Last Friday, Hamburg was honored by the visit of two Stockholmers, my dear Martina and my dear Josefine. In 38 hours, we managed to do it all – well, almost all. Follow us on our Hamburg day and night.
Once again, I underestimated the distances in Hamburg and when I finally got to the airport, I was worried I had missed the girls. I stood outside the terminal and tried to guess from the departing passengers’ style if they had come out of the Stockholm plane. I was not very successful. But only five minutes later, I caught sight of Josefine’s familiar bangs and next to her the beaming blonde hair of Martina. One said to the other, “Now we just have to find Helen” to which the travel companion replied, “That’s going to be easy, there’s balloons”. Yet another proof that getting colorful helium balloons is beneficial on so many levels! The day after we let them fly at different places in Hamburg with a letter attached to please tell “three friends that met for a German-Swedish reunion” where it landed. Of course, balloons also make great Instagram photos . I must say my two visitors had much more appreciation for the importance of instagram than many others. We sat and discussed filters and we knew when one had woken up (read me) when a lot of likes came up.
After eating vegetable pie on the first night with Ingrid (that is the food I make whenever I am asked to make something vegetarian because I suck at vegetarian food. [Now I actually was introduced to a delicious vegetarian dish by my friend Svenja yesterday so if you are vegetarian, worry no more about visiting me!]), we discussed German food habits and it turned out the bread-eating culture had made the strongest impression on Martina. Germans eat bread for dinner, we make the best bread imaginable, German bread is about to become Unesco World Heritage and according to Martina, our pastries are “bread with sugar on it!” Ingrid and I took the opportunity to inform her that the most popular character on German kids’ television also is a bread called Bernd.
Still, we barely ate any bread which feels like kind of a shortcoming on my side since I did not even feed them any Franzbrötchen, the typical Hamburg pastry. We did though make it to Limu, a new vegetarian/vegan restaurant Wiebke told me about and were served a decently priced, very good lunch.
The political talks
I have realized that my circle of friends consists of surprisingly many engineers and even more political scientists. During Bremen times, I deliberately sought to befriend the latter which made some of my fellow historians be cross with me. But when I came to Sweden, I did not at all look for people studying or engaging in politics and still, it happened!
To acccomodate Martina and Josefine, we only took left turns everywhere we went in the city, and with the election just over in Sweden, of course we talked politics and I tried to understand the Swedish system but what Josefine explained to me only baffled me more. Instead of having one fine CDU like Germany, Swedes have split up their conservative parties into four: one for the countryside, one for the Christians, one for the big corporations, and then also the more liberals. Thinking of how you need to employ a leader etc for each, I as a German must say that sounds utterly ineffective 😉 I also learned – and I still cannot believe it – that in Sweden when you go to vote, you get a piece of paper from every party so you enter the booth with, say, 9 party papers, but you only vote for one and the rest you throw away. Not only does that sound terribly anti-environment to me, I also heard that only the parties that are already in the parliament have money for those papers, so the other ones won’t be represented on paper but you have to write the name yourself. I still cannot believe that as it sounds so undemocratic? If you care to know, in Germany we have one piece of paper where we fit all the parties that wish to candidate. Again, effective Germans 😉
The tunnel, the beach and the walk in the sketch
Apparently, there is a new colleague at my former workplace who knows Hamburg well (and also in other terms sounded very nice). He had given Jossan and Martina tips about the city that they diffusely remembered: “We heard there is some kind of, like, tunnel that cars can drive in that is supposed to be cool?” But of course, the old Elbe tunnel! It is actually kind of cool – and free – so we went to walk under the big river Elbe that parts Hamburg. Since we were blessed with extremely good weather (25 degrees and sunshine in late September!), I took my visitors on the ferry to Övelgönne. The place’s name sounds terrible, kind of like rotten cheese, but it is one of the most beautiful spots I have seen in Hamburg. Only 15 minutes away, you find a summer paradise that looks like a mix of Stockholm archipelago houses and English villas. We went down to the beach, grabbed a Weizen beer – like a real German – and sat opposite the enormous Hamburg harbor where an equally enormous container ship came in and was handled by the, you guessed it, enormous cranes.
We also took a walk in HafenCity which is the newest part of Hamburg with interesting architecture. Martina took beautiful photos and decided that “this is like walking an architect’s sketch! All I am waiting for is the model person with the perfect stroller to walk by!”
I once read that Americans walk through European cities comparing them to their homes all the time. Well, we are guilty as charged even as Swedes and Dvensks as we quickly starting talking about the Hamburg map in terms of “This is Schanze, it is kind of like Södermalm. This is Jungfernstieg and Neuer Wall, Hamburg’s Birger Jarl Gatan. Oh, I live on, well, I guess kind of Gärdet. Or maybe more Hjorthagen.” Josefine even labeled her map like that 😉
The mini disco
Despite a terrible sleep deficit that I had accumulated, we had a great day and decided to head out to the late summer night city. Somehow when you are having fun, tiredness doesn’t wear you off in the same way. We did take some rest before Jossan made us excellent rum-smoothies and thanks to German going-out-times (“Should we leave?” “Don’t worry, it’s before midnight and this is Germany”), we could relax before going to the Gold Fish Glass which is the name of a bar. I had before explained the magic effect of the words, “I am Swedish” (that we have successfully tested with one of our male aupairs and also my friend Louise), but when we walked in that wasn’t even necessary. I think the perfectly aloof Josefine set a new record in terms of minutes for Hamburg guys to get interested. Martina meanwhile acquired the title of unchallenged Dancing Queen of Hamburg that night when she first found and then ruled the mini-disco-dancefloor below the bar. That place literally had the temperature of a sauna and because I have someone managed to get a blister on my foot so painful I cannot wear a n y closed shoes, I had to throw off my ballerinas and dance in tights.