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 Visit to Duisburg, 2006 - My Diary 

Saturday 27th May. Leave Portsmouth at about 0700. Arrive Duisburg at 1730 after a fairly boring trip thru the dead-flat scenery of the Dunkerque region, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Have a look around the town which is mostly shut - I thought things might be a bit more lively on a Saturday evening. Within two hours of arriving, I am feeling very wet and quite downcast. Console myself with a portion of 'Pommes mit Mayo' which I usually consume in quantity when in Deutschland. The Imbiss is conveniently placed a couple of steps from our Hotel entrance.

Sunday 28th May. I am being hosted by Hannelore Richter and her husband Helmut who live in a leafy suburb on the other side of the River Rhein. Hannelore speaks good English but luckily Helmut speaks little. After a superb mid-day meal, we set off to visit the Landschaft Park. Since Helmut works in the steel industry, he is able to act as an effective guide to the 'exhibits', namely the remains of a Thyssen steel factory which was converted into a park while keeping many of the original buildings. Climbing Walls, Landschaft Park, Duisburg

Many of the former installations have been put to effective use. For example

  • A storage area which has been converted into a large climbing-wall area.
  • A gasometer which has been filled with water and used by the Sub Aqua club
  • Auditorium and galleries
  • Youth Hostel

Blast Furnace, Landschaft Park, Duisburg The adjacent photo shows an old blast furnace, the public being allowed to climb to the top. Underneath, the installations are still there for channeling the molten steel from the furnace, and for plugging it up again.

We then travel to the Inner Harbor adjacent to the Friedrich Ebert Bridge. I learn that the Rhein regular rises by about 5 meters above the prevailing level. Buildings adajcent to the bank have watertight doors, which makes me wonder even more why these type of doors are not more common in the flood-threatened areas of Britain.

The Ruhr Orange, visible from the bank of Inner Harbor, Duisburg From our standpoint, we get a clear view of the 'Ruhr Orange' which marks where the River Ruhr enters the Rhein (there are two harbors between where we were standing and the river). We get a different view of these watercourses whenever we return to Duisburg via the motorway. This turns south just before the Landschaft Park and 'flys' over the harbors (and the River Ruhr, if you can distinguish it from the articial watercourses)

In the evening, there is a Welcome Party laid on, again with superb food.

Monday 29th May. Set off for Insel Hombroich but as the heavens open, the decision is made to go to Köln instead. Follow Jurgen's advice and walk across the River to appreciate the Cathedral from there. Get caught in a downpour.

There are still cards for sale in Köln showing the scene in 1945 with the Railway Bridge (of identical design to the present one) collapsed into the river with the cathedral seemingly undamaged. I'll have to read up on this matter - a few years ago I heard a program which implied that the reason the Cathedral remained undamaged was because enemy pilots used it for navigation. In reality, the cathedral probably was severely damaged (it reminds me of a recent British radio program where a British Professor of History described the sheer indignation expressed by some people when she explained that St Paul's Cathedral in London was badly damaged during the war). And the towers of Köln Cathedral were actually only built in the 19th Century, and were strengthened to withstand a certain strength of earthquake, so this presumably stood them in good stead with respect to bomb explosions.

Building on the cathedral came to a halt in 1560 when only the basics had been built. Construction resumed only in 1842 with the addition of the towers and other substantial parts of the cathedral, mostly according to surviving medieval plans and drawings. Apparently, the completion of Germany's largest cathedral was celebrated as a national event in 1880, 632 years after construction had begun. For foutr years afterwards, it was the tallest structure in the World at 157 meters. .

Tuesday 30th May. Reception at the Rathaus, hosted by the Burgermeister, Doris Janicki, of the Greens.

Free afternoon, which I used to explore Essen, a quarter of an hour away by S-Bahn.

Evening - trip to the Altstadt area of Dusseldorf. Am impressed at the speed at which boats travel downstream, presumably greatly assisted by the flow. The evening is still cold, though quite dry. A group of us end up shivering by the bus at about 0945, waiting for the driver who does at least turn up punctually at 2200.

Wednesday 31th May.

Trip to Bad Munstereifel. As soon as we arrive, it starts to pour down.

In the afternoon, most of us decamp to the Radio Telescope at Effelsberg. This has a diameter of 100m and is set in a 'depression' in the hills (to avoid radiation from 'unwanted' sources). While we are there, it conveniently turns 90 degrees about a horizontal axis.

Although we are due to return to Bad Munstereifel to pick the rest of the group up, Jez the driver forgets to do this until we are quite far out of the way.

Information: The most famous historical figure born in Bad Munstereifel (apparently) was Dr Friedrich Joseph Haass, the "holy doctor of Moscow" (in the 19th century).

A bit of trivia: Bad Munstereifel is the home of the singer Heino.

Thursday 1st June.

Trip to Kleve (sometimes referred to as Cleves).

Some information on Kleve - near the Rhein and the Dutch border. Kleve was built in Dutch architectural style on three hills. With mineral springs in the vicinity, Kleve is frequented as a summer resort. In the centre of the city is the famous Schwanenburg, said to have been founded by Julius Caesar and associated with the “Knights of the Swan” legend, dramatized in Wagner's opera Lohengrin. The city became the seat of the counts of Kleve in the 11th century and was later the capital of the duchy of Kleve, created in 1417. Anne, the daughter of Duke John, became the fourth wife of the English king Henry VIII. In 1614 the duchy, which embraced land on both sides of the Rhein, came into the possession of Brandenburg. Population (1989 estimate) 44,400.

The weather is now colder than ever with the usual downpours. Proceed up to the Schwanenburg (Swan Castle) but whatever it was we went up there for, it turns out to be shut and we have to wait, in these miserable weather. It turns out that all we came up there for was to pick up a town plan. Walk around for a bit for a few minutes, look around the site of a synagogue which was razed to the ground on Kristallnacht. Get back on the bus in the warm to wait for out trip to a nearby windmill.

As soon as we arrived at the windmill in Donsbrügen, it began to pour down, but obviously could at least find shelter. Trip worthwhile anyway - resolve to swot up on my aerodynamics when I get home. Being a mathematician, it depresses me a bit to realise that there are ancient technologies like this that I still don't fully understand. I felt the same way in Köln when I was contemplating the stresses in the pillars of the Cathedral and how they managed to build so tall a building.

Return to Kleve, but soon, miracle of miracles, the warm glow of sunshine makes an appearance. Treat myself to a portion of 'Pommes mit Mayo' - two Germans next to me start discussing at length the merits of a local brothel with each other.

Visit to Schloss Moyland. Weather by now is vastly improved. The Schloss contains a large exhibition of works by Joseph Beuys.

Some information on Beuys, Joseph (1921-1986), German artist, teacher, and political activist. He was born in Krefeld on May 12, 1921. In 1940 he became a bomber pilot. In the winter of 1943 his plane crashed in the Crimea, where Tatars saved his life by wrapping his body in fat and felt, materials which would reappear in his art. After further bombing missions he was a prisoner of war in Britain from 1945 to 1946. Beuys studied painting and sculpture at the Staatliche Kunstakademie (state academy of art) in Düsseldorf from 1947 to 1952. During the second half of the 1950s he worked as a farm labourer. In 1961 he returned to Düsseldorf to become a lecturer in sculpture. He was dismissed in 1972, after giving his support to radical students, but was reinstated six years later. His campaigns for direct democracy, the environment, and other causes involved, for example, using a stand at the Kassel Documenta art show in 1972 as an office, standing unsuccessfully for the Bundestag (parliament) in 1976, and planting numerous trees in Düsseldorf. His works range from “actions”, such as Coyote: I Like America and America Likes Me (1974), in which he lived with a coyote (and a felt blanket) in a New York gallery, through sculptures, such as The End of the 20th Century (1983)—21 pieces of basalt containing plugs of fat—to more conventional objects, including numerous drawings and watercolours. He died in Düsseldorf on January 23, 1986.

Back in Duisburg, I take my first trip on the tram which stops outside the hotel, for the short trip into the City Center. Inspectors get on and accost me because apparently you have to cancel your ticket before you get on. Get marched off the the Police Station in the Rathaus, where I have to pay a 40 Euro fine (for not cancelling my 1,40 Euro ticket).

Friday 2nd. June.

Free morning, so I visit the Zoo. Weather now much improved. The zoo is quite small, so I am not sure I agree with the whole morality of the place (I was brought up on visits to Chester Zoo - a much bigger establishment).

The Dolphinarium has dolphins that seem to have spent as much as 25 years in captivity.

Other general features

  • Koalas in Duisburg Zoo Koala enclosure (I like the description I have read of them as 'resembling a teddy bear in appearance, and a sloth in habits'.
  • Raccoons, which are not particularly unusual but worthy of note because they are now common animals in the wild in Central Europe, seemingly performing similar tricks to squirrels, like eating plastic tubing connecting gas tanks to caravans etc.. They are known as 'Waschbärs' in German because of their habit of washing their food.

ZDF Duisburg Zoo site

Sechs Seen / Six Lakes, Duisburg Evening is spent in a restaurant in the Sechs-Seen-Platte/Six Lakes Area, which is very pleasant, although with a few blips. Rowley manages to upset the schedule by ordering a Rumpsteak and then eating the Pork Steak presented to him while still under the impression it was actually Rumpsteak. One person never does receive her ordered meal.

Had passed a football stadium on the way here and Wolfgang confirms it was the home of MSV Duisburg. During my whole visit, it was never mentioned that MSV Duisburg were relegated from the First Division this season (a similar league placing to Portsmouth Football Club, almost). Although it should be said that Duisburg Women's Football Club is very succcessful,- they still play in the First Division

Note : Wolfgang told me that the club was originally called Meidericher Spielverein after the district of the same name and were re-named ion 1967. By consulting the above website, I have sine learnt that they are nicknamed the Zebras brecause of their striped jerseys and their official song is called the 'Zebratwist'. ("Wir sind Zebras weiß blau, unser Klub, der MSV"). Another site tells me that thereby they have the third most-recognised brand in German football. Thsy trace their origins back to 17th. September 1902

This is a link to the Wedau area which incorporates the Sechs Seen Platte and MSV Duisburg's ground.

Translation from German to English