I can definitely say with certainty that my time in the Ruhrgebiet has been a fun and enriching experience. To recap my mental state over the journey I’m making a list of 5 ‘Expected’s and the unexpected results in order to keep track of my thoughts going in and coming out of it.
- As someone who is quite used to thinking of transport as dead time and a method of getting ‘place-to-place,’ I may become impatient or frustrated if I feel that I am taking too long to ‘get somewhere’.
- The Unexpected: Generally when riding around, I was very focused on a number point locations I wanted to hit in a day, and my way was frequently riddled with ‘mistakes’ in which I turned down the wrong road and had to turn around or I was unsure of the fastest way to get across an unexpected obstacle like roadwork. I definitely did get mad a few times, but I also reminded myself that the route of industrial heritage was not only a series of places but rather a place in and of itself. Also, there was nobody waiting for me at the destination point to see if I showed up on time or not.
- Riding up hills on a bike are a necessary challenge but can be unpleasant.
- The Unexpected: It was unpleasant, definitely, but as a person who doesn’t frequently ride bikes I’d say the more important concern was safety when riding on more heavily trafficked roads, not just for me but also for parked cars. After a few days of bike riding my legs adjusted to riding for longer periods of time, but my coordination on the bike I’d say was still at level basic especially because I also didn’t know immediately what road or direction I should go. I definitely did a fair share of riding in areas that were primarily designated for cars; not because they were recommended by the official route but usually because I was going off route maybe to get directly to a train station or some other place. Also when approaching train stations, its quite common for the bike lanes to maybe be in between two car lanes as they are turning a bend, which is a pretty weird feeling. On other occasions, there is no bike lane on the sidewalk or the street, so bikes are expected just to ride on the right side of the road and it may be a fairly narrow gap. It seemed pretty crazy to me that someone should just ride next to the cars and not worry about getting hit (or hitting something else), but lots of people did it and I soon realized that just because they could doesn’t mean it would be easy for me to do it too. When the path was not clear, I pulled my bike onto the sidewalk and walked it, because once I almost ran into somebody else’s parked vehicle. Also another time, I missed my train at a smaller station, so I decided to bike to a larger station where trains came more frequently. After pulling up google map bike instructions and turning the audio on, I soon realized that it was only taking me the fastest route it could find to get there and I was now on a highway with lots of exit and on ramps (and no bike lane). It was absolutely insane and lots of cars were honking at me, but still on the other side there were at least 2 or 3 other people just biking along as if it was completely normal. In the end though, I’m glad that I got some good practice riding the bike and I think its helped me with my coordination and navigation skills.
- Visiting Siedlung or Settlements might be a little awkward.
- The Unexpected: Historically preserved worker’s colonies are often marked with triangles on the Route of Industrial Heritage, but far from out of use, many of these settlements are now privately owned. I figured it would feel weird to take pictures of people’s homes, but I hadn’t realized that actually its against German data protection laws to post pictures of the siedlung without owner permission since they were so widely publicized on the website. Its always better to double check I suppose, but actually I’m not sure anymore how I feel about the idea of visiting other people’s homes to try to imagine their historical backgrounds.
- The Ruhr Region is quite similar to Northern New Jersey.
- The Unexpected: Both areas have strong industrial pasts, are heavily urbanized, and have similar climates. Many of the same plant species can actually be found in both regions, despite being an ocean apart, and is especially true of colonizing species like grey birch. However, I also left with a strong impression of the rolling-field aesthetic, and beautiful meadows, which I think is a far less common image of nature in New Jersey compared to the mature-forested-wetland-trail. Of course the Ruhr also sports forested areas and New Jersey also has some nice meadows, but ratio wise I realized I was seeing a lot more fields and less forests than I expected. There is also a strong connection with farming and agricultural heritage, which is approached very differently in the sense that cows can be seen just ambling about in the grasses as opposed to stuck behind a red (and a little bit smelly) barn. I was actually pretty surprised the first time I saw the cows outside in a nature preserve, because I hadn’t been thinking about it that they were also wildlife and not just barn animals that we can milk.
- My favorite pictures would be of the landmarks of the Ruhrgebiet.
- The Unexpected: Nope; while I do like many of the pictures I now have of the artworks along the trail, most of the my favorite pictures are of the surrounding landscape rather than the landmarks themselves. Here are a few of them.