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Big Apple

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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.)

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Of course I choose the apple that looked like a butt.

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Small, non-edible apples that can be used for decoration

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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!

Comparative studies of weekly papers in North and West Germany

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Collection of problematic stuff today, Friday June 14. It sounds like a psychotherapy thing to me but I guess that’s not what they mean.

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.

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A baby is welcomed in the paper. They write her name means “hope” and “date palm”. In which culture are date palms the same as hope?

Sweden? Norway? Hamburg!

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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…

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Hamburg also has the funniest bulletins: this one says someone has lost their “sweet little bird of paradise that I danced for for 13 years, last year I stopped and now my bird has flown away”. Asking for for help finding it again, “I promise I will never imprison my birdie in a cage again!” (In German, bird of paradise mostly means a flamboyant person so I don’t even know how to interpret this notice, maybe it’s a story of broken love.)

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Here, someone is looking for his lost camera, saying, the finder will be rewarded “obviously!”