Zollverein Essen, World Heritage site

An industrial monument in Germany

zollverein essenMy father was a passionate metal workman, which explains a lot of my own interest in industry and technique. Occasionally I was even allowed to accompany him to the factory where he worked and I could see the machines in their full splendor.

I didn’t take up a technical profession but became an artist instead. But still I get very excited when I see machines, this time from a visual perspective, because they are great to photograph.

The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex is on the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites and apart from being a beautiful industrial monument it is also a cultural hotspot.

paEssenMy father was forced to work in Germany during the war. It was called the “Arbeitseinsatz“. He never wanted to tell me stories about those days.
After he passed away I found this photograph, taken in 1942 or 1943, with text on the back, indicating that he was in a camp only 4 miles from Zollverein Essen.
To me it’s really strange to discover more about that time of his life now that he is dead, then ever before. Only a few months ago I heard what he told a friend of mine:
“I couldn’t sabotage those people. It hurt me so much to break something that was well made. I just loved seeing machinery function the way it should”.
I tried to gather more information about that period on the Internet and now I can understand he didn’t want to talk about it. The few stories I found were awful to read. But I also remember the one thing my father did tell me: “I didn’t like that period, but I learned my craftsmanship then and there”.
My father is on the left side

Atmosphere varying from season to season

zollverein essen

My husband and I have visited Zollverein several times, in all the different seasons. Interesting, even being an industrial area, one still gets a feel for the different times of year. The light is diverse, the growth – little as it is – is varied and the whole atmosphere is distinct in another time of year.

As you might know from some other articles I wrote, I like it most if I can combine cultural activities with hiking and nature activities. I can assure you: hiking is one thing you can do at Zollverein. The plant is big and it takes you at least 1,5 hours if you walk all around.

zollverein in autumn

Do you like factories?
Or do you think they are a visual pollution?

Find your way

Several activities, varying from sports to art and culture

waiting for restoration
There are still many buildings that need to be restored

The area of Essen has been “European Capital of Culture” in 2010.
That doesn’t mean a place like Zollverein is finished. It’s an ongoing project of restoring and refurbishing. But it’s done with great care.

Parts of the buildings are restored in their old grandeur and tour guides will show you around and tell about the history.
For me the highlight is the Red Dot Design Museum, situated in one of the old factories.

design museum
The Red Dot Design museum in one of the former factories

Some of the old buildings now are workshops for visual artists and dancers. There are small shops where people sell posters or utensils in small quantities.
And there are several cafes and a fancy restaurant, so you won’t have to be thirsty or hungry.

On the premises is a little shop where you can rent bikes. This way you can cover a bigger area to explore. In the neighborhood are for instance old factories that have been turned into hotels and museums about the history of the region.

In short: I can really recommend a visit, there is a lot to see over there.

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