Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Traveling: Zeche Zollverein, Essen

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. But the relationship is changing. Now we discover the beauty of old industrial structures that were originally build just for their function. One of the finest examples is "Zeche Zollverein" in Essen, Germany, now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

"Zeche Zollverein" is a forsaken coal mine and a huge industrial complex which has been transformed into a cultural & commercial center, attraction for tourists. One landmark is the winding tower ("Förderturm") of shaft 12, which is now regarded as a symbol of the whole Ruhr area (a collection of many industrial cities along the river Ruhr in north-west Germany). The boiler house of shaft 12 is also interesting. As the winding tower, this building was constructed in the style of "Bauhaus", an art form that thrived in Germany around 1920.

My favorite structure in this area is the coking plant ("Kokerei"). It is a large industrial complex which was used to transform coal in coke. You can see a long row of big ovens and lot of tubes that were used to transport the exhaust gases which were set free in the cooking & cleaning process of the coal.

It is amazing that the construction, which was originally built for banal purposes like transporting coal, coke, exhaust gases, water and energy, now looks like pieces of (modern) art. Was it done on purpose? Did the builders clandestinely put their pride into it? Did they deliberately shape the construction as modern art? Anyway now we can admire the aesthetics of the geometric structures.

The pleasure is greater now because parts of the industrial complex have been reconquered by nature. In some parts of the area fresh growing grass, weeds, flowers, bushes and trees add to the beauty of "Zeche Zollverein".  And at night the structures are illuminated with blue and red lights giving the buildings a new character.
You can further indulge by visiting the cafés & restaurants there. Their official website lists 5 places for eating & drinking. My girlfriend and I enjoyed a delicious dinner at the patio of "Casino Zollverein" an up market place for lunch, dinner & parties. The ambitious place fits well into the now artsy area. Bon appétit!

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