Beer And Art In Dortmund Westfalenpark

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Dortmund is the largest city in the Ruhrgebiet, Germany’s old industrial heartland. It’s an old city, old enough to have served as an imperial residence for Friedrich Barbarossa in the 12th century, but save a few old churches practically no old buildings are left standing.

Dortmund Westfalenpark

"House in Dortmund on a hike through the Dortmund Westfalenpark with a flag of the Borussia Dortmund football team"

For which WWII is to blame, of course, but it also does not help that for most of its life Dortmund was no more than a village, put on the map only through the arrival of coal and steel.

I think you will have a pretty good idea by now what Dortmund looks like. It is probably fair to say that not many visitors come here to be enraptured by its beauty. Florence or Venice it ain’t.

Dortmund’s claim to fame are quickly listed. There is the local football team, the Borussia, for ever yo-yo-ing between misery (they played in Division II for much of the 1970s), euphoria (winning the Champions League in 1997), misery (they were nearly declared bankrupt as recently as 2005) and euphoria again (winning the German championship in 2011).

Then there is the beer: Dortmund used to be the beer capital of Europe, the continent’s biggest producer of the stuff, and has given its name to a special type of brew called Dortmunder Export – although there is still some doubt whether the Dortmunder is really special enough to merit a denomination all of its own or if it is just another local variety of pale lager. (You may not have heard of it – or indeed, until today, of the town whose name it carries – but you have most probably drunk it.)

And finally, there is the Westfalenpark, with a surface area of 70 hectares one of the largest inner-city parks in Europe. It was constructed in 1959 for Germany’s National Gardening Show, the first time that a city in the Ruhrgebiet had been chosen to host this event.

Dortmund was flattered – and determined to think big: to mark this occasion, they took an older park, called the Kaiser Wilhelm Garden (the industrial town’s first “real” public garden), and knocked it together with overgrown allotments and a neighbouring brownfield site (an old industrial landfill).

The park’s 200 m high tower – equipped with a viewing platform on top (a lift will take you up for a small fee) – was, at the time, the tallest building in Germany.

"The Dortmund Westfalenpark Tower"

Over the years, the area was extended – two more National Gardening Shows were held here in 1969 and 1991 – and developed. There is a rose garden (the “third largest in the world”, the city’s press release claims) with 3800 varieties, none of them – predictably but still regrettably – ready to enchant us when we were there in late December. And much modern art, some of it of

showing the visitors the multi-culturality of the modern-day Ruhrgebiet …

"Modern art piece displayed in Dortmund Westfalenpark grounds"

… while other works are showing them the finger.

"Artworks displayed in the gardes of Dortmund's Westfalenpark"

The dramatic silhouette of a classic “dark satanic mill” (aka the, now defunct, Phoenix East steel works) ensures that you won’t forget what’s made Dortmund famous.

"The defunct Phoenix East steel mill seen from the Dortmund Westfalenpark in Germany"

While the local beer, too, has its own monument in the park (each tap representing one of the local breweries).

"Monument for breweries in Westfalenpark in Dortmund"

A small exhibit demonstrates early mining techniques. In the old days, horses were apparently used to pull up the coal baskets.

"Old horse drawn coal basket pullers dispalyed in the Westfalenpark in Dortmund"

And at the Buschmühle end of the park, near the southern entrance , there is an open air theatre with seats for more than 2000 people. There are music and theatre performances here on most weekends throughout the summer.

"Open-air theatre by the lake in the Westfalenpark in Dortmund"

Have we enticed you enough to visit the Dortmund Westfalenpark next time you visit Germany?

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