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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Yeah, it's a shithole. But we love our shithole."

Welcome to my home city: Gelsenkirchen.

The caption to today´s article is a quote from one of my colleagues who is from this very special city. You might get an idea why he said this later on.

Anyways, you probably haven't heard of Gelsenkirchen before. That's probably because it is one of Germany´s smaller cities. GE forms part of the North-Rhine Westphalia, hosting around 267,000 people. Previously it had a large coal-mining industry, and for this it was known as “the city of a thousand fires” due to the flames of the mine gases during the night. Something interesting to note is that during World War II, it formed part of the Buchenwald concentration camp for women.

One of Gelsenkirchen´s biggest attractions is the Veltins Arena, a huge football stadium which hosts the local football team of Schalke 04. This means that it is quite common during all times of the day to see drunken people smelling of bratwurst and walking about wearing blue and white singing in chorus (including on the trams). You might also bump into several men who are, most openly and proudly, taking a piss in full view during your leisurely stroll in the park.

(the photo below right I took today, waiting for the tram. It shows the main street of Buer, where there are many shops, cafes, etc)

Other interesting things to see/do here in GE include visiting theme park of ´Movie Park Germany´ (which is fantastic fun, yet on the more expensive side. During Halloween the park stays open until 10pm, and they hire people to wear sick-looking, yet highly realistic makeup, and to run around wild with buzzing chainsaws and give the visitors the fright of their life - see photo), the zoo of ZOOM Erlebniswelt (which I have still to visit, maybe when my budget allows), and also, the Kunstmuseum in Buer, which has a really cool section of ´Kinetic Art´where you can touch the works and interact with them, like clap your hands and they do something like make funny sounds or create light effects (It´s also free of charge). Check it out:

Gelsenkirchen today hosts Germany´s largest solar power plant, and simultaneously, Germany´s tallest chimneys. Several times a week I hear alarms going off, either the ambulance, the police, someone´s car, or the fire brigade. And, since I´ve been living here, I´ve seen the damaged windows of attempted burglaries at least twice. In the same street.

Along with a high rate of unemployment and the fact that half of the city seems to be under construction, one would think that it is not exactly the ideal place to live. So I refer to the above quote. Nevertheless, the city sticks to me like the smell of raw garlic, and admittedly I a fondness has taken root in my heart for this place.

I love how, whilst I´m waiting for the tram in Buer after a long day, the light of the setting sun bathes everything in a soft golden light, and the metal cut-out of a man standing holding an umbrella on the opposite building looks a little warmer. I enjoy shopping for groceries at Netto or the SuperBiomarkt, where everything is still in German - but now, most things I can understand, and the young man at the cashier smiles at me, because now I am a familiar customer to him.

It´s exhilarating too, whenever I feel heavy or down, or simply like I have too much on my mind, to be able to walk for several minutes and then to be in a park, surrounded by foliage and tall, dark tree trunks. I enjoy treading along the path which is lost under the reddish-orange leaves (that have long fallen off the trees), they crackle like a fire burning under my footsteps.
If you, too, walked along this path, you would eventually arrive near a wide green lake, complete with ducks and swams swimming on its surface. And on this lake, you too could watch the coloured lights dance, as the sun sets in its reflection.

Short note:
Next week´s blog will be late.
Because.... I will be in POLAND.....


  1. It sounds as if you have really arrived in Gelsenkirchen now. Good to hear that you are getting along with the language and the shopkeeper recognizes you. It is similar with me here in Turkey although I still need my little dictionary when I go out for shopping.
    Ich freue mich schon auf den ersten Bogeintrag auf Deutsch! ;-)

  2. Thanks for your comment Katja! I mean, my German still is realllllyyy beginner, but at least I can get like 1/5th of what is going on when I make an effort :)
    Dankeschuon! Ich freue mich auch!