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!

1 comment :

  1. I love your backronym - it makes me want to visit Hamburg, and it sounds like a hell of an alternative to our current state of affairs =\