Thursday, September 4, 2008


The Bahnhof here in Essen is being renovated. A row of trailers has
been set up along the street east of the building and the shops
normally found on the level below the train tracks are doing business
like a bazaar in Cssablanca. A city needs no special excuse to
renovate its most public building, but Essen has a good one. In 2010
Essen will be the Cultural Capital of Europe.

You're probably familiar with the fact that in marketing, most
descriptive titles mean exactly the opposite of what one might expect. Why does the purveyor of a popular malt beverage in the US call the
drink "Real Genuine Authentic Draft Beer?" Because it isn't draft
beer. If it were, they wouldn't have to use all those adjectives. And
when you read the large orange letters on a bag of bread that say
"FRESH!" you know that the bread is certainly not fresh. In fact, we
could roughly translate the word "fresh" as it is used by American
marketers to mean "preserved."

It's a little that way with the "Cultural Capital" designation. Essen
isn't the cultural capital of Europe, and we all know it. I doubt
there could be agreement about what the actual cultural capital would
be, but Paris, London, Barcelona & Rome would probably all get more
votes than Essen. Never the less, the European Union in all their
wisdom saw that it would be good to bring some attention (and more
importantly, commerce) to Europe's second string. So each year a city
in Europe is selected as the "Cultural Capital" and in 2010, it's Essen.

Residents of Essen, and those of us who are only temporary residents,
but passionate supporters, know that some will question Essen's
selction. Reputations can be slow to die, and in many circles, Essen
is still thought of as a dingy industrial city without any redeeming
features. Those of us who know and appreciate the Ruhrgebiet invite
those doubters and snobs to take a flying leap at a rolling Berliner.
We are looking forward to what I'm sure will be a great celebration
and some well deserved attention for a real diamond in the rough.
Albeit, a diamond with a real ratty old Bahnhof.

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