Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hamburg, 10.6.1990: Labskaus and Fassbinder Characters

Arrived in Hamburg at 9 A.M. It’s now 4 P.M. Wolfram W. met us and brought us to the Missionsakademie where we’re staying. When we got there, the director, Herr K., served us coffee, and we sat around for an hour or so talking with him and Wolfram. Then we slept till now—still very exhausted.

What we’ve seen of Hamburg: green in a lush cool way reminiscent of Newfoundland the June I was there—the sort of windswept grasses one associated with a Northern coastal area.

The area of the city we’re in is posh, once the estates of the church, with fine houses surrounded by beautiful gardens, overlooking an ugly and far too industrialized Elbe.

6 P.M. Steve and I walked on the Wandernweg across the Elbchausee along the Elbe. It’s a fine, warm afternoon, sunny. Lots of rhododendron blooming, and non-hybrid roses, with elder and what looks like caraway or Queen Anne’s lace, but I don’t think is either.

The Wandernweg has benches, a sandy foot-and-bike path, and (in the area we walked) a few cafés. None looked particularly interesting. All were full of people sitting and drinking. More interesting to me were the many shops and Konditorei we passed as we drove to the Missionsakademie.

My room overlooks a little yard bordered by shrubs, among them mock orange. I’m sitting looking out the window and listening to birdsong. It’s very pleasant.

10:15 P.M. Just returned from dinner and a drive around Hamburg. Wolfram took us to the Fischerhaus, a fish restaurant on the waterfront, in the St. Pauli district. I have labskaus, a Hamburg dish of corned beef hash mixed with potatoes and fish and beet salad juice. It’s served with pickled beets and cucumbers. Very tasty. Steve had matjes in dill sauce, and Kathleen, Abner, and Wolfram fish in bierteig—a huge platter of fried fish and potato salad.

Afterwards we walked for a bit on the waterfront across from the restaurant. The restaurant was packed, with people who looked as if they stepped out of a Fassbinder film: two short stocky dark men, each with a squint eye and hair cut so it stood straight up on their heads; young men in black leather jackets; hefty matrons who had puffy uncombed white hair and sucked hungrily on cigarettes before supper and put their glasses on to eye their plates hungrily, eyes wide, when they were served. All these in a glass-enclosed restaurant with a black waiter and a German one who looked as if he had been shot in the forehead at some point in his life.

Then to town: I’m so tired, and the beer I drank at supper exacerbated this, that I benefited little from the drive. We drove through the Reeperbahnstrasse, then into the old section of town, the one medieval street not destroyed by fire in the two wars. Then to the university, where a street is named for Salvador Allende, and where a synagogue destroyed in Krystallnacht has been partly reconstructed as a memorial. Then along the other river, the Alster, where very posh houses with beautiful gardens front onto a parkway along the river. We ended with a driving tour of Blankenese, a former fishing village of steep winding streets with houses and shops fronting directly onto them. And now bed.

No comments: