Who was the judge? Are there pageants for coal mines? How does a coal mine look in a swimsuit?
These were the questions that kept on popping up in my mind as I was heading to Essen. Surely, beauty is not a quality that coal mines should be measured by, is it? It’s almost like measuring the sharpness of a pancake or electrical conductivity of a university research paper – both can be measured, but whether anyone cares is an altogether different story. In any case, even if the beauty of a coal mine is cultural construct and may change with time, I was still intrigued and as a fan of all things beautiful I wasn’t planning to miss out.
A quick aside: I have fully subscribed to the world of immediate gratification that our age of technology so readily offers us. When I found out that the iPhone had a pedometer which presented the number of steps and stairs in the Health app, I immediately started walking and taking stairs even when it wasn’t necessary. This new developed behaviour was one of the reasons why I decided to walk to the coal mine, even though it was further than 7 kilometers from the hotel that I was staying in Essen.
The hour and a half of walking through back alleys of suburban Essen was totally worth it. The site of the mine has been transformed into a cultural complex with museums, galleries and performance spaces. The sparsely-situated, abandoned brick monoliths of once-functioning mine buildings created a sense of the solemn air, bringing thoughts of the former significance of this region to the European powers. I reverted to my favourite memories of History 12, when we studied about the Ruhr area changing hands multiple times. It was slightly eerie to be amidst the spaces where labourious activity was once bustling, but certainly a very interesting and a different travelling experience.