I love apples. People give me funny looks when I say I buy 14 apples at the Farmer’s Market for each week. But if you eat one for lunch and one for dessert after dinner, that’s 14 a week. I remember my grandpa cutting up apples into slices for me when I was sitting on his couch watching TV with him. It’s one of my fondest memories and if I only could eat one fruit for the rest of my life, I suppose it would be apples. Or oranges.
How convienent for me that I now live an hour away from Northern Europe’s largest fruit-producing region, eh? I’ve only waited for fall to roll around so that I could set off to the Altes Land (“Old Land” – apparently a mistranslation from Low Saxon. The land is not old, but was originally colonised by Dutch settlers, and thus called the (H)Olland). In the Altes Land, you can go apple picking yourself and what I hear this is a popular activity for Hamburgers. We went on October 3, German National Day, but next year I think I’d go a little earlier. Most of my favorite apple, Elstar, had been picked already. But that was fine, there were plently of others left and the idyllic atmosphere was amazing. After four days of constant rain, we even had sunshine! I got to pick Finkenwerder Herbstprinz, a local apple I heard about but that isn’t sold in the supermarkets (at least not in mine). As I was roaming under the apple trees, I wondered when self-picking became popular. I mean, 100 years ago people would have thought you were crazy to pay to do the work of a farmers’ hand. But today, with us urban people feeling so disconnected from the origins of our food…yeah, you get it. (Half of the people might come for the pretty instagram pictures this adventure yields, though.)
I was very charmed by the Altes Land region with its timbered houses, open skies and large fields. The Prunkpforte, the gate pictured above, was also a highlight. Wealthy people apparently build these kind of portals to, well I don’t know why, but I suppose to flaunt their wealth and impress others? Or to please God – the inscription was very Christian.
If you are ever around in August – October, I suggest you take half a day and explore what’s outside the gates of Hamburg!
When my Anja friend learned Swedish, one of the first complete sentences she said to me was, „Helen är en mycket aktiv pensionär!” (Helen is a very active pensioner.) The reason for her saying this was my delight with the weekly paper and the Aldi store’s broschure in it each Wednesday. She’s right, there is probably no one under 65 but me who reads those papers. A chuckles to himself when he sees me earnestly studying the pages, occasionally informing him on what’s going on in Düsseldorf.
So they won’t be surprised to hear that as soon as I had the keys to the Hamburg apartment (that I am paying for but not moving into until in two weeks), I picked up the Hamburg Weekly Paper that was distributed in the house’s entrance corridor. I took it with me, assuming I could read it through while taking in the new apartment for five minutes. I was in for a surprise! The Hamburg weekly paper (this is not the regular newspaper. This is a paper financed entirely by ads, reporting about very local happenings) has 12 pages full of information. In Düsseldorf, we have four and one is so massively directed at seniors not even I can read it. It took me like an hour to study the Hamburg issue and I felt like I was doing comparative studies of weekly papers. I can conclude the following:
The Hamburg paper does not have an Aldi broschure (problematic, I think) and its writing would probably be referred to as lurid journalism. On the front page there was an article about the wading pool that was out of order because the city decided hygiene standards can’t be met. The headline the paper had? „Was the end planned years ago?“ The quotes were equally dramatic: „Going to the park’s pool instead is intolerable“, „Where am I supposed to go with my children?“ and „If we have to, we are prepared to put on a water demonstration“. Whoa. So much rage because of a wading pool.
Page three featured an article about a tree that was planted 150 years ago when the French-German war ended. Today, nobody pays attending to the tree and nobody pulls out the weeds. The paper’s headline: „The battle for the forgotten tree“. They totally saw the bigger picture writing, „It is important to know where you’re coming from. This tree can help you remember“. I love how history seems to be a thing in my new hood.
I am already looking forward to reading that paper each week. Not only because of the dramatic articles, also because there are so many cool things happening apparently. (I assume it is one of the signs that Hamburg is a really large city. So much going on, it’s overwhelming!) I learned there is a choir workshop with schlager and pop music (I’ll be on vacation, otherwise I’d totally attend), a „word picknick“ in the park where poets and authors read, a Catholic Soccer Cup (reminds me of The Interfaith Softball League in L.A.), a theatre play starring only people who stutter or have other language difficulties, and the campaign „#respectpigeon“ to educate people and counteract the negative image of pigeons.
Last year, I decided not to spend Lucia without a real Lucia concert again and when I don’t make it to Sweden, the closest is – of course – Hamburg. “It’s basically Southern Sweden”, he commented when we went by all these stores, Indiska, Clas Ohlson, Sosterne Grene (yeah, I know that’s Danish). Because this weekend, it was once again time for #showhimthenorth.
When you go north from Dizzeldorf, you often have to take a Swiss train. They are older than the German ICE-trains but I since last Friday I know their unbeatable competitve advantage: their train restaurant! The interior is different, round tables, real tablecloths, the prices are directly converted from Swiss francs to euros, and the food is amazingly good. I had a risotto that was delicious. From now on, I will always have to eat onboard this train.
When you were sick for a week and couldn’t work and “just quickly” want to send a few emails at midnight upon arrival at the hotel…
We had booked a hotel in my former neighborhood (because nostalgia) and when we got there at midnight, it was full of Norwegians. Seconds after we closed our door, someone pounded on it and when I opened, a middle-aged, tipsy Norwegian couple looked at me, staggered. “This is where we live”, I told them in Swedish which, astonishingly, did not surprise them. Instead, they happily told me that the reason for the Norwegian crowd was the women’s handball world cup, “and we’re in the finals! Norway is in the final!” I wished them good luck and they rewarded that with being noisy in the hallways late at night. Oh, well.
Hamburg treated us well. Sunshine and cinnamon buns, Lucia concert and dinner with friends and family, stationery shopping and “Bereden väg” in the Sunday service (that he willingly accompanied me to). Now I am en route to Berlin where I will be working the next two days. Hamburg – Berlin is one of the fastest train connections I know, so I just had to seize to opportunity. Now let’s just see if the train internet is good enough to upload this post…
One of the things I usually lose when I move from a city is my sense of orientation. I noticed this in Hamburg this weekend – I took bus number 6 and went wrong twice. Looking out of the window on the bus does not help because my brain takes way too long time to figure out if this route makes sense. I am not completely clueless, but my orientation in Hamburg used to be very much better.
But I really got lost in transportation on the way back. Despite getting home at waaaay after midnight the third night in a row I attended service in the Swedish Church on Sunday morning and it was very much worth it. Our own choir and the guest choir from Stockholm performed together, a teenage boy was christened (very touching! His three little sisters helped in the ceremony which was adorable.) and following we had the annual church meeting. Consequently, I took a later train than planned and left Hamburg only after 5 p.m. Two hours later, I woke up on the train that had stopped. It would never start again. The locomotive was somehow damaged and the following three hours we waited in the middle of nowhere, close to where I went to school. During this time I got to witness what must be the new crisis communication concept of the Deutsche Bahn. If I remember correctly, they were critisized for being intransparent when delays happened. Apparently, they are now going for the opposite approach: we got eight statements in three hours that each were a few minutes long. In the beginning, the chief train attendant was still calm. He told us in detail that the fuse was broken and they would try to restart it. After a while, things got more desperate. „I can’t reach the technician anymore“, he said. Then the air condition system failed.
There are horror stories of passengers collapsing in trains because of failed air conditioning. I now understand why. Only half an hour without fresh air in a train with 600 people and things get very uncomfortable, breathing gets kind of difficult. As we were travelling close to the Benelux border, passengers started getting anxious about their connections to Amsterdam and Brussels. „Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sorry to inform you our train is entirely out of order“, the attendant made his return on the intercom, sounding more and more distressed. Outside, the sun started setting slowly. „We have contacted Bremen and Osnabrück for emergency help. We hope they can send us an empty train. Otherwise we will have to ask Hamburg or Dortmund for help but it will take them two and a half hours to get here. As our electricity is powered by the locomotive, we are now operating on the emergency electricity. I hope the intercom will continue to work so I can keep you posted.“ I started thinking about how clear-sighted it was of me to eat a decent dinner and buy the largest German newspaper before boarding the train.
„They are sending an empty train. I only asked for a locomotive that would replace ours so that you don’t have to change trains. But they refuse. That’s what happens when the theoretical planners who only work from their desks make the decisions!” People started calling their relatives who were on their way to stations to pick them up. „How did the election go?“, some inquired on the phone. Needless to say, we didn’t have internet and even phone reception was low in the countryside. „When the train comes, we will have to evacuate you“, the train attendant informed us. „We will provide bridges to step over from one train to the other. Those are narrow, so unfortunately prams and wheelchairs won’t be able to get to the emergency train. We will close off the tracks so that other trains don’t come through but please be extremely careful because there might still be trains running“. Um, I thought, what do you mean, you close off the tracks but there will still be trains running while we climb over narrow bridges to the emergency train?!„I am very sorry to put you through this and if I had anything to say, we would just have gotten a locomotive here but nobody listens to me, ladies and gentlemen, I am just the smallest wheel in this organisation and the studied gentlemen in the emergency unit who never atutally operate a train decide!“ By now our train attendant was very annoyed with his superiors and he did not tire of emphasizing his discontent. Meanwhile, rain showers set in outside the window that we could not open. A little while later, we saw a train, three waggons shorter than ours, arrive next to us. People started preparing for the evacuation when the angry train attendant accoustically reappeared. ”The locomotive kind of works right now. The emergency manager has decided that we will go to Diepholz on this train and let you change there in an orderly fashion as there are real platforms there. We won’t continue with this train afterwards because it might break down at any moment again“. We started moving and suddenly, we saw five trucks of the fire brigade by the tracks, ready to protect us for evacuation. Say what you want but the German public safety system worked here! I think everyone was a little sad we couldn’t let them do their job. Diepholz meanwhile saw the greatest number of passengers in 20 years. I doubt there are ever 600 people at that station at the same time.
Epilogue: The Benelux travellers had to spend the night in Düsseldorf. I really hope they weren’t booked on a late night flight overseas from Amsterdam. I got home way past midnight instead of nine thirty.
A fun time in the town of Hamburg, both at night
and the morning after on the way to church
In Swedish, when you keep your cool, the idiom calls this “having ice in the stomach”. I actually recently read that one should have “varmt hjärta, kall hjärna, is i magen” – a warm heart, a cool brain and ice in the stomach. Those qualities are definitely something I need in my job. Like when someone emails you 24 hours before the event that they are a vegan or a kind-of-celebrity asks short notice if there’s still a spot left and you need to rearrange your entire seating plan. But let’s be honest, it’s the rush of adrenaline that makes me cope and love this part of my work. I am probably going to be a wreck on Sunday but it will most likely have been worth it.
This morning, Lil’ Pesto and I took the train to Hamburg and completed last tasks on the four hour ride. Which turned out to be four and a half because Deutsche Bahn. We stopped at Osnabrück and I told Lil’ Pesto how my grandpa would pick me up as a little girl at this station. We rode through the lush pastures of Diepholz and I told Lil’ Pesto about this district that I spend my high school years in. We passed Bremen and I rhapsodized about my university town’s beauty and vibe. When we arrived in Hamburg in what is the absolutely perfect weather, he said already in the impressive central station how much he liked the city.
“Suddenly I realized that my writing yearned for other places”. Assia Djebar, a very accurate quote found in my pretty little hotel room
We parted ways and I started my race through town. Meeting a former co-worker and my former boss, attending a meeting with one of our own, making a short visit to the doctor’s (really need to get local doctors in Dizzel, I know) and finally met my dear friend Frederike for dinner. She lives in the most adorable house in the most amazing location. It’s like in a fairy tale and my descriptions or photos won’t do it justice. It’s a good thing I am not in Hamburg that often anymore, I just get too jealous.
Del 33 i citatsamlingen
Jag kan inte tänka mig vara tillsammans med någon som uttalar Kina Kina istället för Schina. – Alltså, vad ska jag säga, jag är tillsammans med någon som säger kaahviar istället för kaviar.
Jag har bestämt mig, jag ska sluta dejta alltihop nu. – Du har väldigt lite trovärdighet när det kommer till sådant.