Mülheim an der Ruhr “There’s not much doing here, but I like it that way”

Jörg Juretzka
Jörg Juretzka | Photo (detail): © Harald Hoffmann

In terms of cultural offerings, Mülheim an der Ruhr is not exactly the pearl among the big cities of the Ruhr region. Nonetheless, the crime writer Jörg Juretzka has chosen to live there and in this interview shares with us his unsentimental view of his hometown.

Mr Juretzka, you were born in Mülheim an der Ruhr and work there. What makes this city liveable and lovable?

We have the most charming supermarket cashiers in Germany.

Really! And besides dropping into the supermarket, what should a visitor to the city absolutely not miss?

I’m tempted to say: the traffic routing, which would drive the Dalai Lama himself to bite out large chunks of his steering wheel jacket. But that would be cruel. So I’ll say: the pedestrian zone, preferably on a rainy December day. But that would also be cruel.

And what would be your recommendation – quite without cruelty?

Then I’d recommend a bike tour through the Ruhr Valley, up to Werden for an ice-cream at Kika’s, and from there to Lake Baldeney, and then back on the other side of the Ruhr. I do it often.

So for you the city is pleasantest outside the city?

Not necessarily, but prettier it is there at all events.

Where for you is Mülheim particularly authentic?

In the Eppinghofer Straße. There on a sunny afternoon you can see quite well what a varied little population we Mülheimers now are.

Would you tell us one of your favourite places in the town?

Broich Castle and the atmosphere of the courtyard. The annual Art Obscura festival is for me a “must”.

With the closing of the Rosenblumendelle colliery in 1966, Mülheim became the first mining-free big city in the Ruhr region. How has the city coped with the changes?

Well. Somehow. Everything changes and presumably always has, even if our perception would prefer to ignore it.

What then has perceptibly changed in recent decades?

Production centres have given way to administrative sites. Everything has become cleaner, but also a bit stiffer.

The main character of your crime novels is the maverick Mülheim private detective Kristof Kryszinski. You once called him a “Ruhr region archetype”. Why couldn’t Kryszinski have been born somewhere else?

He possesses this fatalistic humour and also the typical healthy Ruhr region aversion to every form of lamentation. The Berliner, for example, complains from morning to night. That sort of bellyaching our forefathers, who for the most part worked in very hard, dirty and dangerous occupations, would have never tolerated. If there was anything they didn’t need, it was someone who griped in his spare time. Then they used to say: “Hey, don’t you have a barber you can tell it to?” This is still our attitude today.

You have two professions: joiner or carpenter and writer. Is Mülheim a good place for compromises?

To have a second job away from writing is less a compromise than a balance and, yes, a necessity. It’s nice that in this respect everything has come together for me in Mülheim.

As everywhere else in the Ruhr region, the neighbouring cities aren’t far away. Mülheim is surrounded by Oberhausen, Essen and the conurbation of Düsseldorf and Duisburg. Is that comforting for you?

No, not a bit. I’d rather be surrounded by sea, mountains, jungle and desert. But what can you do.

With the 1,830 metres long Ruhr Valley Bridge, Mülheim has the longest steel bridge in Germany. What are for you the city’s most impressive structures?

For me there’s only one: the tram tunnel under the Ruhr, which cost a fortune and which most Mülheimers know only from hearsay.

Mülheim also has the world’s largest camera obscura. There you can see things upside down. What in Mülheim would you like to see stood on its head?

The upper levels of our municipal administration – we have several, with an astonishing number of posts.

Can you recommend a Mülheim culinary speciality?

The only thing that occurs to me is “Himmel un Äät”, mashed potatoes mixed with endive salad with a sour dressing, accompanied by blood sausage. Whether I can recommend it is another matter.

Do you miss anything in Mülheim?

No, not really. There’s not much doing here, but I like it that way.