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Irene's Adventures

Germany - Essen

GERMANY | Sunday, 21 June 2015 | Views [238]

I flew from Budapest Hungary to Düsseldorf, Germany on my return to London, UK. The cost of the flight was a mere $20 more than to fly back to London directly. My friend, Vivian, met me at the airport and took me to her home in Essen, about a 45 minute drive.

Essen is a city of about a half million people. Its main industries are steel and coal mining. However, since the decline of heavy industries most of the coal mines have shut down. The largest coal washing plant is now a museum. Vivian said her parents used to live in Essen, but grew concerned for their children's health because of the constant layer of coal dust in the air and moved away. Since the mines have been closing the air is much cleaner and Vivian moved back.

 coal dust

She had a lovely day planned for us at Grugapark. After watching me take hundreds of pictures of flowers while we were on the Camino, she knew I would love this Botanical Garden. It was founded in 1927 as an outdoor laboratory for scientists and as a public eduction centre for schools. The plants, shrubs and trees are arranged systematically according to their characteristics, such as the rose garden, the conifer collection, the Asia section and farmers garden. There are show gardens laid out in a fashion that reminds me of furniture stores being laid out to look like bedrooms and dining rooms. The park covers 47 hectares (116 acres). There are statues and waterfalls to make it even more interesting. And there is even a pond that welcomes swimmers.

 Grugapark  Grugapark  Grugapark  Grugapark

We entered a building with delicate plants and there was lovely music playing. How nice. As we were leaving the building we realized there was a man actually playing an organ and the live music was being transmitted into the greenhouse. Classy!


It also has a aviary with about 150 exotic birds. The enclosures are huge – 4000 square meters and 15 meters high. The birds can actually fly around in them. There are about 20-30 Fallow Deer which can be hand fed with the help of deer food vending machines. There is also a small animal petting zoo and pony yard. No park would be complete without a play area for kids. Ronald McDonald house is nearby.

 Vivian with Fallow Deer  Ronald McDonald house

There was some kind of a music festival going on in the park, as well. There were bands of young people playing classical instruments. There were even a few young fellows playing classical guitar. This was something I would NEVER see in Canada!

 music festival in Grugapark

The next day we went for a walk near her apartment to an area that was built for the coal miners. It is a beautiful area with lovely homes all covered in fuzzy looking greenery. Although it looks really nice, Vivian said the spiders that hide in that greenery is so bad you don't dare open your windows. Yikes!

 fuzzy houses  coal miners houses

Later we went to the Ruhr Museum. This is the coal washing plant turned museum. The entrance is located 24 meters up and is accessed by a 68 meter escalator that takes 90 seconds to ascend. There is an awesome staircase to take go to a lower level. It is lit up with neon lights that look like the staircase is molten steel.

 long escalator   staircase to look like molten steel

The machinery is still in place to explore with insights into coal mining. There were displays of miners gear as well as heavy equipment. Unfortunately most of the signs were in German.

Ruhr Museum   steel workers gear

I was expecting the museum to be all about the mining. I was wrong! Much of the museum was dedicated to depicting life in Essen. For example, much of the city sinks and shifts because it is located over mines. There was a dinner table leaning so badly that soup in the bowls was nearly spilling over on one side while the other side of the bowl was fine. There were pictures of houses, duplexes, with one half painted white and the other half painted black. There were walls and walls of photographs.

 Ruhr Museum    Ruhr Museum

Another part of the museum was dedicated to the ancient history of Germany dating back from prehistoric times, to Roman and Saxon times, to Charlemagne, to Guttenburg, to Chancellors. The displays were many and the artifacts plentiful.

 Guttenburg press  kitchen tile Chancellor helmet

Yet another part of the museum was purely interesting with no real theme. It had sheets of glass with various plants pressed between them, a coal miner's lungs (yuk), and a side view of a lightening strike in sand. So cool!!

  coal miners lungs plants in glass lightening strike in sand 

It was definitely a museum I would go back to. But next time allowing much more time.


Back at Vivian's there was a cabinet in her living room that was absolutely beautiful. The color of the wood and the dovetailing of the joints was amazing. It turns out my talented, former furniture making friend made it – by hand! The wood was from a lime tree, backed with oak to keep it from twisting, as lime has wont to do. All of the dovetailing was done with a chisel. She said it took her months to complete. It was in two stackable sections because it was simply too heavy to move otherwise. Her bedroom furniture was also hand made. Alas, she is no longer a furniture maker as she said her workmanship was just too cost prohibitive for most people to afford.

 Vivian and her cabinet

Vivian – I will be back for a visit! I had a fantastic time, if only for 2 days.


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