Bochum: a metropolis on the rise
Mr. Goosen, your book “Radio Heimat” reads like a declaration of love for your hometown, Bochum. Still, the first person narrator, during a moment looking out over the city, thinks to himself: “Whoa! That is not a pretty sight!” If it’s not that, what is it?
According to objective criteria, the Allgäu is perhaps more beautiful, with the mountains and the green meadows. The beauty here definitely is in the eye of the beholder. In fact, you can only feel this subjective beauty if you have grown up here. Or, if you rank man-made beauty as highly as you do the beauty that nature just sort of throws together. The beauty of industrial architecture shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, but for many people it is a bit cooler than the warm beauty of nature itself.
You describe the people of the Ruhr region as very direct and not particularly polite. Should visitors beware?
Not at all! It is true that people have a slightly rougher tone here, and if you’re not able to react to a bit of uncouth banter, then you’ll struggle. But if you are open and accept an invitation to a beer, you’ll find out pretty quickly that we can be a very sweet folk. We’re even downright sentimental at times! Visitors are often surprised how nice it is here – and all the prejudices get turned on their heads.
So, what are the most common prejudices?
That there is simply no beauty to be found here – not even subjective beauty. That Bochum is still just a gray industrial city. OK, it’s not exactly colorful, but it is greener than most people think. Most people think chunks of coal are still flying all over the place here. But the industry that was so long the defining element of the Ruhr region has been gone for ages. The last colliery here closed in 1973. People are still very surprised to find out that now-famous industrial heritage sites have been built atop the detritus of the old industrial estates.
What are the absolute must-sees in Bochum?
Well, of course a VfL game!
…the legendary Bochum football team. What else?
Visitors here will always miss something. The cultural offering in Bochum, and the Ruhr region in general, is simply massive. It’s more or less equal to that of Berlin or Munich. Go to a typical old corner bar and get into a game of dice (knobeln) with the people up at the counter. Contact with people here is the only way to really experience the place.
Which building is the most exciting for you?
I always come back to it because it is the place where I experience the most excitement: the VfL Bochum stadium. OK, but in all seriousness, the Jahrhunderthalle. We don’t have a lot of world-class stuff in Bochum, but the Jahrhunderthalle would be one of the few things in that category. The beauty and the effect of the building can really only be felt when you are inside it. People come from all around the world to see it and are blown away.
The musical “Starlight Express” has been running for over 20 years in Bochum. Is that the most successful musical ever? Where do you experience your cultural highlights?
If I were feeling cheeky, I would say, “When I’m on stage.” But no! In addition to the shows at the theater, which has retained a high level of quality for decades now, there is a pretty active off-scene, in the S-Bahn arch on Rott St. or at the Prinz Regent Theater, which is located in an old colliery. These smaller stages and shows, with their extravagant performances, are what distinguish a metropolis on the rise.
Where do you get the best view over the city?
One of the best views of the city, and of the entire Ruhr region, is from the Tippelsberg mountain. It was a landfill at one stage, but they created a sort of artificial mountain out of it. From up there you get a pretty good idea of how close everything is here in the Ruhr. You can’t even see where one city stops and the other starts. And the walk up there is good for your health as well!
What culinary specialities would you recommend?
I have to stay with the clichés on that one. You can’t go through the Ruhr without eating a Currywurst (curried sausage). They may have been “invented” elsewhere, but they have been raised to a culinary art form here. In Bochum, the only Currywurst is from Dönninghaus, a famous bratwurst spot next to the Union Theater. Super sausage! And the sauce is a bit spicier than normal. And get it without French fries (chips). Just the sausage, or two of them, with a roll. And a local beer: Fiege.
Herbert Grönemeyer sang “Bochum”. His song sounds like the earth and work. How would your song about Bochum sound?
Grönemeyer’s Bochum is so good and so accurate that I would never even dare to think about trying to approach it. And the song just never gets old. We hear it before every game at the VfL stadium and sing along. It always hits the nail on the head, even if the work he is singing about is not as current as it was back in 1984, when the album came out. Even if nearly all of the blast furnaces are long gone, the whole region is still somehow defined by this work. We sort of grew up glorifying this type of work. It’s as if it’s in our genes and forms the foundation upon which everything stands. Grönemeyer said it all, really. You just can’t top it.
asked the questions. She works as a freelance journalist in Bonn.
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
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