Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hamburg, 16.6.90: Altona Shopping and Organ Grinders

A long and not very satisfying day. After the long night, I had to be up early to address E. Kamphausen’s class—on the situation of African Americans after the end of Civil Rights. Not eventful, and I feel I did poorly. Felt quite ill on awaking and after the class.

After that, we went (all of us) to Altona and shopped a few hours along a new shopping mall, at one of the main S-Bahn stops. At a flea market under an overpass, I bought a little German doll for Kate for 5 DM. Last night, Wolfram W. had given me a little stuffed giraffe that T. wanted K. to have, so now she has two such toys.

Then we bought Apfelkorn, Kirschwasser, and some postcards, and had lunch at a Chinese restaurant in the shopping mall: chicken and almonds, beef and bok choy, Nasi goring, tea.

Impressions: Altona is becoming a non-German, international area. Many Turks and Portuguese, and Turkish, Italian, etc., restaurants. Even the cheese shops I saw, which had Dutch names, saying that they carried Turkish specialities.

On the one hand, these Mediterranean folks seem to bring something vibrant to the phlegmatic Germans, and especially to their food. On the other hand, they seem less tolerant, and one Portuguese woman threw a cup at Steve’s and my feet, which Steve appeared to attribute to homophobia. In fact, there appeared to be a good number of gay men in the mall—a fact one would attribute to the rapidly changing neighborhood.

The class: the German students look washed out and ill-kempt, the foreign ones not so. But the Germans are obviously well-read and thoughtful.

The restaurant: very tall Chinese who spoke English well. They turned out to be from Hong Kong. Most striking about the food was the sheer flavor of the meat—the sheer natural flavor even without sauce.

In front of the entrance to the Altona S-Bahn station is a huge statue—cast bronze?—of a man holding a fish. We made a picture.

After Altona, we returned and had coffee and Mohnkuchen and Kirschkucken, which we had bought at Altona. Then Kathleen and Abner rested while Steve and I walked to the botanical garden, fighting fiercely all the way over this and that silly thing.

The gardens were not arresting, at least not at this time of year. There was a restful Japanese garden with water and a pagoda, a sort of simulated Louisiana swamp with cypress trees and Spanish moss and a rose garden, inter alia. The rose garden was nicest of all, very odiferous. The most fragrant roses were planted at the front, among them a climbing red Aimable rouge, a white Königin von Dänemark, and a Rosa bourbonia called Great Western—a pale red with full round blossoms that was exceedingly fragrant.

After the gardens, we walked through the Jenisch park where there’s a late 18th-century neoclassical house on a hill—imposing but not stunning. As we walked, I kept thinking of Thomas Mann, of his world-weariness and wondered if this reflected a kind of North German sense that life is, after all, full of struggle and pain. The overcast day elicited these thoughts, the faded blue eyes and washed-out expressions of the people we passed. Who remembers the war, I wondered?

We walked on along the Elbchausee to the Nienstedter church, a half-timbered 18th-century church at which the social elite hold their weddings. Behind this was a pretty thatched farmhouse with an attached building that had pots of geraniums and lace curtains in the windows—some sort of parish house.

Across the place was a pub marked C. Schepel, on the corner of Hasselmanstrasse and Ninestedtner Marktplatz. This was beautiful on the outside, dingy and smoky and rather drab within. Except it did have a frieze mural, much faded, with the dates 1848-98. This had a saying: “Wer nicht liebt und trinkt und singt, er nie zu wahre Freude bringt. Prosit!

The bartender was a nice middle-aged man who understood English well enough. We drank Alsterwasser, a sort of shandy, and ate a pretzel. Then we walked back via Nienstedter Marktplatz, and discovered this is where we’ve been shopping and going for afternoon coffee. This is where the fair was set up, and this evening it was in full swing.

So we went and got Kathleen and Abner and walked back to the fair. We ate Thüringer sausages, currywurst, and Schinkenwurst, then a plate of delicious mushrooms fried in butter. I took pictures of a puppet theater from Lübeck, and of the top of the carousel. Earlier in the day, at Altona, we saw an organ grinder, a sweet little old man accompanied by a woman with a can, and took a picture.

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