I don't know if it is common elsewhere, but not in Portugal. Th local municipality owes some terrains outside town, that rents in very small fractions to agricultural... amusement. My sister-in-law had one, and her husband's pleasure showing each growing been or carrot was remarkable.
The small properties are prepared ( by the renters) for a day out, with a barbecue with friends or an afternoon laying in the lawn.
A clever way to fill the free time!
I happened to be in Dortmund on a day when demonstrations were being held in cities all over the world to protest the power of the banks and financial markets over peoples and governments.
Despite high levels of poverty and unemployment, Dortmund is not (yet) particularly known as a hotbed of protest, nor is Dortmund much of a banking center. Nonetheless, local groups did manage to organize a small march in support of the larger protests in other parts of the world.
The banner in my first photo reads: “THE PEOPLE betrayed by the economy, sold by our politicians”.
Second photo: The small protest march in Dortmund.
Third photo: The slogan on this bed sheet is in English and reads: “Recycle conscience”.
Fourth photo: This sign reads “Großbanken vergesellschaften!“ which means "Socialize the big banks!“
Next: Poverty in Dortmund
During Christmas market season, visitors to Dortmund will be greeted by Santa Claus. This tall figure (hard to estimate from my photos but 3 m at least) is standing on top of the stairs opposite the central station, on the way into the city centre. The sign in his hand announces the Christmas market.
The steeple in the background, by the way, belongs to the church of St Petri. Walk towards the steeple and then keep left for the shopping streets and the Christmas market. The pedestrian zone of Westenhellweg runs just behind the church.
In Dortmund it's all about soccer. Borussia Dortmund, or BVB 09, is one of the top team in the Bundesliga. In the past season of 2011/12 they won both the championship and the DFB cup, a rare double. About everyone in town, it seems, is raving about them. Fan scarves are worn not only at the time of matches but as everyday winter wear. The club's colours, yellow and black, are omnipresent. Soccer souvenirs are on sale at almost every street corner. They even have Santa hats in yellow and black (and a few in blue and white for the occasional Schalke 04 or VfL Bochum supporter who might venture over).
At the Western end of the pedestrian zone of Westerhellweg there is a large BVB fan shop which sells a wide assortment of the weirdest fan articles. BVB garden gnomes... piggy banks that sing the fan song each time a coin is dropped into them... toasters that burn the BVB logo into your toast... rubber duckies in BVB jersey... and of course the usual stuff like t-shirts and socks, coffee mugs and keyrings. Photos 2, 3 and 4 have some snapshots of the shop windows. The shop is quite entertaining to look at even if you are no soccer fan!
And here is one song for the real hardcore fans: Die zwei vonne Südtribüne - "Boah ey Borussia" Enjoy!
... or so they claim! The Christmas tree in the middle of the market in Hansaplatz has the reputation of being a world record holder (which isn't really true - but in Dortmund no one cares). Of course this is not one single, naturally grown tree. It consists of a structure of metal scaffolding that carries lots and lots of little trees, 1,700 in total, which compose the shape. They are spruce trees from the Sauerland mountains.
The total altitude is 45 metres. It carries 20 giant candles, the angel on top and several larger decorations. It covers a ground of 14 x 14 metres and weighs 30 tons. I only saw it in bright sunshine; it must be even more impressive at night when it is illuminated with thousands and thousands of LED lights.
A close look at the decorations reveals that Dortmund's pride and joy is depicted on the tree: the double triumph of Borussia Dortmund at the end of the soccer season 2011/12 when they won both the German championship bowl and the DFB cup.
Dortmund's Christmas market is listed in the rankings as the largest in Germany, with more than 300 stalls. It extends from Hansaplatz over Marktplatz and the streets in between to Willy-Brandt-Platz and around the two adjacent churches. Its landmark is the huge Christmas tree in Hansaplatz (see separate tip). There are also a few stalls around the church of St Petri along Westerhellweg.
The market begins already on Thursday during the week before Eternity Sunday, one week earlier than most other Christmas markets and one week earlier than tradition and the churches require, which has caused some discussions. On Eternity Sunday itself it will be closed, though. It then stays open until December 23.
The most impressive cityscape is found around the churches of St Reinoldi and St Mary. The other squares and streets are more or less completely accompanied by modern post-war architecture, so it lacks a bit of atmosphere. The goods on offer were mostly what you find in every large market, I missed local specials. The percentage of food and drink stalls and of fun fair stuff like roundabouts seemed rather high to me.
A small section by the steeple of St Reinoldi is a "fairytale forest" with moving puppets and a strange "magical tree" telling Grimm's fairytales.
Conclusion: not a market one would cross oceans for, but fine for a visit if you are in the area anyway.
Every city needs a campaign about a certain animal figure which is designed and painted for sponsors and then invades the city in countless numbers. In Dortmund, it's the winged rhinoceros. I'm afraid I have not yet succeeded in figuring out its meaning for the city. Anyway, they are everywhere. This one here with its barrel boots was obviously sponsored by a wine shop.
The casual visitor to Dortmund will not perceive this city as a place of grinding poverty. Nonetheless, unemployment and poverty rates have been high ever since the decline of mining and heavy industry in this area in the second half of the twentieth century.
A recent study puts the poverty quota in Dortmund (those who are already living below the poverty line or are in acute danger of falling there) at 23.0 %, which is the second highest poverty quota in the country – higher even than in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, which is generally thought to be the poorhouse of Germany.
• The poverty quota in Frankfurt am Main is 13.8 %.
• The lowest in the country is in Munich with 10.7 %.
• The highest poverty quota is in the city of Leipzig with 26.4%.
While riding around Dortmund on my Metropolradruhr bicycle I unexpectedly came across one of the eight distribution points of the Dortmunder Tafel (Dortmund Table), a charitable organization that collects donations of usable food and other items that would otherwise be thrown away, and distributes them to the poor.
Second photo: A mural on the wall next to the distribution point of the Dortmunder Tafel. The text reads: “Alleviate poverty! Now. Not some other time.”
Next: French library bus
The unusual thing about this library bus is that all its books, CDs, CD-Roms and DVDs are in French, not German.
The bus belongs to the French cultural institute Institut Français in Düsseldorf, but it makes regular visits to eleven cities in Nordrhein-Westfalen, including Dortmund, so interested people can borrow and return books and other media in French.
I don’t know of any other region in Germany where the Institut Français provides this sort of service.
(I took this photo in Dortmund near the City and State Library and the RWE Tower.)
Next: Mine head tower
Every year from the end of November until 23rd December you will find a popular Christmas market in the center of Dortmund. It features more than 300 stalls and of course there are Christmas lights everywhere.
One big attraction is the giant Christmas tree which is made of many normal sized trees. It's the biggest Christmas tree in Germany at least with 45 meters height.
Since smoking has been banned in restaurants in Germany it has become difficult for smokers. Being a non-smoker I don't actually care.
But the thing is that some small restaurants have declared themselves smoking clubs for members only. This one is located near the postoffice behind Dortmund railway station.
Borussia Dortmund is one of Germany's BIG football clubs and they have one of the best stadiums in Germany. I will try to get tickets for one of their matches next season and tell you more about it then...
This kind of lemonade can only be found in Germany. It's a coke mix with orange flavour. I first tasted it here in Dortmund.