July 17, 2013

And From Paris, the Trip Went To Hamburg

Oberhafen Kantine, the crooked house
Since I left work in the end of May I have been on the road; Sweden, UK, France, and in June it was time to do some travelling in Germany as well. The morning after a birthday party that I visiting Düsseldorf for, I got on the train to Hamburg. Hamburg, a city I haven't visited as much as I should have; It's a wonderful city, and with it's history as a ship building city and with a big harbour it reminds me a lot of my home town, Gothenburg (Göteborg) in Sweden.

Lucky enough to have a good friend very interested in finding out the hidden or unknown secrets of a city, I this time got to see things I hadn't seen before; Having coffee in this little cafe, a former canteen that was to be torn down but was saved last minute – notice how the bridge is built around it. It's a very special building, crooked and twisted; I got seasick just entering as the floors weren't in level at all, but rather leaning away and up from the entrance. The name of the place is Oberhafernkantine (see the link), and it is a former canteen that was turned into a café. Visiting it is an interesting experience! 

St Nikolai, the church ruins
Not an unknown site but equally interesting and dramatic is St Nikolas' church (St Nikolai) on Willy-Brandt-Strasse 60, a church ruin that is now reminding us of the war. The church was was bombed and destroyed during WWII and only the outer walls and the tower, or part of it, survived. The church was not that old, it was built after the church that used to be in the same location was destroyed in the great fire in Hamburg 1842 (which, if I am not mistaken, just happens to be the same year the Opium War ended in China and Shanghai started to grow into the world city it is today. Not that there is any correlation, except for me making my way to Asia to learn Chinese (mandarin)). 

The church ruins now work as an important reminder of what bombs can do, it is and incredibly strong experience to stand there, watching the remains of the church, listening to the bells ringing and imagine how it must have been before the bombs started to fall. 

A plaque on the streets of Hamburg, with the name of the person picked up here, with the date and how and where he/she died
In memory of another life lost
Another quite dramatic detail in Hamburg that I didn't notice before; The various plaques on the streets of the city; These serves as reminders of a war more horrible than we have ever seen, from a world perspective: WWII. Outside each and every house where a person of Jewish decent was picked up to be taken to concentration camps or otherwise mistreated there is a plaque to make sure the person isn't forgotten. It includes the name of the person, his/her birth date, what happened to them and when, Seeing it was very emotional, and I stopped and read many of them. He or she who still says “don't mention the war” when talking to or about Germans, needs to rethink. Germany has definitely dealt with the history and continues to deal with it.

If you keep your eyes open you will find many little reminders, not the least of the war. It is said that the people working in the offices that once was the factory where Cyclone B was made, the gas that was used in such an awful way, to murder millions of people, aren't too happy to be reminded about what actually happened in the building where they now work.

Hamburg history goes back so much further though, there are reminders from the ship building era (on Reeperbahn the ropes where made, and that's said to be what the name comes from - just like “Masthugget” in Gothenburg (Göteborg) Sweden is where the masts for the big ships where made), and there are reminders from the Hansa, with the big buildings around the harbour area where taxation took place. You can still see the marks where the big fire started 1842, and the bar where the sailors used to go when they first came back in from the big seas still has the bills pinned to the ceiling – the bills that were to pay for the next beer when the sailor would next return. All over the city you will find these little memories of a time long gong - both the positive and the negative sides of history. 

I love Hamburg for making history so much alive and for making sure that it's all, both the good and the bad, that is remembered. 

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