Bochum, Craft Shops and Mittens

On my recent adventures I passed through the Germany city of Bochum, located in the Ruhr region. Bochum isn’t your usual tourist destination, mostly because it has a reputation for being an incredibly ugly place. This is even more of a damning criticism when you consider that Bochum is located in the industrial heartland of Germany.

I have been to the nearby cities of Dortmund and Dusseldorf before, so I came to Bochum with rather low expectations. However, once you’ve escaped the immediate vicinity of the central train station, the city that awaits came as something of a surprise.

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During World War II, as this region was part of the centre for arms manufacture, both Bochum and many surrounding cities were nearly completely destroyed. A scant few buildings survived, including Mutter Wittig, now a restaurant, and Altes Brauhaus Rietkötter, which is awaiting re-opening for its new purpose in life.

However, if you look upwards, there’s some amusing features to these buildings, including a classic outhouse toilet that overhangs the street on the Altes Brauhaus Rietkötter. Both buildings look like they have had a rather unfortunate crash with their neighbours. This is because, when Bochum was rebuilt after its near-complete destruction, the city was rebuilt on grids and straight lines. The few remaining old buildings were rather inconveniently positioned for this, so they simply built straight into them.

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There’s a few pieces of sculpture around the city centre, including an eye-sore of rusty steel, which is called ‘Terminal’ and seems to be hated by locals and visitors alike. There’s a more interesting piece by Karl-Henning Seemann in the centre which tells the story of Bochum evolving from a tiny market town, its industrial boom and subsequent destruction and its current revival.

When the tram lines were moved underground, the centre of the city was left as a very open space which is incredibly freeing to wander around. It’s really refreshing to be somewhere where you aren’t jostling shoulders with a thousand other shoppers and sightseers and can amble along the grey streets at your own pace. It is probably the most peaceful city centre I have ever been to.

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If you’re wanting to eat out on the cheap or experience a bit of the student nightlife, the Bermudadreieck (Bermuda Triangle) is for you. Don’t worry, it’s not where ships and planes go to get irreversibly lost, but a hub for all the bars, pubs and restaurants. Bochum seems to have an incredible amount of Japanese and Mexican restaurants wherever you go and this part of town has a fantastic variety of cheap eats, as well as lots of people lounging outside smoking and drinking.

The local Germans will insist the train service is terribly unreliable, as occasionally trains are late or don’t turn up. I hope they never have to use the British rail system during weather conditions that include, mild winds, a hint of sun and a spot of a rain. The tram service is great for getting around, although a little pricey for single journeys and there are good rail connections with the rest of Germany too.

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If you can, try and escape from the centre. There are some beautiful forests and lakes only about a 10-15 minute train ride out of the centre and plenty more beautiful churches to see. While it’s not filled with beautiful, historical buildings, the centre really isn’t that ugly and I think poor Bochum’s reputation is a little undeserved.

However, it wouldn’t be a trip abroad without the obligatory visit to the local craft stores…

I didn’t have a huge amount of time for exploring but there are two well-stocked stores, both within about a fifteen minute walk of the central train station, Wolle Rödel and 2links-2rechts.

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Wolle Rödel is primarily a wool store, though they also carry some cute embroidery kits and things like purse clasps. There’s plenty of Rowan yarns and the other big brands and I do recommend going just to ogle the store displays. The store is very well lit and the wools are carefully arranged by colour so the displays look absolutely fantastic. There was no handspun or much luxury fibre yarn, so I managed to leave with my wallet intact, but if you’re looking for a good collection of needles or some funky fibres for scarves, this is a great place to come.

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2links-2rechts carries a wide range of very colourful fabrics, mostly cottons but some laminated ones and things ideal for dressmaking. They also have an extensive yarn and book collection and lots of cute knick-knacks like buttons and ribbons.

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I did buy some beautiful Lana Grossa KnitPro double pointed needles, thinking they’d be better for air travel than my metal ones. However, for some reason I was convinced I needed 4.5 mm, not 2.5 mm, which is what I’m actually using for the Herbacious Mitts pattern. If anyone has some recommendations for lace patterns to be worked on 4.5 mm double pointed needles, please let me know!

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While there’s always the thrill of starting a new project, I never really revel in casting on for knitting. I think it’s because the only cast on I can ever remember (knitted cast on) and I hate counting stitches. If you’re using double pointed needles and are struggling with stitches flying everywhere, I recommend laying the work flat, making sure everything is untwisted and then knitting the first row with the work leaning on a table. This makes your needles a lot less likely to drop out of your work as they aren’t entirely at the mercy of gravity.

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If you’re a left-handed, continental knitter who suffers with a complete inability to remember stitches or are wanting to learn some new ones, I can’t recommend Bill Souza’s Youtube videos enough. Here is his excellent tutorial for the Old Norwegian (aka Twisted German/Elastic Long Tail cast on) that the Herbacious Mitts pattern calls for. Bill Souza is my knitting saviour.

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Herbacious Mitts is a lovely free pattern from Simply Noteable. It’s very easy to follow, the mittens are a lot of fun to knit and look great. Unfortunately, the variegated merino I’ve used swallows the central pattern a little and has proved horribly splitty to knit with but I’m looking forward to getting started on the second mitten. Just a word of warning for left-handed knitters when you are knitting things like gloves in the round, in case you didn’t realise it, when you follow the pattern for the left-handed mitten, you will end up with the right-handed one. I’m sure that should have come as such a surprise to me.

If you get the chance to visit Bochum, it’s definitely worth devoting a few days to seeing and trying to time your visit with the multitude of crafts and music festivals they have there. I’d also really recommend taking a guided walking tour of the city, it’s amazing what you can miss otherwise.

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