Jörg Riebartsch: Living among the Heiners

How we are going to attract qualified personnel to come to a city located in the geographical shadow of the Hessian metro­­polis of Frankfurt and in close distance to the Hessian state capital Wiesbaden as well as Mainz, the capital of the federal state of Rhineland-Palat­inate? Soft skills are what personnel managers call the supplementary profile of social competence which, besides the inevitable expertise and professional competence, should round off the overall picture of an applicant. Hence, a business location such as Darmstadt must also have these soft skills in order to be considered as a focal point of life for incoming employees. Even though the location marketing of the most various institutions in Darmstadt is not quite able to externally represent the advantages of the “City of Science”, Darmstadt is full of arts, culture and life and distinguishes itself as a place worth living with optimal transport connections and central location in Southern Hessen. The Frankfurt Airport can be reached even faster from Darmstadt than from some districts of Frankfurt. A dynamic main train station and motorways in all directions make Darmstadt easily and fast reachable.


Whether State Theatre or third league professional football, whether comedy or festivals: there are only a few cities with a population of 140.000 that are able to offer a wide range of cultural events such as the countless initiatives in Darmstadt, a city that even used to carry the label “City of Arts”. However, not only highly intellectual music perform­ances or skilfully set up museums of great educational value belong to the culture concept. It is hard to imagine for a lively city not providing the oppor­­tunity to get out of artificially lighted offices and undisturbedly enjoy nature. Darmstadt is able to offer an excellent quality of life by its large number of sports clubs and wooded environment. Individuals who prefer hillier landscapes will enjoy the cultural landscape of the nearby Odenwald mountain range, which is located right behind Darmstadt.


To offer something special is an old tra­­di­­tion in Darmstadt. In 1899, Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hessen and by Rhine, founded the Artists’ Colony. The intention was to contribute to the revival of the eco­­nomy in the Grand Duke’s coun­­try by cre­­ating a connection between arts and crafts around the Mathildenhöhe. Ernst Ludwig’s motto was: “My Hessen and its art shall blossom.” The Grand Duke called quite a few Art Nouveau artists to Darmstadt, including Joseph Maria Olbrich. They were to develop modern types of construction and housing which should likewise be true to the original style and trend-setting. These days, the actions of the Art Nouveau artists, integrated into the overall ensemble on the Mathilden­­höhe, can be very well emphasized.
The Mathildenhöhe with 180 metres above sea level is not only the highest point in Darmstadt, but it is also the foundation of an architectural landmark, namely the Wedding Tower. The brick tower, designed by Olbrich on behalf of the City of Darmstadt, was completed in 1908. The distinctive fea­­ture of this tower is the unique five-spired top, symbolising the five fingers of a hand. Therefore, it is also commonly known as the “Five-Finger-Tower”. And it was built to commemorate whose wedding? The one of the Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Prin­­cess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich.

The people of Darmstadt are not only pleased with their Art Nouveau centre, but within sight from there, also enjoy kick­­ing up their heels. Once a year, the Heiners, this is how the inhabitants of Darmstadt are called, celebrate their festival, the so-called Heinerfest. It is held in the middle of the summer and right in the middle of the city. The festival is so important to the Heiners that even the main road near the city centre is closed off to traffic and there is also a large area that is simply left vacant for the annual festival. This is defi­n­itely called love of one’s native country.


It is also a fact that even the football fans of the traditional club SV Darmstadt 98, briefly called “the Lilies”, reflect on their origins, since it can be often heard in the fan song from thousands of throats at the Böllenfalltor stadium: “We are the Heiners – no one will beat us.”

Because of the wide variety of the culture in breadth and depth, newcomers to Darmstadt, the “City of Science”, will find it easy to discover the lively offer of this buoyant city. One thing is for sure: it’s worth it – living among the Heiners.


Riebartsch_Darmstädter-Echo_ret_4cThe author grew up in the Rhine-Main area and Darmstadt. He studied politics, modern history and economics. He com­­pleted a traineeship at the Offenbacher Post newspaper and he was working as a freelancer for the Frankfurter Neue Presse. As of 1990, he served as managing editor of the Darmstädter Echo. Since 2005, Jörg Riebartsch has been chief editor and authorised representative of the ECHO newspaper in the Medienhaus Südhessen.