Germans hold 60 km-long party on motorway

DORTMUND, Germany Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:41am BST

Thousands of bicyclists wait in Duisburg to ride on the 60 km (38 miles) long A40/B1 motorway between the western German cities of Dortmund and Duisburg, which has been turned into the ''Still-Leben A40/B1'' (Still-Life A40/B1) as part of an event for the European Capital of Culture RUHR 2010, July 18, 2010. REUTERS/Thomas Berns

Thousands of bicyclists wait in Duisburg to ride on the 60 km (38 miles) long A40/B1 motorway between the western German cities of Dortmund and Duisburg, which has been turned into the ''Still-Leben A40/B1'' (Still-Life A40/B1) as part of an event for the European Capital of Culture RUHR 2010, July 18, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Thomas Berns

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DORTMUND, Germany (Reuters) - About three million people turned a busy motorway into one of the biggest open-air festivals in Germany's history Sunday.

A 60 km (36 mile)-long section of the A40 Autobahn between the western German cities of Dortmund and Duisburg was closed to motorists and turned over to pedestrians, cyclists, skaters and picnickers.

The event called "Still Life" was part of celebrations for the Ruhr region Cultural Capital of Europe 2010. The area, once Germany's industrial heartland, is home to 5.3 million people.

Some 20,000 tables were set up on the motorway for what organisers called "the longest banquet in the world." They said three million people had taken part.

Television pictures from the air showed crowds milling around on a road where cars usually race along at speeds of 160 kph (100 mph) or more.

Hannelore Kraft, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia state, was among the revellers. She rode a bicycle and said the event should be repeated.

"This is fantastic," Kraft said. "I grew up right next to the A40 and still live close to it. It's great to see it now without cars but with so many people and so much cultural variety."

(Reporting by Petra Wischgoll; writing by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Andrew Roche)

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