15 August 2010

My home from the air

We went flying today, now that Stuart has his license current again. This is first time I have seen the Ruhrgebiet from the air. It's hard to describe how I felt, privileged and awed, surprised at the shape this conurbation takes from the air. Travelling around it on the ground, despite the frequent fields and parks, the Ruhrgebiet feels like a big city, Bottrop joined to Oberhausen which is inseparable from Essen, which is invisibly connected to Bochum, which slowly seeps into Dortmund and so on. From the air there really is no join at all, our navigation takes place along the grid of motorways and canals: the A2 to the North, the Rhine to the West, Ruhr to the South, and Dortmund airspace preventing us from going too far to the East. In between we discover a mass of surprises: The vast swathe cut by the Rhine-Herne canal which is mostly invisible from the road, a fat waterway filled with barges and edged by industrial sites, and the occasional marina;

Canal lock near Gelsenkirchen

I had no idea that they were still working mines, or related coal industry, and there they are, mine shaft elevators, smoking chimneys, black coal heaps. And right next to the filth vast fields are being shorn of their wheat, as if we weren't in the middle of an industrial belt. The local mountain scenery of slag heaps, those monuments to the local past consisting of steel making waste and toxic left overs of the coke industry are not as visible as I expected, as overwhelming as they are when driving along a road only to have a sudden hill rearing up off the plains. I guess landscape flattens out from this high angle. Those slag heaps that have been crowned by a post modern artifice like a wind turbine or Recklinghausen's horizon observatory stick out, the rest melt into the general park/forest/nature area, covered as they are in mature trees and other old vegetation.

Horizon observatory in Recklinghausen

 There were surprises like the extensive prison site right near the A42 motorway that no one has ever noticed before, or the strange industrial shapes of water towers, gas containers, coal trains and water clearance ponds. And bridges. There are many, across train lines, canals, rivers and roads, and many are architectural fancies with colourful lines and abstract swirls. Or naturalistic ones, like the dragon bridge in Recklinghausen.

Of course we spend some time house spotting, looking for my mum's house, my brother's. Our own is unfortunately directly below us as we approach finals on the airfield, therefore invisible. We missed many other places of interest, so there will be another flight soon.

And suddenly I am realising that this may, after all my professing that I am a European, a World nomad, that I don't belong to a place, after all that this may be my home. Although I am not sure yet.

The rest of the photos are here:

10 August 2010


Germany has the best fairs: big wheels, roller coasters, wall of death and boxing rings. Cranger Kirmes is my favourite, and it's on for ten days!