The Travel Episodes

My city: home (1)

Bochum: Steel Heartbeats

Bochum, I come from you. There aren’t many who can say that. Annika Engel­bert can. A story about culture, educa­tion and lots of love in the Ruhr, visua­li­zed by Ronald Krentz. 

When I tell stran­gers which city I’m from, chan­ces are that in 95%, they start to sing ‘Bochum, I come from you!’ (‘Bochum’ is a song by Herbert Gröne­meyer, a popu­lar German musi­cian). That can be great, or not. The song is from 1984 and not ever­yone necessa­rily remem­bers the melody. 

‘Deep down in the west, where dust masks the sun, it’s much much better than one might have known.’ Great! Not even 10 seconds into the song, and one is alre­ady told that Bochum’s repu­ta­tion is the pits. 

In fact, even if this usually entails a lot of sympa­thetic looks: there are people who come from Bochum, and there are even people who still live there. And even like living there. 

And I dare to claim: there is culture in Bochum! Just now they are buil­ding a new concert hall – in which case one could ask if we really need it. In state of a musi­cal emer­gency, all we’d have to do is take a left or a right on the A40 (Auto­bahn) and in 15 minu­tes either be in the concert hall in Dort­mund or in Essen. 

But hey, we want some­thing of our own!

Infe­rio­rity comple­xes of a big city which is sand­wi­ched between two even bigger cities. Bochum is the venue of the Ruhr­tri­en­nale, an inter­na­tio­nal art festi­val. Bochum also hosts various music festi­vals, which are so highly frequen­ted that the popu­la­tion density rivals that of Bangla­desh. And since 1999, ‘Bang Boom Bang’ is scree­ned every Friday in a movie thea­ter in Bochum, without having been cance­led once (nega­tive record of visi­tors: 1).
In terms of culture, those who are unfa­mi­liar with the place rather asso­ciate the city with ‘Star­light Express’. A musi­cal on roller-skates about the turbu­lent life of trains. Now, it’s dispu­ta­ble whether this can alre­ady (or still?) be cons­i­de­red culture, but could 15 million visi­tors in 27 years be wrong? Perhaps one or the other musi­cal tourist could be convin­ced to roll into the thea­ter. Just once. 

Into one of Germany’s most renow­ned spoken thea­ters, where you are so warmly welco­med that you never want to leave. It’s in this wonder­fully consis­tent archi­tec­ture of the 50s where they all get toge­ther in the evening: students, subscri­bers, honor clas­ses in German from all Bochum high schools, parents in dating mood. A friend from the Rhine­land once asked me if she should wear some­thing fancy to the thea­ter in Bochum. I would assume that since the wild direc­tor­ship of a certain Lean­der Hauß­mann, the audi­ence would probably be glad if someone wore clothes at all. Ever­yone may and should come. For a long time, there were company arran­ge­ments at the thea­ter: discoun­ted ticket fees for workers and employees of the big indus­tries such as Krupp and Opel. Today, students in Bochum get a thea­ter flat-rate of one (ONE!) Euro per semes­ter. Struc­tu­ral change, mirro­red: Opel shut down, Bochum’s biggest employer is now the univer­sity.
Anot­her inte­res­ting asso­cia­tion that Bochum arou­ses in people is ‘Bochum??? With the suicide uni?!’. Who ever it was who published this suicide statis­tics, it has certainly left a lasting impres­sion. So it is hypo­the­si­zed that people here jump to their death because the uni is sooo ugly. I find that exag­ge­ra­ted. It’s just a concrete beauty, a jung­led maze of ratt­ling paving tiles, with under­ground parking land­s­capes and an incredi­bly lovely view of the Ruhr Valley. As the uni is situa­ted on a hillside it lacks a clas­sic ground floor which makes orien­ta­tion in the mult­idi­men­sio­nal space extre­mely diffi­cult. In case you get lost: just ask. Ever­yone on campus helps at least three lost souls a day find their way. We like to help. 

Other than that, gender might offer a clue: an accu­mu­la­tion of men can be found in the eastern part of the uni (science and engi­nee­ring), of women in the western wing (huma­nities and medi­cine). Should anyone happen to venture into the respec­tively other part, you know what he/she is probably up to. 

Tinder was thus decla­red super­fluous and abolished at the Ruhr-University Bochum.

Instead, after – Atten­tion! – two deca­des of scent rese­arch, this ongo­ing courtship dance of young people has spaw­ned the world’s first uni perfume, ‘Know­ledge’. I am still stron­gly convin­ced that the buil­dings‘ signi­fi­cant asbes­tos and PCB pollu­tion is in no way rela­ted to certain rese­arch output…
In addi­tion to the thea­ter and the uni, the republic’s finest soccer stadium is the third archi­tec­tu­ral gem in Bochum, that’s for sure. Under­stan­d­a­bly, people who are not as well-versed in the petti­ness of the second divi­sion usually ask ‘Ahm, so the VfL Bochum ranks where in the stan­dings?’

Typi­cally, the fan then hems and haws, mumbling some­thing like ‘diffi­cult season’ and ‘lots of chea­ting’. But, right now, the igno­rant inqui­rer will get an enthu­si­astic

‘Front-runner, front-runner, hey, hey!’.

Problem: the club doesn’t have any money to buy play­ers. So, we either take the ones nobody else wants, or we hatch our own. Once they’re really good, we sell them so we can buy new jerseys for the remai­ning play­ers.

The evil capi­ta­lism of soccer prevents us from play­ing good soccer. Every two weeks, we drown our sorrows in the world’s best beer (Fiege, of course) and fervently sing in the East Curve 

‘Here, where the heart still counts,
not the big bucks!’


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  • Volker Engelbert on 15. November 2015

    Da ist in der Erzie­hung offen­sicht­lich vieles rich­tig gelau­fen, liebe Toch­ter! Seit Deiner Geburt habe ich keine Gele­gen­heit ausge­las­sen, Deine Geburts­stadt bei Dir gefühls­mä­ßig zu implan­tie­ren. Selbst der frühe Wegzug — Du warst nicht einmal drei Jahre alt — in das Vor-Sauerland hat nicht nach­hal­tig gescha­det. Du hast nach mehre­ren Statio­nen im In- und Ausland spät, aber nicht zu spät, den Weg an den Start­punkt zurück­ge­fun­den. Nur wer Bochum wirk­lich gerne hat, kann eine solche Hommage schreiben.Vielleicht finden Mecht­hild und ich auch noch­mal den Weg zurück an den Ort, der uns fast vier Jahr­zehnte geprägt hat. Wie sagt man bei uns: „Nichts ist unmöööch­lich!“

  • Zypresse on 15. November 2015

    Oh ja, Bochum ist völlig unter­schätzt. Ich habe gerne dort gelebt, auch studiert, viel erlebt, das Schau­spiel­haus genos­sen (noch unter Zadek und Peymann, was jetzt Rück­schlüsse auf mein Alter zulässt), erin­nere mich noch an eine sehr beein­dru­ckende Insze­nie­rung von Brechts Johanna, habe GC und Audi­max gehasst, im Unicen­ter einge­kauft und das Cinema zur Rocky Horror Picture Show besucht… im Lotten­tal entspannt, im Kemnader See geba­det und bin im Bermuda Drei­eck versumpft. Schön wars und eigent­lich sollte ich mal wieder zu Besuch kommen!

  • Ute Gerlach on 16. November 2015

    Herz­er­wär­mend und sehr tref­fend beschrie­ben. Habe mich in vielem wieder­erkannt. Bin vor 13 Jahren der Liebe wegen nach Ostfries­land „ausge­wan­dert“. Aller­dings zieht es mich mehr­fach im Jahr für Kurz­trips immer wieder in meine Heimat zurück. Am schöns­ten ist für mich der Weih­nachts­markt. Bochum ist die schönste Stadt der Welt. 

    Glück auf!

  • Oliver on 16. November 2015

    Schöne Zeilen zu meiner alten Heimat! Ich bin nebenan in Herne gross worden, verbrachte aber den gröss­ten Teil meiner Frei­zeit im benach­bar­tem Bochum ;)