Everything we read before we left Australia and nearly everything we heard once we arrived in Germany was disparaging about Bochum, the city that will host the Matildas’ game against Equatorial Guinea. Yesterday we were able to form our own opinions and they were very different.
Friday the wonderful – not – German summer deprived us of filming all of the overlay footage we had hoped for; that, and the fact that we had two great interviews with Kyah and Lydia, that held us up. Then we found ourselves fighting both the traffic and the rain so we adjourned for the day.
Yesterday we were up bright and early and set off ahead of schedule, but had to return home as Chris had forgotten his FIFA accreditation; and as we were attending the press conference it was an essential requirement.
We made much better time to Bochum than Friday, as despite the road works, the traffic was incredibly light being the weekend. We made our way to the Rathaus where we filmed some footage and then met Lydia’s mum, Diana.
From there we set off to try and find the stolpersteine, these are commemorative brass plaques about 12cm by 12 cm on the pavement that are placed outside of house where Jews from the city were last seen back in the time of the last War.
We struggled to locate any in the area we were so we asked the Polizei, who directed us in the direction of some. Once there we were still unable to locate the plaques and so Diana, entered a computer shop for assistance. Now normally those words end in total confusion, computer and help, but on this occasion it was as if we had been blessed.
Diana emerged with Thomas who not only was happy to show us where the stolpersteine were but also was a font of all knowledge when it came to Bochum. From initially agreeing to show us the stolpersteine he and his twin brother Thorsten spent the entire day with us.
First of all they gave us a history of the centre of Bochum, which we would probably have been totally unaware of, had we not met them. As it was a heavy industrial area the British and Americans bombed this city and this area heavily. They are still finding unexploded bombs in the area!The women and children were evacuated but the men remained, many losing their lives. When the streets were rebuilt, they were reconstructed with curves in them, so that there was no reminder of the Nazi’s linear designs.
There was a quote that Thomas made us aware of which translated roughly into “Tommy – what they called the British – fly over us and go to Berlin.” These people ending up as victims of people making decisions elsewhere and leaving them to bear the pain; a parallel could easily be drawn to the Aboriginal people.
Outside of one of Churches is a statue of an old lady, her back bent, as she supports herself on a walking stick, her other hand shielding her eyes as she peers ahead. She symbolizes the women who returned to Bochum to look for their sons, their husbands, their brothers or their fathers. It was amazing how such a simple figure could evoke so much emotion. It drove home to me just how futile war really is.
Thomas and his twin Thorsten were walking Wikipedia’s in stereo. Their knowledge was incredible.
Chris and I had to leave ‘the tour’ to go and film the press conference and the team’s visit to the ground. When we returned I went with Thomas to collect his wife Lorraine who joined us. She was a New Yorker, which meant we had in our group, to Germans, a South African, an English born Australian, and American born Australian, a Zimbabwe-born South African-raised Australian and an American-raised German!
The brothers then took us out to the old water tower and the site of the Jahrhunderthalle. This was the power plant for the steel or iron industry that was the heartbeat of the town. Closed now, it has been preserved as a public park, and the green of the grass and the trees, contrast with the rusting iron of the abandoned foundry. There is an impressive theatre in one of the old buildings and it has managed to link old and new with great style.
We then had to pick up our tickets for the game and although the guys were willing to continue our incredible tour, we had to call it a day, as Diana had a dinner planned and we had to drive back to Dusseldorf. How can we ever forget Thomas and Thorsten?
Once back at the apartment and after a short rest, Quie-ying and I went to dinner at Cha Cha a Thai restaurant. It was the first time we had sat and had a meal just the two of us since we have arrived in Germany, and was a really pleasant and relaxing time; that however soon changed.
On the way home we opted to have a nightcap at the bistro at the end of our street. The waitress remembered us from the other night and we chatted to her, and then to the two couples on the table next to us. They then invited us to go to a club with them. We decided we would.
They were on bicycles and we were on foot. Although Quie-ying was coaxed onto a bike whose pedals she could not reach. There she was, in between squeals weaving her way alongside the Rhine. Anyone that knows her will know that her and bicycles have never gone together, but they managed to stay as one on this occasion!
We ended up at Salon des amateurs and the DJ was none other than a gentleman called Toulouse Low Tracks! It was a great night having a dance and a laugh, although the two women next to us made me feel decidedly short. I am 1.78m they were in flat shoes and at least 1.92!
I should add that we did do some filming as we travelled today and have ended up with some great footage of Bochum as well as some wonderful memories of a town that everyone said was a terrible industrial town. Thanks to Thomas, Thortsen and Lorraine we will only ever have fond memories of Bochum, even fonder if the girls win today.