The German Autobahn, an immaculate treasure of concrete bends, curves, and straightaways cover 7,485 miles. The Autobahn is a car lover’s paradise built to support speeds on curves at around 93 mph – in other words, designed for speed. The idea of setting a reduced speed limit is ridiculous, the idea of shutting it down unthinkable.
However, what if life stood still on a main artery of the Autobahn and access for motorized vehicles was halted? What would the people do?
If you’re from the Ruhr region of central Germany, you’d celebrate your cultural uniqueness at Still-Life A40/B1. As part one of many of the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010 events, on Sunday, July 19, the incredible Still-Life A40/B1 event took place. Featuring the world’s longest table (20,000 to be exact) along the Autobahn over a 60-kilometer (37.2 miles) route with a table lane in one direction and a mobility lane in the other accessible by pedal or skate power – designed to promote greener living.
The Ruhr, in the heart of Europe, invited residents as well as international visitors, anyone belonging to a family, club, group, band, you name it, to showcase what they do best. Dance, sing, tell stories, and share experiences, all in line with the Still-Life A40/B1 motto, “The table is your stage”.
Think of the Logistics! The project owners of the larger of the 53 Ruhr region cities of Duisburg, Oberhausen, Muelheim an der Ruhr, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Bochum, and Dortmund began the daunting task of setting up the event which means shutting the Autobahn.
Shortly before midnight on Sunday, a portion of the near 50,000 helpers waited for trucks, forklifts, 20,000 tables and 40,000 benches to begin the setup procedure. As the Press accessorized in their bright orange safety vests got a sneak peak of the Autobahn shut-down/Still-Life A40/B1 setup, curious onlookers waited anxiously and in anticipation for the following day’s events. As the summer sun rose on Sunday and the tables and event necessities were finally completed, the onlookers clapped and cheered knowing the Still-Life A40/B1 event would be like no other.
The Day of was full of surprises. Wee into the early hours of Sunday morning, tables and benches were aligned, signage complete and the Ruhr region was ready for show time. More than 7,000 groups from many countries including the USA, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland were on hand, along with their German counterparts to tell share with the world their own unique stories, music, dance, and more.
The 3 million visitors including 1 million cyclists were treated to a mega amount of groups showcasing things such as speed dating, friends enjoying UNO card games, grandmothers explaining their family tree, and dancing clowns.
Twitter fans tweeted throughout the day as well as the offline Bloggers who used plain old-fashioned typewriters, pen and ink to share their experiences.
The day came to an end at 5 pm and the masterfully crafted Still-Life A40/B1 event, much like a family reunion (this one only with your favorite relatives) catching up on old times after long absences was over. Thousands of volunteers began clean-up and preparation for the A40/B1 Autobahn to return to normal with Monday morning traffic woes.
As visitors left Still-Life A40/B1 toward home by bus, car, bicycle or foot carrying their empty coolers and often sleepy children, many commented on the surreal calm feeling of an Autobahn with no cars. So, the next time your superhighway comes to a halt, stay calm, don’t stress and think about the day the autobahn stood still.