Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Long March

On Saturday, our program director, Iris, and the part-time assistant, Soren, took us on a walking tour of Hamburg. It is a great city and one of that students compared it to San Francisco. I'm not sure that is what I felt about it but it is very vibrant, liberal, and multinational (if not multiracial). It has a lot of beautiful buildings. There is water everywhere with the River Elbe flowing through toward the sea and several canals that weave their way into the city. Some call Hamburg the Venice of the North.

Hamburg is a short train ride from Luneburg. We showed up at 10 a.m. and about 40 students dragged themselves out of bed for the trip. At the Hamburg station (a beautiful old building), we broke into two groups, each led by one of the program staffers. Then off we went in opposite directions.

We saw a lot of interesting things. There are numerous museums right around the train station and I will be sure to get back to see them.

One of the first things we saw were the ruins of St. Nickolai church. The church was at the center of very heavy bombing in 1943. Kurt Vonnegut centers his novel, Slaughterhouse 5, around this event. Over 43,000 civilians were killed in the firebombing attack. The church's tall steeple was used a landmark for the bombers. All that is left of the church are its steeple and portions of the surrounding walls. There are a number of little memorials around the site, including one to death camp victims and there are some hugh nails put in the form of a cross from an English church in Coventry, that was heavily bombed by the Germans. We took a ride up the steeple in an elevator to where there is an observation deck. Beutiful views of all the new post-war reconstruction and the port of Hamburg. It was a very moving place and I am going to return to see the museum. But Iris was keeping a schedule so off we went.

We walked down to the waterfront and took a break for lunch. Leaving the students to their own devices, Iris and I went to a Spanish restaurant for some tapas and a beer. Unfortunately, while the students had been asked to split up, they all descended on the same restaurant and it took forever for them to get their food.

When we finally got together again, we jumped on a large boat and went for trip up and down the Elbe. Hamburg is the largest port in Europe and you could really see that. Lots and lots of container shipping. There were places where large ships were being drydocked and repaired. And then we saw two American-style sternwheelers. The riverboats were called the Mississippi Queen and Louisiana Star. Naturally, there was a chorus of students providing the names in their faked heavy southern accents. None of them, as far as I can tell, are from the South.

Then we walked through the famous redlight district, St. Pauli, and yes that is where the beer, St. Pauli Girl gets its name. The Germans are very casual about this but our students were definitely intriguied. The area was espcially filled with people wearing the jerseys of two teams that were going to play football in a big game that event, the underdog St. Pauli team and the big shot Munich team. We walked near the stadium and there were lots of polizei.

We had a big meal at a pub/restaurant named September and then we took a short trip on the subway to the train station. The subway, incidentally, was pretty nice, more like Washington, DC's than like NYC's.

Tonight, we are having a tour called Luneburg at night. Should be interesting. Supposedly another 60 international students, a few of them Americans, have arrived at the university over the weekend. That should make things interesting.


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