Sep 28 - Zollverein Coal Mine ComplexSeptember 28, 2019 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C
Today began when we docked in Emmerich, Germany - the third country of this trip. The climb up the steep gangplank should have been a clue as to river conditions - the penny didn’t drop until later. Read on.
Three big buses headed off to see the town of Xanten and to visit the Roman Ruins. We boarded a small bus with 15 others and headed to the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, a large former industrial site in the city of Essen, Germany. It has been inscribed into the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since December 14, 2001, and is one of the anchor points of the European Route of Industrial Heritage. It is representative of the development of traditional heavy industries in Europe. The area is now a major arts and culture centre - a festival was being set up as we toured the area. Our guide for the trip was Thorsten whose name means “Son of Thor, the God of Thunder” in Norse Mythology.
The first coal mine on the premises was founded in 1847, and mining activities took place from 1851 until December 23, 1986. For decades, starting in the late 1950s, the two parts of the site, Zollverein Coal Mine and Zollverein Coking Plant (erected 1957−1961, closed on June 30, 1993), ranked among the largest of their kinds in Europe. Shaft 12, built in the New Objectivity style, was opened in 1932 and is considered an architectural and technical masterpiece, earning it a reputation as the "most beautiful coal mine in the world”.
Coal, after it is refined into coke, provides the carbon that transforms iron into steel which is used for so many applications - cars, appliances, food cans, roofing, siding, pools - the list is almost endless. As a steel worker for over 36 years, seeing a coal facility was a natural choice for me for today’s activity, and Doug loves all things mechanical so the choice was unanimous. We actually saw an ArcelorMittal site on the bus ride. Will try to figure out which one it was.
Jütte was our guide at the complex. We traced the route that a lump of coal would take - from being extracted underground (we went only a few steps below ground), to being carted via horse-drawn coal bins to the dumping house, to being sorted by size and finally being sent to the coking plant. The huge machines and iron tracks and conveyor belts made the place look as if the workers were simply on a lunch break. It’s impossible to imagine the conditions that the workers endured - the noise, the noxious fumes, the stone dust that they breathed in, the heat and the oppressive humidity. Getting the “black gold” out of the earth took an enormous toll on many lives and on the environment.
The plan was to drive to Duisburg and rendezvous with the ship. However, the steep gangplank we climbed in the morning was indicative of low water levels. As a result, the captain had to take extra time to carefully navigate the route to Duisburg and was going to be late in arriving. One of the other buses was needed for a tour on another cruise line, so in a bit of creativity, we got dropped in the Duisburg city centre with some free time to shop and explore and then to go to the ship - with 4 extra passengers who had been on the bus that was needed elsewhere. We got back to the ship about 2:45 p.m. and set sail for Koblenz at 3:00 p.m.
While in Duisburg, we did what the locals did - eat on the street. Since it was past lunch time, we started with roasted nuts, moved on to French Fries, then had chocolate croissants and pretzels. We could have washed it all down with a cold beer or a glass of wine, but we showed remarkable self-restraint. Not going to need much for dinner tonight! And to Doug’s delight, there were cars - lots of cars - on display by almost every car manufacturer imaginable. Still haven’t found my next car - but we have 5-7 years to do so. There were people dressed up as Avengers (not Emma Peel and John Steed) and people dancing to old time music. The whole town seemed to be enjoying the sunny fall weather.
I spent the afternoon trying to load pictures. Very little luck. At 6:00 p.m., Andreea gave us an overview of the next week and we made our daily activity choices. Tomorrow, we will be docked in Koblenz and have opted to do a 1.5 hour walking tour of the city. The wine tour bus (not our choice) filled up almost instantly. There are going to be a lot of very happy (and perhaps) sleepy people tomorrow afternoon!
Will try to upload pics when we are in port in Koblenz.Read more