Dortmund – a walking tour

7/7/2009 – Tuesday – after five rounds, and having completed the first half of the double round robin Sparkassen tournament, the players have earned a rest day. For your roving correspondents the concept is unknown – we use the pause to take a look around the German industrial city of Dortmund. Join Michael von Keitz on a sightseeing tour through Dortmund.

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From 2nd to 12th July 2009 six of the world's strongest grandmasters are taking part in the annual Sparkassen Chess-Meeting – the 37th edition. Each player has to play two games against each other, one with white and one with black pieces. The winner of this tournament will be determined after ten rounds. Games start at 15:15 = 3:15 p.m. local time (CEST, = 17:15 Moscow, 14:15 p.m. London, 9:15 a.m. New York).

Dortmund – a walking tour

By Michael von Keitz

In historical documents from the late ninth century we find mention of a village called Throtmanni. After it was destroyed by a fire the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa) rebuilt it in 1152 and resided there for two years. It became an Imperial Free City in 1220, and a century later appeared in writing as "Dorpmunde". During the industrialization of Prussia, Dortmund became a major centre for coal and steel. In spite of this it has become known as a "green metropolis". Nearly half the municipal territory consists of waterways, woodland, agriculture and green spaces with spacious parks. The first annual Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting was held in 1928.

We begin our journey a short distance from the rear entrance to the Hauptbahnhof, where, near a post office, we are treated to a rare sight – wrestling hands.

Entering the Hauptbahnhof, we see the German government has issued a warning to consumers regarding simulated cheese, the production of which is decried as a “Cheese Swindle.”

Now leaving the Hauptbahnhof, we turn to bid a final farewell to the station which sees 45.63 million visitors per year. Though many of these are likely repeat offenders, the number is still quite impressive.

Turning to cross the street, we see an interesting building, which catches our eye. Though perhaps not the most spectacular piece of architecture we have ever seen, it captures the feel of some of the more modern buildings found throughout the city.

Despite ourselves, we seem to have gotten a little lost, so we turn to some locals for directions.

And, finally, we have managed to arrive at the playing site. After briefly searching for Carlsen and Co., we remember this is a rest day, and continue on our trek.

Could it be that the Blues Brothers are making an appearance at the Sparkassen Chess Meeting? Not this year, but perhaps the organizers can consider them for some pre-round entertainment during next year’s edition.

Erected on a staircase in front of the theatre, we come across a monument attesting to some unfortunate history. Namely, that a Jewish Synagoge once stood in the vicinity, but was destroyed in 1938 as a result of Nazi tyranny.

We take one glance back to take in the modern look of the Dortmund Theatre, which may belie its age. For those more interested in what the theatre has to offer, consider attending the premiere of a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Time Rice, due out this September.

Taking a short jaunt, we arrive at Friedensplatz, home to Dortmund’s Rathaus (City Hall), and the old Stadthaus (Town Hall). The Rathaus is fairly new; however, it does not exhibit the same smoothness attributable to some buildings we have passed along the way.

The Stadthaus elicits sensations of awe, with an agedness that suggests it has witnessed some of the best and worst times the city has known. Unfortunately, like many buildings in Germany, it is currently undergoing some restorations. With the spell broken, we move on.

At this point in our journey, we utilize a Fußgängerzone. For those unfamiliar with the concept, these zones, often found in European metropolitan areas, are essentially streets designed specifically for heavy pedestrian use – no cars are permitted.

Having exited the Fußgängerzone, we take a right, and head down Ostwall. Here we come across a monument erected to the memory of Heinrich Schüchtermann, a one-time watchmaker, who came to call Dortmund home and played a major role in its establishment.

Thankfully, a museum is right across the street, so our decision to venture this way has not been for naught. Here we have the Museum am Ostwall, or, at least, we did!? The museum closed on June 28th of this year, with the aim of reopening in May 2010, after a relocation.

With our plans for visiting a museum in this area dashed, we set off in the opposite direction, eventually arriving at the Dortmund Concert House. The building itself is classy, and has played host to some world-class performers, including the likes of Anne-Sophie Mutter.


Anne-Sophie Mutter plays Beethoven Violin Concerto in D

For those of you that have recovered from the spine-tingling performance of Anne-Sophie Mutter, look for this rhinoceros, one of many scattered throughout Dortmund. Like the bears in Berlin, or the moose in Toronto, he and his friends are distinguishable from one another by the paintings they bear. The one above, outside the Concert House, has Frantz Schubert on its leg

Having departed the Concert House, we have gone approximately two blocks, and come across another museum. Our luck seems to be improving steadily – this museum is open! Those of you interested in some of the art and cultural history of the city, step inside.

For those more interested in the true cultural history of the city, let’s take the U-Bahn to the Westphalian area of Dortmund, which hosts one of the better football clubs in the Bundesliga – BVB Borussia Dortmund.

Here we see the home of our favourite team, housed in Signal Iduna Park Stadium (formerly Westphalian Stadium). Despite having a deplorable season in their 2007-08 outing (an embarassing thirteenth-place finish in the Bundesliga), the team rebounded this season to finish sixth overall.

Of course, for those more interested in nature’s beauty, the area is surrounded by some excellent gardens.

Now we come to the final stop on our tour. After navigating the transit system, we head to the outskirts of the Greater Dortmund Area, in search of Wasserschloss Bodelschwingh, the only castle in the area. Unfortunately, a plaque informs us that the land is privately owned, and has been for well over 700 years.

We snap a quick photo of the castle itself, and begin our pilgrim’s journey home.

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Topics: Dortmund 2009
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