The second week’s observations Part One

My second week has passed and I still observe everything closely like a foreigner. This is the first part of this week’s observations:

1. The students are rich

Because I find my housing situation desolate, I decided to look at the subtenant market. My case is tricky because I only need a furnished place for some months as I am planning to fully relocate next year. It is the same time that students are away when they go for their exchange winter semester. That’s great, I thought, and looked at three students’ apartments. I am seriously stunned at the size and prize of these apartments. When I was a student, we also paid a rent of 600 euros – for three people. Not for one person that lives on 60 square metres. How do they even afford it? I must suppose that Düsseldorf students are very rich. At least that’s what I thought when I was told, “You know, I don’t have rent out while I am in London, I just think it’s a nice gesture”. Of course.

2. Cycling is ridiculously dangerous

I mentioned the lethal lights before. As I expanded my radius by some kilometres, I only found more dangerous things about cycling in this city. For example the bike lanes that just stop in the middle of the street. Literally. I wanted to take photo evidence but I was too scared I would be run over in the process so you will just have to trust me. All bike lanes are completely randomly arranged, going on the car street, then to the sidewalk for 15 metres to then return to the car’s space to then end in the middle of everything. (Emily, you would be appalled.)


Meanwhile, cars preferably stop on the bike lanes to deliver goods or drop people off. I have never seen so many cars blocking the bikes lanes as in this city, it is truly amazing. And it shows the Green Party has not been in government long enough.

Still, I adhere stubbornly to my bike resolution and I keep telling myself if my ex-co-worker Sarah can get through all of Hamburg by bike, I should manage with a town considerably smaller. I may not be known for bravery but cycling in this city is a brave act.

3. There are churches everywhere and still, I have no orientation

There is an overwhelmingly lot of churches in this town. Churches by the river, churches sandwiched between two regular houses, churches flying lots of flags. Plus several centers for the young Christians. Wikipedia lists 95 Catholic churches alone and I was too lazy to count the dozens of Protestant and free churches. Even though I realize I am now in a very Catholic region (making me totally ordinary after years of my exotic niche existence in the Protestant diaspora), I sincerely wonder if people go to all these many churches. Personally, I am still baffled with the multitude of fanes so that I cannot even decide where to go on Sunday.

St. Andreas [photo Wikimedia]

Usually, churches have an orienting effect on me in cities. “Ah, that’s St. Nikolai, so I am close to the inner city”, I would think in Hamburg. “If I just proceed after Klara church, I’ll be at the Central Station soon”, was my orientation in very early Stockholm days. “I have no idea where I am but I know for sure I live behind the Cathedral”, always led me home at any time in Uppsala. In Düsseldorf now, it’s more like “This is the 12th church I have passed and I still don’t get how I got here”. Yes, orientation days are still continuing…

Tomorrow, I’ll get back to you with some more peculiarities concering the not-so-happy people, a shocking grocery revelation and a topographic adjustment.

Hamburg by bike

By the street, at the lake

By the street, at the lake

You never quite understand a city before you have cycled in it. You do not grasp the dimensions and you cannot see the connected streets from the metro. I still remember how I suddenly noticed the shortcuts in Stockholm when I imported my German bike.

So now I finally got a decent bike in Hamburg. Pernille is pretty but somewhat of a difficult partner in traffic, I had to learn. She is the short-distance-guest-bike now. As a Christmas gift, my parents bought me a used bike off ebay that is old but working very well (so far, do not praise the day before the evening as we say in German as a hatched-chicken-version).

The bike, so far nameless, and I took a tour to church on Sunday in bright daylight and lovely weather. Encouraged by that, I dared to cycle to work yesterday. First thing I did was take the wrong bridge and go a huge detour.

Hamburg is the biggest city I have ever biked in and I stared at the cyclists ignoring the red lights in amazement. Not that I have never crossed a street illegally, but usually that was when I felt I was in control of the traffic. In Hamburg, I’m more cautious for now.

Yesterday, I was wet to the bone when I arrived at home because Hamburg weather is, at least in January, not really bike weather. Still, my route is one of the nicer ones. On the way by the water, my brain quickly started matching streets, sights and places to Stockholm.

I go down the entire Norr Mälarstrand (An der Alster) and look at the large lake (Alster). Then I continue on Strandvägen (Ballindamm) and pass Hotel Diplomat (Le Royal Meridien) and the Grand Hotel (Hotel Atlantic). I cross Stadhuset’s square (Rathaus), pass the lively Drottninggatan with all its shops (Mönckebergstraße). The last part leads through either 2012’s Centralstationen (basically, an annoying construction site) or alternatively through Centralbadsparken (a tiny park, Michelpark).

Today I chose not to cycle. Typical for Hamburg, a storm drew in. Trains are not running regularly anymore and authorities warned for three storm floods tonight and on Sunday…