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For over a century the German Ruhr area was dominated by the coal and steel industries. But today its 53 cities and more than five million inhabitants, see culture as its main resource. The Ruhr has transformed itself into the third largest urban area in Western Europe. And the EU has designated it the European Capital of Culture 2010, giving it the opportunity to stage 3000 cultural projects throughout the year.
[Katharina Langsch, Marketing Director, RUHR.2010 GmbH]:
"Most people from outside the Ruhr don't picture the area as particularly nice. Unfortunately that image isn't really up to date. Most people think the region is still muddy and covered with dust, that it's impossible to hang the laundry outside and that people sweat away here. But that isn't correct anymore."
The opening event of the Cultural Capital 2010 took place at the old coal mine of Zollverein in Essen - a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site. A tourist guide for the site, Christian Schröder sees the Ruhr as setting an example.
[Christian Schröder, Tourist Guide Zollverein Essen]:
"We have received visitors from Asia, South America, North America, from Africa, from the whole world. Basically the Ruhr area is an example of structural change - a challenge [...] have to deal with as well. In this sense we are just a pilot project."
[Ronnie, Visitor Zollverein Essen]:
"The explanations are quite good and very professional. It's interesting that all the equipment is still preserved here. It feels like being in a real mine."
Where centuries ago coal and steel was produced, the buildings are now restaurants, bars, art studios and locations for celebrating. Today the Ruhr area is home to 19 universities, 100 concert halls, 120 theatres and more than 200 museums and festivals. The motto of the Cultural Capital 2010 is "Change by culture - culture by change." And for these people in the Ruhr, celebrating their cultural heritage is an integral part of their lives.
NTD News, Essen, Germany