Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Friday, October 06, 2006

Immigration encounter

This photo is of the busy Hamburg waterfront along the River Elbe from where millions of Germans left the country since the 18th century hoping for a better life in the United States and elsewhere. Next weekend, I plan to go to the immigration museum in Hamburg. They also have one in Bremenhaven.

I learned of this heritage firsthand a couple of evenings ago when I ventured into a local Spanish restaurant for some tapas. Tapas are sort of like hors d'oeuveres or snacks (or poo poos in Hawaii) except they are not only very tasty but substantial as well. They are understandably popular with students and professors because they are comparatively inexpensive. For about 4 euros, or about 5 bucks, you can get a pretty good meal. Potatoes, a little fish, some sausage, cooked vegetables, cheese, some raw vegetables, along with bread and a garlic spread. Add a beer or two and it is quite satisfying.

This particular Spanish restaurant, Sin Nombre, had been recommended to me by a faculty member so I was pretty confident about it and was not disappointed. There are also a couple of Portugeuse restaurants that offer similar tapas.

I settled down at a table in the restaurant. It was a little early and I was the only customer. The young woman working the bar waited on me. As I struggled through some German, she patiently helped me with my order, so that I did not order a washingmachine or something similar. Then, when she brought me a cool "gross" (large) glass of Jever, a regional brew, we started talking in English.

I rarely believe that Germans really know where Cincinnati is when I tell them that is where I live but this time the woman's eyes got wide as she said "I've been to Cincinnati."

Turns out that a few years ago, she got a phone call from America. Some Americans had been doing their geneology and they had tracked her down. They were her relatives. And they lived in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati.

Angelina, the waitress, and I laughed as we realized how unlikely our encounter was. But we talked about Cincinnati and places she had been. She had a particularly good memory of eating at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse on the Ohio River. Like so many young Germans, her English is very good but she kept peppering me with German trying to get me to stretch my vocabulary.

She is a student at the university and since our meeting at Sin Nombre I have seen her on campus. She told me that she has many relatives in the Cincinnati area and feels very close to them now, a family that a few years earlier she didn't even know she had. It has been interesting to find someone in this small German town who has such a personal connection to Cincinnati.

It reminded me somewhat of my first trip to Ireland some years ago. Within the space of three days in Dublin, I met two people who had ancestors who had immigrated to Butte, Montana. While Butte was, of course, a great magnet for Irish immigration, the possibilities that I would run into two people with Butte connections was a bit of a shock.

The world is a rather small and entertaining place.


Blogger Ruthanne said...

Hi John - Just wanted you to know how much I've been enjoying your adventures since Lynn sent me one. Sounds like you're having a great time. Ruthanne Williams

11:27 PM  
Blogger John said...

Hey Ruthanne,

It is great to hear from you and I'm glad you are enjoying the blog. Hope all is well in S. California. Lynn tells me it is getting a little chilly :)


5:15 AM  

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