Duisburg expo nr.2 - January 2008
After our first visit to Duisburg and the Ruhrgebiet we felt we had only scratched the surface. Two weeks later we were back again, with a stronger team. But again the city won - there's simply too much to be seen!
The first (unexpected) location was the semi-deserted border crossing “Zollamt Elten Autobahn” connecting the Dutch highway A12 and the German nr.3. Since border controls were abolished with Schengen treaty these constructions stand unused and are slowly rotting away.

I had visited the other side of the highway a few years ago: the webpage is here.

Most of the administrative buildings stand empty. The bank was closed in 2004 (?) and the ATM wouldn’t take my card. I was looking for the exact border, but couldn’t find it. Later on Google maps I discovered it runs parallel to the highway, in the greenery between the two asphalt strips - totally inaccessible.
Then we met with the rest of the team at Raststätte Hünxe and we took off to Duisburg. according to plan we took a (too) short peek at the harbour region. Immediately we found two deserted, and partly crumbling, railway buildings.
In the distance I saw great heaps of coal, huge machinery and more weird roads - and that looked good. But we decided to go to the end of the harbour and the “Kraftwerk”, which was nice but clean and not so exciting. We should have stayed in the grimy parts. Since this was a bit disappointing we decided to simply follow the markers of the “Route der Industriekultur” and re-explore some of the places we had seen during expo nr.1. We saw a lot of new places we missed the previous time ...
Like this combination of nature and culture just above a big parking lot. There was a wire fence at the top of the embankment and through it you could see the factory trains driving by and maintenance crews shouting at each other. “You see that big wheel turning in the top of that tower? How I wish I could be up there …”
The crew for this expo, from left to right: Arjan (who took all his pictures with his phone), Tijmen (in his second-hand car he brought from Groningen a few days ago), Kaspar (with his new Canon camera), Ruben (with 20kg of high-grade photo gear) and Paix (who had brought a few nice stickers, and who paid for my coffee).
From here it was just a short hop to another big parking place from where we could infiltrate the “do not enter” zone. Next time we may go deeper, but this time we just enjoyed the trains and the switchmen who drove them by radio-control.
And we couldn’t avoid bringing the newcomers to “the tunnel”. This is one of the weirdest and most computer-game like places I know. Strange shapes combine with strange lighting and thick layers of dust. The atmosphere is enhanced further by the infrasonic rumbles made by the heavy trucks above our heads. A nice place to leave an innocent tag in the dust. It will be gone very soon ...
Then just another short stretch towards the “Aussichtspunkt” : a reseeded slag-heap along the Rhine. I love the half-flooded willows along riverbanks. Here in Rotterdam we have them too. Then … we saw a spooky apparition in the distance and the group split in two. Tijmen, Arjan and Kaspar went towards the “vampire castle” along the water and Ruben, Paix and me climbed to the top of the hill. We couldn’t do both - Ruben had to leave at 17:00.
Later Tijmen reported that the “castle” was inaccessible and that it was built on top of a huge, dark and water-filled bunker.
Meanwhile the other part of the team ascended the hill and enjoyed a spectacular view of the heavy industry. We admired the periodic steam clouds and slowly deduced that we must be looking at a cokes processing plant, where trains filled with hot slag are cooled by showers of water. “It works like clockwork. If you sit here for a few hours you will be able to predict every flame, smoke cloud, siren and bell.”
At the top of the hill I found an amazing field of “datura stramonium” one of the components of witches’ ointment. Eating three seeds might kill a grown man. The plant is relatively rare in Rotterdam so I tried to pluck a few seedpods, but the spikes were much too sharp for my woollen gloves.

And from the top we had a magnificient view over even more heavy industry ... we hadn't even seen one tenth of it all.

Here we had to split up because Ruben had to go to one of his three jobs.
Kaspar and I accompanied Paix looking for some nice spots to place a sticker.

We didn’t want to put a sticker *inside* a UE location, because that's against the rules. So we searched for neutral spots - like this lamppost - where the sticker would get a nice background. I think it enhances the atmosphere.

From here we went to the “Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord” and we were quite surprised to find it open and accessible at night. There were a lot of photographers and tripods around, and one very irritating group of giggling teenage girls, but we had lots of fun ascending the blast furnaces in the dark and taking long time exposure shots.
I will not go into detail how we couldn’t find our way out of the city, how we couldn’t find any place to eat, how I got very irritated and had to settle for a McDonalds and how it was full of a busload of teenagers. Again - a very successful expo!
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© Petr Kazil

January 2008