Hengelo, It’s Bearable



It is one of those Saturdays here in beautiful downtown Hengelo when you think, “lets have prosecco with lunch before we read the local paper”. Good thing I did. Apparently someone in Hengelo is the world champion air guitarist, to which I say, “bfd”.

Hengelo, described in an obscure little travel guide I once plucked from the shelves of the Book Trader on South Street in Philadelphia, “is a grim little industrial town in the northeast of the Netherlands.” It went on to admonish, as a tourist cop on the scene of some avoidable geographic tragedy might do, “keep on moving you travelers, there is nothing here to see.” We call it “home”.

Recently, our town has acquired some new artwork to grace the, let’s be generous and call it East-bloc-cold-war-era-style market square. Some lunatics among the powers that be decided that bears were a perfect symbol for Hengelo and we now have a number of enormous bronze cast bears that pass for “art” in Hengelo. Dear readers, I ask you: When I say “bears”, what springs to mind? I imagine that those of you in the USA might say, “Chicago”, or “UCLA”, or “Rocky Mountains”. The Europeans might reply with, “Mother Russia” or “Berlin” and you’d all be right. What you wouldn’t expect to hear is “Hengelo”. Hengelo and bears; where’s the connection?

The city escutcheon of Hengelo shows a beehive and a scythe; industry and farming, which were the economic basis for this fine town. One could argue a good case for the honeybee as representative of our fair burg, but bears? I think not. The irony and sad coincidence of placing large bronze bears on the market is quite lost on our esteemed city council.

Joe College and I were in town yesterday. We decided to have lunch out, but ixnayed the possibility of enjoying a sandwich in the shadow of the bears. Joe opined that the statues were so unsightly that they put him off his food. I had to agree.

Like many towns, Hengelo has a lively group of enthusiastic vandals and graffiti artists. They have destroyed and or tagged many a worthy city embellishment in the time I’ve lived here. I  cherish a fervent hope that the bears will merit their consideration in the near future.


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