Tuesday, March 21, 2017

All The Things I Never Told You - aka Final Post, Part Two

Sadly, our time in Hamburg is rapidly drawing to a close. Larry's company has had two big layoffs in the past six months, and he was caught up in the latest cuts.
After 16 ½ wonderful years
with Prometheus, we are 
now adjusting to being 
a one-cat household.

Even sadder, in the midst of the recent madness, our dear sweet Prometheus succumbed to old age/kidney disease. To say that it was difficult slogging through a long winter, work uncertainty, and losing our boy would be a supreme understatement.

But Larry has a new job, and we are refocusing our energy on the adventure ahead. Next stop: Munich!

Munich! Larry is very happy we'll be closer to the mountains.

Naturally, this will mean a new blog to capture my assorted adventures in and around Bavaria.

Before moving on, however, I wanted to leave you with some updates and last reflections on my time here in Hamburg. (Buckle up & grab a beverage, this is a long one.)

Around Town

This may be the pre-nostalgia talking, but I'm continually amazed at how lovely and interesting Hamburg can be, even along routes I travel all the time. These are just some more images of things around the city that caught my attention.

Continuing my obsession with rooftops, this place
has what looks like a miniature house on its roof.

A more modern part of the city, across the Elbe and to the south.

This modern area is big on eco-innovations,
including this building that uses the water
in those panes of glass as an insulator.

One of those scattered moments when winter is magical. The rest of the time it's dreary, 
with a bone-chilling, wet cold. Oh, and that unnecessary wind. Brrr.

Our neighbor down the hall recently added a Miss Piggy 
decoration outside her door. That in itself is just awesome. 
But then I saw this--turns out there was just enough room 
for a jokester delivery guy to leave a package 
in care of Miss Piggy. 
Loved this limited-time
sandwich playing on the
fact that Nuremberg is famous
for its mini bratwursts sold
in counts of 3, thus
the "burger" from Nuremberg.
Entrance to a secret dressing room for Wilhelm II

Old archway in Planten un Blomen park.
With handlebars positioned like
these, no wonder riders
have such great posture!

The ship-shaped Dockland building sits right on the Elbe.

It's a 7-story office building with outside
stairs that are open to the public.
So of course I climbed it!

Out & About

After exploring so much of Hamburg in my first year here, I was finally able to drag Larry out to see parts of Europe other than Amsterdam. ­čśë

Copa Pescadisco tournament on Mallorca. 
We had seven countries represented on our team.
That's right, playing frisbee in mid-October 
on a warm beach in Spain. Heaven!

Different weather story for our trip to
Switzerland in late October. Still,
we had a lovely time in Zurich... 

...and Lucerne! Zurich was a bit too modern for me, but I fell in love with Lucerne
as soon as we stepped outside the train station.
Afterwards, I found out my parents had visited Lucerne (without us kids) when we lived in Germany oh-so-many years ago!

Me on the Kapellbr├╝cke, fall 2016

My dad in front of the Kapellbr├╝cke, summer 1977

Me at the top of Mount Rigi, fall 2016

My mom at the top of Mount Rigi, summer 1977

After the brisk beauty of Switzerland, Larry and I made a warm-weather getaway in November to Lisbon, Portugal. Sunshine, castles, port wine, and a sunset sail on the river made it hard to come back.
This is the view from the plaza near our Airbnb apartment in the Alfama neighborhood.

So, the subsequent return to reality was helped a bit by indulging my Christmas market obsession.  This time, I visited the markets in Hanover, L├╝beck, L├╝neburg, and N├╝remberg.

Although N├╝remberg was the most organized of all the markets I've visited to date, L├╝beck was the winner this year for me for overall atmosphere.

The world-famous N├╝remberg Christkindlmarkt. They also have an international market 
in the next plaza over, with around 20 countries represented. 
N├╝remberg was a marathon travel day: 4.5-hour train trip each way!

The Little Things

There are a bunch of things I see now that I just take for granted. But at some point I was still making notes about the tiny everyday differences I saw between Hamburg and the U.S.

Here are a random few:

Child care - I'm so used to seeing moms dropping kids off and picking them up and taking them out to run errands that I was (and still am) surprised to see how often the roles are reversed here.

Every day I see dads riding kids to daycare on their bikes or taking kids on an outing or going grocery shopping. Fantastic.

Crutches - The underarm style of crutch we use in the U.S. is apparently not used here. Whether it's a sprain, small break, or big break, I've only seen forearm crutches.

Dogs - I've seen some unique crossbreeds here, as well as rare old European breeds we just don't have in the States. My favorite is one that looks like a cross between a wolf and a greyhound. Ensures there's never a dull moment walking in the park.

Also, Hamburgers love their hounds. They take them everywhere. But the relationship between dog and owner here can best be described as "business-like." It's not that there's any less affection between the two than what I saw in the U.S., but in public, dogs seem to know they have a role to play, and that role is to be well-behaved and obedient.

Bag found along 
a busy public path.

Faith - I don't mean of the religious variety; I mean faith in your fellow man. The first time I experienced this was when I ordered some things from a German website, and instead of taking payment up front, they sent a bill with my order for me to pay once I was satisfied.

It's happened at other times for in-person transactions, although overall, cash is still king.        

Also, when someone loses something--in a park, on the sidewalk, in a stairwell--you'll find that item placed somewhere closer to eye level, where it can easily be seen when the owner returns to search for it.

Well, no wrap-up post would be complete without an explicit mention of food. ­čśÇ

Remember my post about
food differences & finding ingredients
Edeka now carries vanilla paste
and vanilla extract!
Yes, I still miss a good taco, a cheese steak sandwich, delivery pizza that doesn't need to be sliced, and the easy availability of Bisquick.

I continue to add to my food-from-scratch repertoire, most recently making homemade tater tots. (They were a bit of a pain, but good enough that I will try it again.)

But tired of German food? Nope. Crackling wurst just off the grill? Divine. And the 2-Euro chicken schnitzel sandwich I get at my local S-Bahn station is still one of the best things around.


Yup, that's right. German is literally in a
category all by itself.

I recently saw that you need about 750 hours of instruction to be fluent in German. That's the equivalent of 5 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 5 months. Whoa. Puts my three classes since we've lived here in perspective. ­čśĆ

Now I feel a bit better that while I can navigate within my limited realm just fine, it's normal that I can't easily eavesdrop, that I get nervous about my pronunciation and random vocabulary, and that when a conversation picks up pace or I have to speak on the phone, I'm quickly lost.

In my post about language I talked a a bit about dialects and different vocabulary. How prophetic. Because I know from experience that German in the south (including nearby Switzerland and Austria) is different.

So in addition to trying new outlets to practice my speaking, there may be more classes in my future.

A Final Goodbye and a New Beginning

It's tough to say goodbye. I've seen many different sides of the city, and met amazing people from around the world. Although I'm looking forward to my new adventures, I'll miss the security of my Hamburg home.

I had planned to end this post with a bunch of tips for anyone planning to move to Hamburg (or even just coming to visit). But, like most things in this world, I think it's an evolving and subjective experience.

That being said, I love the city and my time here, and would be thrilled to be a resource if you have any specific questions. You can always reach me at michelle AT mpmellon DOTCOM.

Till then, tsch├╝ss!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Final Post: Time to Say Tsch├╝ss!

August 2015

A year ago I became a Hamburgerin. It’s been 12 months of ups and downs, learning about myself, and getting to know this wonderful city. 

In fact, I quickly went from thinking of Hamburg as a nice entry into our dream of spending time in Europe, to thinking of it as our European home. 

August 2016
So what’s next? I honestly don’t know, but my plan is to continue navigating the day-to-day here, while writing about what inspires me (which includes a small collection of scary stories set in Hamburg).

For those of you who have hung in there with me this far, thank you! I hope you’ve enjoyed this year as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing it with you. 

I want to leave you with this song I found during one of my random Internet searches on all things Hamburg. (And I heard it played last week during a football game [American style] in a park stadium.)

It's called "In Hamburg sagt man Tsch├╝ss." Good luck getting it out of your head! You can find the lyrics here in case you want to sing along. ;)

Tsch├╝ss! Bis zum n├Ąchsten Mal!

p.s. You can always:
  • Find updates on my writing (including any new blog projects) on the What's New page of my website.
  • Follow random ideas on my Twitter feed (@mpmellon) 
  • See my new photos on Pinterest.
  • Questions? Comments? Plans to visit or move to Hamburg? Drop me a line: michelle AT mpmellon.com

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Being a Hamburger(in)

I've resisted for almost a year, but now I've devised a cheesy backronym to describe what Hamburg means to me:


"Hamburg Against Nazis"
All over the city, you'll find these small
plaques in the sidewalk, giving the name
and deportation information for
former Jewish residents.
It's one way to keep those atrocities
from being shelved and forgotten. 


How many Hamburg Hummels
can you find? In 2003, more
than 100 of these figures,
representing Hamburg's last water
carrier, were created and decorated
by artists. Most were sold,
but you can still find some
scattered around the city.  
There's definitely a funky side to Hamburg. You'll see a lot of it in the St. Pauli and Sternschanze neighborhoods, but everywhere you go you'll find ateliers for every medium imaginable, and see enough street art and counterculture fashion to balance the suits and well-heeled workers downtown.

"A" could also stand for "anarchistic," as Hamburg has had a couple of infamous areas of squatting resistance, and maintains pockets of "authority-allergic" citizens.


In my most recent German class there was a travel lesson with a blurb about Hamburg. The book notes that Hamburg is no longer a "harbor city," but a "city with a harbor." 

It's true that Hamburg's financial base has diversified, but that river heritage runs mighty deep in the city's culture.


One thing most people notice first about Hamburg is how green it is. It's really rather striking. Then, of course, there's the architecture and the Elbe and the Alster and the countryside...


Hamburg is home to high-quality living. It has Germany's highest per-capita income, and the largest number of millionaires in relation to the population.

Why yes, that is a limited edition Lamborghini with a rare
gold-chrome finish parked outside the Cartier store

Money aside, Hamburg is also home to 5 of the 6 largest German publishers, 14 of the 20 biggest German newspapers, and more than 80 museums.

We can debate whether or not 
musicals count as marks of  
sophistication, but Hamburg 
is the 3rd biggest spot 
in the world for musicals.


Twelve hundred years of invasions, fire, flooding, epidemics, and devastating World War II bombings. Still thriving. 


These are stereotypes, yes. But based in reality. Instead of trying to explain, I think some of the pictures give a better indicator of what I mean/have experienced. 

Direct. "Whoever wears fur,
wears the dead."
PETA would be proud.

Efficient. Pre-packaged meals, but fresh. You''ll find
these bundles in most grocery stores. Just
grab and go to make your own soup or stew.
Punctual. From March till July we endured ever-changing
mazes like this as the main street near our apartment was torn
up and refurbished. They said it would take 4 months.
They did it in 4 months.

Intellectual. Anytime is a good time to learn something new.
So why not add a little history to a street sign so folks
will know a bit about the person for whom the street is named?

Two other examples:

Bureaucratic. My mom forwarded me some mail in a padded envelope, which apparently freaked out customs. So I dutifully went down to the harbor with my 4-page letter from customs to possibly pay a fine and pick up my package. 

The office is like the DMV; you check in, get a number, fill out a form, and wait till called. Then you go to the counter to confirm (and in my case open) your package. Thankfully I had no fine to pay, and, getting back to that whole efficiency thing, the entire process took only 20 minutes.

Logical. I'm having fun discovering new words, like, Zahnfleisch. It means gums. But its literal translation would be tooth (Zahn) flesh (fleisch). 

Or there's "to hug"--umarmen. Um is around, and Arme, are, well, arms. 

There are challenges to learning German, but you gotta love when it makes so much sense!