Dortmund is a small town of about 600,000 people in the north west region of Germany, in the densely-populated, heavily-industrialised area of the country known as the 'Ruhrgebiet'. The 'Ruhrgebiet' or Ruhr District, takes its name from the Ruhr river which runs through it. Dortmund has been frequently perceived - along with most of the towns in this part of the country for the last half century or so - as a decaying, polluted industrial town. However, Dortmund has higher aspirations; namely to become one of the most popular cities in the world. But to achieve this, it first has to surpass the likes of Munich, Hamburg, Berlin, not to mention international cities like Paris or Chicago. This is a problem, because although Dortmund is a productive industrial town and a heavily-used transport hub, there doesn’t seem to be a lot in Dortmund that you cannot find anywhere else.
What has Dortmund got?
Dortmund has a movie theatre, and even an opera house. There is Schoenau, a small part of town reminiscent of London's Greenwich Village. There is the so-called Westfalenhalle, where you can go to see all kinds of acts from circuses to music shows. Borussia Dortmund is the lovable local football club which went from being a European Cup winner in 1997, all the way down to the ignominy of fighting for existence in the German Bundesliga. There's also a baseball team - the Dortmund Blue Devils - who have everything it takes to be a great team, except, that is, a decent place to play.
Dortmund is famous for its beer, and there are several good places around in which to sample it. Limerick's - the Irish-style chain pub - has a bar here, and the Live Station is possibly the best disco in Dortmund. For heavier music there is also the 'Spirit', a club that is an absolute institution in Dortmund. The beer there is cheap and the DJ is hilarious.
What really makes Dortmund quite unique is its construction sites - there are hundreds of them. It seems that there is building going on everywhere in the city. Already a new library has been completed, a new concert hall is in the process of being built, and in the near future a train station is planned - a sort of huge UFO-shaped shopping mall. There's also going to be a subway that will eventually stretch from Schoenau to downtown Dortmund.
It's admirable that so much enthusiasm and so much effort is currently being put into making this ex-coal mining town into a major European metropolis. Even though it will probably never become as popular as, say, New York, its growth and its ambition makes this city worthy of note. The locals will be talking about this current explosion of activity for years to come.