Wednesday, June 22, 2016: Hamburg

6/22/16

Reflection of subway window

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Kai, Mark and I got out of the house with astonishingly little fuss by 8:30 (Kai is getting quite good at gauging the time correctly and being ready on time!), and were on the train to Hamburg by 9:23, and in Hamburg by 11:15 or so.  Always an amazingly fast trip, especially after all these longer rides we’ve had.  We got ourselves a 3-day “Hamburg Card” for free transportation and museum discounts at the train station, and then got ourselves out to our friends Andrea and Peter’s house, where we’ve been many times.  We had a lovely lunch at home and chatted on their balcony, since summer has finally come and it was actually warm! Then we left to go downtown. The other four went to an exhibit on Japanese pop culture at the Hamburg Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, and walked around a bit in the area near the harbor–and I went to the neighborhood where the university is. I walked around a little bit, marveling at some of the changes around the subway station that I used to use on the way to famous, and then met up with my (now emeritus) professor from Hamburg with whom I’ve stayed in touch over the years–he was the one who got me into narrative theory and we immediately got to talking about the Amsterdam conference etc. We talked over coffee for 2 1/2 hours and it was great fun–academics, politics, traveling, family history, German history…–but also hard to tear myself away to catch up with the others again; I even missed the museum exhibit completely. They even got a little anxious because it took me so long–but eventually, they joined me in the subway back home and we were back at the apartment by about  7 pm. Andrea and I chatted about our lives while fixing dinner, with the guys talking video games, virtual reality, science fiction and philosophy on the balcony. Kai had a great time; he always knows that when he is around Peter, there is an adult who is totally copacetic, and that’s fun for both. And the conversation flows better when I’m not there, because that always makes Kai go into argumentative rather than just disputation mode, so it was fun to stay out of this conversation and let him and Peter (and Mark, a little) run with it.  After dinner, Andrea showed us some of her photos and her work in photoshop–fascinating partly because her way to create images really mostly in post-production is so different from Mark’s method. I like her plant photography best, I think. We wrapped up the day around 11–I was tired!

Thursday, June 23, 2016: Hamburg

6/23/16

Random Bunny (in cage)

6/23/16

Andrea in familiar photographer’s pose

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Resting during our Alster hike

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Laubfrosch (leaf frog) pretending to be leaf

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The old Elbtunnel (built 1907-1913)

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Hamburg’s Harbor with the soon-to-be-opened Elbphilharmonie (new philharmonic)

Hamburg / Hamburg / Germany - 6/23/16

L to R: Antje, Kai, Peter, Andrea, Karsten, and Finn Willi

This was the hottest day to date in Germany, with highs over 90 and very high humidity–we have clearly become temperature wimps and were very hot and sticky through part of the day. Thankfully, the walk Andrea and Peter had planned was through a very shady area–a hike from some of the ponds at the area where Hamburg’s river, the Alster, originates, along the banks of the Alster through beech forests and parks–all within the city limits, and within blocks of city streets. It was really lovely, Andrea and Mark both took lots of pictures, and we did start early enough that it wasn’t quite so hot yet. We had a brought a picnic lunch and then had iced coffee in a very expensive cafe at a park with a major lock/sluice gate of the river (Poppenbüttler Schleuse). But we did take the bus home from there–the way to the bus stop leading us, somewhat surreally, through a full-fledged mall after all that green space not five minutes earlier! But the upside was that there was air conditioning–and an Ecco store. I had been wanting to replace my rather run-down Ecco sandals for the past two weeks, and it took me 2 minutes to find the right pair. Very handy.  
Kai had stayed home and still wasn’t really in the mood to be sociable, so we all spent the remainder of the afternoon just napping/reading and trying to stay cool (no airconditioning in German homes, just in stores). We had a lovely pasta dinner and then took off around 7 for an evening out. We took the subway to the harbor and checked out an amazing place that I had never visited–the old “Elbtunnel” or tunnel under the river Elbe, which was built in 1907-1911 as a 450-meter tunnel between the two banks of the river, which IS, at that spot, the actual river harbor and North Sea access for the city (the oceans is quite a ways away). It has elevators for pedestrians and bicyclists, and normally also three car elevators that are currently being renovated, but the tunnel will be available again for limited car traffic (there is a ”real” freeway tunnel and a major bridge for the actual, heavy, traffic in the area). We walked down inside the huge cupola and looked down the tunnel (we didn’t have time to walk to the other side) and then took the elevator back up. The gigantic old machinery for the elevators and the tile work are really something to see–and I still cannot believe I never knew about this in forever r years of living in this city.  Afterwards, we walked along the pier and then turned north to meet an old friend and his son at the famous Hamburg Michel, Hamburg’s most famous church. Afterwards, we walked along the pier and then turned north to meet Andrea’s and my old friend Karsten and his son Finn Willy at the famous Hamburg Michel, Hamburg’s most famous church. (Karsten was not only part of Andrea’s and Ingrid’s and my high-school friend group, but my boyfriend through most of my high school and German college days, and we were actually married for about two years–but there are no bad feelings now and we have stayed in touch, off and on, over the years. We lived in Hamburg together in 1990-1991, and he ended up staying there, working as a programmer for various banks and software developers. We sat down, still in the sweltering heat, at a Bavarian pub (I had an alcohol-free concoction that I really liked–for the record because few beer-based drinks ever meet with my approval–it was half alcohol-free wheat beer and half Sprite) and talked for a few hours, telling funny stories on each other (Karsten is a master story teller and can be hilarious, but has also done some interesting things with art and music, so he’s really fun to talk to.  Of course we talked a lot about events that go 25+ years back and that Andrea, he, and I all remembered but that we had to fill the others in on–but even without the talk about our high-school days, the most intriguing thing was that Karsten these days strikingly resembles not HIS dad, but MY dad, another master story teller, both in physique and mannerisms.  When we were on our way back, around 11 pm, I said something about this to Andrea, and she blurted out “I wasn’t going to say anything if you didn’t bring it up–but yes, he so reminded me of your dad!”  It was still hot and sticky when we got home, but at last there was actually a big thunderstorm around 3 am that broke the heat and the humidity a bit.

Friday, June 24, 2016: Hamburg and Schoenboeken

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T.R.U.D.E at the Museum of Labor

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Heidelberg printing press at the Museum of Labor

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Schoenboeken’s famous Lindenallee with its cathedral of 150-year-old linden trees

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Deer at dusk from Judith’s balcony

We woke up to cloudy skies and then quite a bit of morning rain (although we did manage to have our breakfast on the covered balcony even while it was raining).  Kai wanted a bit of extra time at home, and we decided to go to another hands-on museum that was going to be especially fun for both Andrea and Mark: the Museum of Labor in Hamburg-Barmbek, which I’d never visited before. It’s on the grounds of a former rubber factory and features a bunch of interesting machinery, part of it in working order and staffed by volunteers that demonstrate and lecture certain processes.  The highlights were an enormous drilling head for a machine that drilled and constructed the last of the four modern two-lane “tubes” of the current tunnel under the river Elbe, fondly named “T.R.U.D.E” (Trudy, but also the acronym for “deep down below the Elbe” in German, “tief runter unter die Elbe”), and a whole floor about printing and typesetting with various machines, including a Monotype, a Linotype, and a Heidelberg printing press that we saw in use as they made posters, and as a volunteer, a retired printer, talked to us about his profession and a lot of stuff we already knew (both Andrea and Peter still learned to typeset and print when they were studying graphic design, and Mark has an enduring fascination with Linotype machines and loves all machines, anyway).  We also saw various other machinery and some exhibits having to do with the daily life of factory workers, including old punch clocks and lunch pails etc.  It was really interesting!

We got back home about 1 pm and then headed out again, now with sunshine and with Kai and luggage in tow.  We put the luggage in storage at the main station and continued on to the banks of the inner Alster lake, where the Alster river forms two connected lakes, the smaller “Binnenalster” and the large “Aussenalster.” We had sausages and fries at a fast-food place and sat in the sun on the terraced steps on the lakeshore, warching the tour boats and the birds waiting for handouts among the tourists.  Then we walked around the nearby botanical gardens for a bit and headed back to the train station, so that Kai could take one last look at a bookstore with a big manga collection.  Our train was on the tracks early, so we said goodbye to Andrea and Peter a bit before 4 pm, and actually got a seat in what ended up being a very crowded train. Visiting Hamburg is always fun, a way of coming home in many different ways–to the city where I attended university, to Andrea’s and Peter’s “Wahlheimat” (hometown of choice, rather than birth place), and to my pre-Hamburg past as well, because Andrea and I inevitably spend some of our time talking about our school days and our families. Andrea and Mark have limited ways of communicating–she understands English, but is shy about speaking it, and he doesn’t speak German–but the common fascinating with machines, tools, and especially cameras is always a base for them to talk.  And Kai is always happy to talk to Peter about Japan and anime, and they had some great conversations.

Our train trip took us, rather slowly and with a 15-minute delay, to nearby Neumuenster, 45 minutes from Hamburg, where my sister Judith came to meet us and my mom, who came to join us directly from Osnabrueck. It was another 20 minutes to the teeny village of Schoenboeken, where she and Michael live in a beautiful apartment in a house that is part of a little farmstead and overlooks a quiet meadow with four cows and occasional deer at dusk and dawn.  We sat on the balcony for a while, enjoying the quiet, had a lovely spinach soup for dinner and even went for a little walk between squalls of rain.  Judith also unpacked our early birthday present–a camera with exchangeable lenses–and she and Mark talked camera instructions for quite a while. We all took showers and baths and then went to our rustic and adventurous sleeping quarters–the apartment is not quite big enough for all six of us, and so they arranged for Mark, Kai and me to be in a cabin in the woods that belongs to the nearby zen center with which they are both affiliated (and which is the reason that they live here–Michael works there and Judith participates in zen meditation and volunteer work; both are ordained Zen Buddhist monks).  Mark and I shared one twin bed (rather than opting for bunk beds, but we would have had that option) in one room / section of the cabin, and Kai had another single bed.  The path to the cabin is a two-minute walk through the woods from Judith’s house, but in the rain it was a bit of a mud fest.  We were tired and slept well, despite the screech owl outside, but I think Kai had a bit of a harder time with the rustic environment.

Saturday, June 25, 2016: Schoenboeken

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The Baltic at Howacht, Schleswig-Holstein

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More views of the Baltic

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Michael and Imke at the pier (courtesy Judith)

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Antje’s hair fighting the sea breeze (courtesy Judith)

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Kai getting ready to get his feet wet (courtesy Judith)

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Dueling photographers, I

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Dueling photographers, II

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Walking on the dyke

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Mark on a rock (no effective camouflage)

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Walk in Schoenboeken after a squall

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Cornflowers near Judith’s

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More cornflowers

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Judith’s second photo safari of the day

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Michael getting exercise

We woke up to astonishingly cool and rainy weather, but made our way to “the main house” from our cabin about 8:30 for breakfast, since that was the time we’d agreed on–and after some consultation of the radar and weather forecast, decided to go ahead with our outdoor plans, i.e. going to the Baltic coast, less than an hour from here, since Michael insisted that there was a “hole” in the cloud cover only over that particular area in an otherwise rainy and stormy coastline. As it turned out, we really did end up driving out of the rain, after a slightly damp visit to a cute little town (Luetjeburg) on the way. By the time we were in the lovely little resort town of Howacht, in a little bay just a bit south of Kiel, the rain had ceased and we had quite a bit of sunshine as we walked on the beach–in fact, I managed to get a partial sunburn, as I noticed later in the day, since I was wearing a tank top with a cardigan! It was my first ocean day this year, and it’ll be the last until December, but absolutely lovely–not warm enough to swim or sit at the beach, but great for a walk both with our feet in the ocean and then, on the way back to the car, on top of the sandy cliffs that are typical of this region. As it got more cloudy again after a couple of hours of dry weather, we drove on to another visiting spot, a former estate called Panker, now turned into shows and a park area, but there was no coffee shop, so we stopped instead on the way back for the obligatory coffee and cake, and came home a little before 5.  Judith, Mark and I took advantage of another break in the various forms of rain and drizzle to take another walk around the village, and the two of them took tons of photos and talked photography while I simply enjoyed the lush green and the many summer flowers around us.  We had dinner at the apartment, and Imke, Michael and Judith watched a movie while Mark and I sat in the kitchen with our computers (and Kai with his in another room), so it was a quiet end to a nice if somewhat damp day! The second night in the cabin was just like the first, with the last squall of rain sounding very pleasant on the roof above us. I was very happy to be dry and warm and snuggled up with Mark. 🙂

Sunday, June 26, 2016: Schönböken

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Sand cliffs/dunes at the Baltic (near Daenisch-Niehof)

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Mother & daughter in love with the ocean

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Sailboats on the Baltic near Kiel

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More sailboats

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And more sailboats

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An admiral butterfly

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Boats in the Kiel Firth (from the east side)

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Judith’s house (leftmost) and an “outside” view of the Lindenallee

We woke up at 7:30 to much better weather–cool but stable weather with mostly sunshine. Judith texted us just after we had gotten dressed that coffee and tea were ready, so we all had an early start, and decided after breakfast to go back to the coast, because both my mom and I always run an ocean deficit.  Kai and Michael both stayed behind, and Judith drove us to a fabulous beach area called Dänisch Nienhof. Less than an hour from where she lived. We found a parking spot and walked down to a
a stretch of beach with lots of pebbles and rocks from which you can see the Kiel Firth to the east.  That was fun because we stayed on the other “bank” of it two years ago, and didn’t get to explore the western side, and also because with as much sun and wind as there were, there were many hundreds of sailboats in that direction–the famous Kiel Week with its regattas just ended today and we speculated that there were many extra sail boats around.  We walked further west along the beach, just enjoying yang the sunny day, and then walked back on top of the sandy cliffs, for a wonderful two-hour walk with plenty of photo ops. We then drove to Holtenau, a part of Kiel where Judith used to work, and where some of the locks that connect the firth to the Kiel canal are located. The quayside had several larger two-and three-master sailing ships (mostly for tours), a cute little lighthouse from 1895, and several outdoor cafes with view of the Firth. We had coffee and cake for lunch in one of them, and really had a wonderful time sitting and walking around in the sunshine.  We left at about 1:30 and then hung out at Judith’s for a bit longer. We talked over coffee, and Mark and I went for a short walk to explore an oak tree we could see from Judith’s that lost a major limb last night. Judith took us to a döner shop nearby for an early dinner around five (our first döner, basically a gyro, since we came, even though this is the fast food that has replaced wurst and hamburgers in Germany as a fast food–it was good but way too much food). She then drove us to Neumünster so we could catch our train back to Osnabrück, and thanks to the Eurocup soccer game (Germany-Slovakia), we had a fairly quiet train ride home to my mom’s, took a taxi home, and went to bed after putting a first load of laundry in the washer. Tomorrow is laundry, packing, and logistics day!

Monday, June 27, 2016: Osnabrueck

6/27/16

Botanical garden favorites 1: Araucaria (Chilean pine)

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Botanical garden favorites 2: Cotinus coggygria or Smoketree (in German: “wig bush”–Perueckenstrauch)

 

After a long evening (after midnight when all was said and done), we actually slept until after 8 am this morning–and when I came down to the kitchen, my mom had already put my last load of laundry in the dryer and started another one–very helpful.  We packed a bit after breakfast, but since it was sunny and bright outside, Mark and I took a break for a couple of hours and went for a last walk through the botanical garden nearby, before I returned to the laundry piles and he to the various downloads we still needed to work with. Then, Maya and Wolfgang, two friends of Imke’s whom I’ve known since forever (1972?) who’d been on a trip the whole time we were here came by to say hi and to look at our photos. They stayed for about an hour and we ended up talking a lot about the problem of what to do with one’s pre-digital photos–paper prints, negatives, and slides.  Imke’s impending move makes her think a lot about what she wants to keep, discard, etc.–but digitizing anything is not really on her radar, even though it it on ours, of course.  When Maya and Wolfgang left at about 1:00 pm, Imke, Mark and I went to a nearby restaurant, the Parkhotel at the edge of the woods that are a 10 minute’s walk from my mom’s, to have a festive last lunch. I had pickled herring with cream sauce and pan-fried potatoes (a Northern German staple and delicious), my mother had pasta with chanterelles, a wonderfully meaty mushroom that is currently in season, and Mark had a very flavorful saltimbocca. Kai had an especially lazy teenage day and didn’t want to come–he even declined the offer to come to the ALDI with Imke and me to buy some more German gifts (I.e. German chocolate and candy) to take back home. But we managed without him, while he on his end successfully postponed the packing until after dinner! We did the remainder of our packing and other logistics (putting photos on my mom’s computer, printing boarding passes) after a short nap and had our last Classic Abendbrot with my mom. (Kai broke the rules a little bit by having “Schokokussbroetchen,” which are an untranslatable and very sweet summer-at-the-swimming-pool snack that I introduced him to).  Not exactly an eventful day, but at least we got a little bit more in than just getting ready to leave.