottrop, Hagen and Hamm, or in its four districts. 12% of the population consists of immigrants from Turkey or other parts of Europe. The Ruhrgebiet is the industrial heart of Germany, the country's most important technological and cultural centre and Europes largest industrial and mining region.

Inner Harbour, in Duisburg
Inner Harbour, em Duisburg
Its normal for someone to live in Gelsenkirchen, study in Essen, work in Bochum, go to the theatre in Oberhausen and see a concert in Dortmund. The cities are so close to each other and so well integrated by public transportation that they seem as if they were one.

There was a time when the most important Ruhrgebiet town was invisible and could only be seen 1000 metres below the ground. Most of the history of the Ruhr is connected to the production of coal and steel. The crisis in the mining sector since the 1960s has closed most of the mining companies and brought along very high unemployment rates to the area. Its high concentration of steel and arms industries also made it a main target in World War II and the Ruhr cities were heavily bombed by allied forces. But despite all this the Ruhr managed to survive and remains one of the main economic centres of Europe.

Tetrahedron in Ruhrgebiet
Tetrahedron, in Bottrop
Formerly known for its environmental pollution, the Ruhr area is today a model in terms of environmental and social recovery. Several cities and towns have invested in new non-polluting power generation alternatives (like solar energy), and in projects that reuse urban space. The buildings of several former plants and mining companies have become cultural institutions, restaurants, clubs and other public spaces. The Ruhrgebiet has over 200 museums, more than 100 cultural centres, 220 theatres and concert halls, and 19 universities and colleges.

A result of this new cultural identity is its recent title of European Capital of Culture. Essen, as a representative for all cities of the Ruhr area, was selected by the Committee for Culture of the European Union, to receive this title in 2010. The title of European Capital of Culture is attributed every year to a European city since 1985. Since 2005 the rules have changed and now three capitals are selected each year: one from a founding member country, one from a new member and one from a non-EU country. In 2010, the European Capitals of Culture are the Ruhrgebiet, Pécs (Hungary), and Istanbul (Turkey).

I was in the Ruhrgebiet from June 5 to 18 participating in the Play-off/06 international theatre festival that was held in four cities of the Rurh area: Essen, Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen and Herne.

See other Rurhgebiet images:
GelsenkirchenZollverein Shaft XIIBottrop Tetrahedron

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