Some large city in a hilly region in North Rhine-Westphalia, Wuppertal is a constellation of smaller towns on the high banks of the Wupper River. In the early days of industrialisation the Wupper Valley was a hotbed of nascent industry in a landscape of textile mills and coal mines. The wealth that these businesses brought to towns like Elberfeld is unmistakeable. And this is its main characteristic!
Chronologically, my day looked like this:
I am not kidding here, this was the very first moment we spotted when entering the city (perhaps because the Kemma concentration camp was established here in Wuppertal, or maybe because Wuppertal was famous as an important place of resistance in Germany).
Nevertheless, it was a minor occur and total contrast with the rest of the day, for sure. So give it a chance! 🙂
So, let’s say this was a zero moment and we start from 1.
Louisenviertel. Also known as the Elberfelder Altstadt, the streets around the southwest end of Luisenstraße are maybe the most elegant in Wuppertal. They are fronted by 19th-century Neoclassical mansions, totally untouched from the World War ll bombing and witnessing the industrialisation reality. Meaning, the river Wupper used to be dirty and polluted, spreading typhus and cholera among the working class. So the bourgeoisie moved up the hills to stay away from the poverty building most beautiful facades that are having today boutiques, family run-shops, cafes and restaurants on their ground floors.
We had a great lunch at Katzengold. 🙂 and then spend some time on Laurentiusplatz, featuring the Neoclassical Street.
Laurentius Church, which was completed in 1835. The entire quarter is named for its patroness, Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who was Queen of Prussia at the start of the 19th century.
But nothing can prepare you for the world-famous Wuppertal Suspension Railway called Schwebebahn. Opened in 1901 by Kaiser Wilhelm ll, its trains zip through the city hanging from a steel frame like something from a steampunk comic.
The idea was never spread across the other cities as one needs ridiculous amount of steel to build this upside down railway. So the train remained in Wuppertal only and became its main attraction.
There’s no visiting Wuppertal without a ride on the city’s suspension railway, which remains a regular means of transport and a huge source of affection more than a century after it was built. Created by the engineer and entrepreneur Eugen Langen, it is the world’s oldest electric elevated railway with suspended carriages.
The line is ridden by over 80,000 people a day and has 20 stations, some of which are a joy, like the Art Nouveau Werther Brücke. It takes 35 minutes to ride from terminus to terminus, and it’s a journey worth making.
We hopped off at Adlerbrücke crossing the Friedrich-Engels Allee to reach the complex of a museum for the co-author of the Communist manifesto Friedrich Engels, who lived here, in one of the five houses the family possessed.
Although the Engels-Haus isn’t his birthplace – this was destroyed in the Second World War – Engels grew up here in the 1820s and the house has contained a museum for his life and work.
Although I do support the idea of the labour rights, a bit less of the class fight, I couldn’t ignore the pattern here. It is usually the wealthy rich young man who gets inspired by the ideas of the time. Just take a look at the silver spoon he used.
Inspired by the communist ideas, Engels, though continued family business (textile industry: ribbons, braids and laces). His father founded another business in Manchester and sent the son in one of the houses they possessed across the sea, as well.
Wuppertal, as mentioned, is considered the cradle of industrialisation in Germany. Engels was a witness to this early industrialisation. The transition from manual to factory production in the Wupper valley took place only gradually. Prosperity and wealth of the merchants and manufacturers shaped the Wupper valley as well as a housing shortage, badly paid wage, women and child labour, alcholism and dirt, impoverishment and overstrained urban poor relief. The economic dynamism attracted a lot of workers, so that around 1820, Wupper was among densely populated regions in Germany.
Engels family, of the Protestant religion, believed in Pietism – a reform movement of Protestantism, that emerged in 17th century, with the guiding principle of Profit under God’s blessing. In Pietism, economic success was regarded as visible proof of divine pleasure. Friedrich Engels didn’t believe in that. Or at least, as we have seen, he had ambivalent commitments: to family manufactured business and both the marxism. He was highly interested in Hegel philosophy.
In 1845, he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research in English cities like London, Manchester and Liverpool. Soon after that he travelled to Paris and met Karl Marx at Café de la Régence . The rest is a history.
Back to present. This blog tends to get lost too often in historical facts and conversations. 😛
It was decided to give the city an eight-meter-high monumental fountain based on the Trieste model. The Neumarkt was chosen as the location, where the construction of the new town hall was planned. In January 1900, the city fathers decided that the fountain should be placed near the main entrance on the Friedrichstrasse axis. Today, it is called Der Jubiläumsbrunnen auf dem Neumarkt.
You can sport the City Hall or the Rathaus just behind.
Oh, and not to forget the drive back through german Ruhr area. Historically industrial and hypocrite. Why? Because Germany leads in climate protection and is a pioneer in the development of renewable energies, asking the rest of the world (mostly pressuring the smaller countries through EU and COP) to stop the urbanisation, industrial production and charging for bad behaviour.