Dortmund is actually known as Westphalia’s “green metropolis”, because nearly half the municipal territory consists of waterways, woodland and green spaces with parks – such as Westfalenpark and Rombergpark. Must-sees. Otherwise, there is absolutely no reason why you might want to go to Dortmund – except maybe to see the World’s biggest Christmas tree, formed by stacking hundreds of trees into the shape of a pyramid.
To me, that sounds remarkably pointless, since you don’t make a taller person, simply by putting other people on top of their head. Funnily enough, in Catalonia, people-stacking is actually a sport in which Spaniards called Castellers form human castles by stacking people into various rude shapes and the occasional Gaudi replica. There is even a region in Germany called Castell! Perhaps that’s where the people of Dortmund got it from…
To be fair to Dortmund, it does offer beer. That, for many travellers, is a selling point. Unless you know that the soft pilsner, Dortmunder Union Export (Das Original), once the ambrosia of Germany’s largest brewery, was amalgamated with pale imposters to form Brinkoff’s Brewery. I mean Dortmunder is a name you can shout – and bring fear into the hearts and minds of peace-loving Germans. But Brinkoff’s? Please. Haven’t they heard of détente? The Cold War’s over – we went to the brink, and there was nothing there; just a few seedy Prussians playing chess.
Speaking of which, Dortmund is also home to the Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting – an elite chess tournament held every July. It happens to be one of the three “majors” on the chess tournament circuit along with Corus and Linares, in The Netherlands and Spain respectively.
When you win, you get a green jacket just like in golf. But dilettantes beware: Dortmund is an invite-only event, and only the strongest grandmasters are invited. Previous grandmasters include: Leonardo Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Claude Debussy and Jean Cocteau.
The tournament is usually played in a round-robin or double round-robin format. However, it took the form of a series of heads-up matches in 2002 and 2004. This means that you are not allowed to look at your pieces at all.
However, it was received more favourably than the first-touch matches of 2001 and 2003, whereby the piece you touch first is the piece you have to move for the rest of the game. Naturally, a computer won all four tournaments anyway.