The Ruhr area has undergone a transformation. Essen is one of those cities. Industry makes way for technology. And for tourism. The area likes to present itself as an interesting destination. Has Essen also faded in color?
once was Essen gray. A true industrial city. Even the mining capital of the world. Many workmen left for Essen to work in the mines. Also a nice colony of Dutch. Essen was an indispensable link in the heavily industrialized Ruhr area like the Zollverein that was under the mines. This coal mine was closed in 1986. Today, the Zollverein with its dark red double shaft tower is one of the symbols of industrialization.
Coal and Koolhaas
For ten years, the enormous complex lay abandoned and no concrete plans for the future were forthcoming. Rem Koolhaas was flown in to protect the gigantic complex for future generations with ideas and a design. ‘A14 Kolenwäsche’ is located on the roof of the striking orange escalators that lead to the entrance of the complex. A journey of at least a minute to an altitude of at least forty meters. This part of the complex houses the Ruhr Museum, which focuses on the history of the factory and of the region. With a disdainful look above his full beard, the meter-high bronze statue of Alfred Krupp looks into the museum. Krupp is one of the magnates who played a major role in industrialization.
The sequence of the production process is simulated with the Way of the Kohle. Following this route takes you from coal extraction through transportation to treatment in the coal washing facility. The carriages are still on the rails. All the installations, the conveyor belts, it seems as if the men are going back to work any moment. Even the tools are still on the workbenches.
At the back of the site is De Kokerei, the coke factory. The factory’s large furnaces heat the coal, releasing the gas and leaving the coke. After only thirty years of service, the Kokerei closed in 1993 due to the steel crisis. The factory is a collection of concrete buildings, high chimneys, rusted pipes and countless stairs. With a Ferris wheel, an ice skating rink in the winter and a swimming pool in the summer, there is plenty to do all year round. Over the years, the Zollverein industrial complex has developed into a park-like recreation area with lots of greenery through which walking and cycling paths meander. With its character, the complex is ideal for events and concerts. The redevelopment of Zollverein has therefore been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
District of the Vineyard
Nearly 7,000 workers were employed at Zollverein at its peak. These people had to live somewhere. The Krupp family’s industrial magnates left the working-class district Margarethenhöhe building in which almost no house is the same. The Kleiner Markt with its fountain is surrounded by a cute courtyard of about ten houses and is the heart of the district. Three times a week there is a market of four stalls on the square where the stately Mintrops City hotel is also located. The applied architectural style makes Margarethenhöhe special. It is the green character that makes the district special. The three-leafed vine in particular overgrows many facades. There are or hang flower boxes with colorful bloomers everywhere. It makes the district ideal as a quiet base for a stay in Essen.
Green, greener, greenest
As far as the eye can see, cars are parked on the verge of Luhrmannstrasse. In the parking lot it is driving in circles and hoping for a vacant spot. It Gruga Park in the south of Essen is a real magnet for visitors when the weather is good. Even more green in Essen, although it is not a public park. The entrance fee is four euros for this park, which is fenced in with a sturdy fence, with its colorful botanical gardens. Families prefer to go to the playgrounds and the petting zoo. Sports enthusiasts will get their money’s worth with tennis courts, a beach volleyball field, soccer fields and beautiful wide asphalt paths for runners. The other popular recreation area is the Baldeneysee in the south of Essen. Water sports enthusiasts enjoy the reservoir there. There are also a number of beautiful walks set out around the lake. The gray image that Essen sometimes conjures up is at odds with the green reality of contemporary Essen.