On my book tours I often venture to places few others visit. There are book festivals in tiny provincial towns. Readings at bookshops in small rural villages. This week I spoke in a German town that many Germans are convinced doesn’t even exist.

Bielefeld (population 330,000) is a town in North Rhine-Westphalia. Or is it?

Since the 1990s, there has been a widespread internet campaign to convince Germans that this town doesn’t exist. It began as a light-hearted battle over computer codings between some fellows in Bielefeld and others elsewhere (who took a different view of the coding and decided to fight back.) Even though most of them know it exists (or do they?), Germans often respond to mention of Bielefeld with the words, “Bielefeld doesn’t exist."

This is because the town is rarely visited, doesn’t have a regional accent of its own, isn’t mentioned in the news very often, and had for a long time a railway station that looked boarded up. There are also few monuments or great buildings there, because…well, you can thank the USAAF and the RAF for that. (Bielefeld isn’t far from the Ruhr and was heavily bombed in World War II.)

The city council once released a statement titled “Bielefeld <em>does</em> exist,” but they released it on April Fools Day. So it looked as though the city council even was saying Bielefeld didn’t exist.

But I went there. And it does exist. In fact, it’s quite nice.

Read the rest of this post on my blog The Man of Twists and Turns.

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Comment by I. J. Parker on September 3, 2010 at 8:46am
Food for the soul?
Comment by cj forrest on September 3, 2010 at 8:44am
I think this is the best use of a church by turning it into a restaurant. What a great idea. I wonder if this could catch on in America. So long as there is not choir singing by the salad bar, I’m good with it. That is a beautiful waiting area.
Comment by I. J. Parker on September 3, 2010 at 6:05am
Ah! Quite elegant.
Comment by Matt Rees on September 3, 2010 at 2:46am
That's the church converted to a restaurant. The former altar. Now cool hangout spot.
Comment by I. J. Parker on September 3, 2010 at 12:59am
I have a faint memory of having been to or through Bielefeld. What is the picture of? Looks like a converted church.

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