According to what I learned during my visit to the Ruhr Museum in Essen this weekend, many people imagine the Ruhr Region (Ruhrgebiet) where I live to be a place where “everything is dirty” and the “air is black” because of its industrial history. Its residents are also said to be Fuβball (soccer) crazy and ‘little rough around the edges.’
The only true stereotype that I’ve found is that soccer could potentially be more important than religion to the people who live in the Ruhrgebiet. I haven’t found an ounce of truth to any of the others.
In fact, during my experience of living in Dortmund thus far, I have found reality to be exactly opposite of the notions people may have about this place.
One of the industrial centers of Germany during WWII, the Ruhrgebiet probably did have a lot of dust, grime and ‘rough’ and ‘tough’ miners walking around the streets. However, in the years following the war and extensive bombings of the area, a lot has changed. Traditional coal mining gave way to the steel industry, and today other avenues of using technology are being explored.
Believe it or not: things here aren’t covered in coal dust. The sky isn’t darkened with pollution or smoke.
The sky is clear, there are flowers blooming and the landscape is green.
You can visit cities with beautiful cathedrals and restored “old town” areas like Köln (Cologne) or Münster. You can walk in the beautiful parks, sit outside and enjoy the sun, play sports or enjoy a bike ride throughout the Ruhr. This place has a lot more to offer than some may think.
Even more important than the landscape and entertainment options, the people here are also not gruff or sour. In fact, I’ve found a majority of people to be very kind and helpful. What I most admire is that the Ruhr has citizens from many countries all over the world and they have found ways to work together and make it through difficult times, coexisting peacefully.
It doesn’t get much better than that to me.
It’s true that Dortmund doesn’t have many beautiful old buildings as you would find in Bavaria, and it’s true that the local economy has struggled over the years as industry demands have changed. Other than those realities, little of what you may have heard is true, and I couldn’t imagine a better place for me to be living for the next few months.