Published: July 11th 2008July 9th 2008 8 July:
Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (central station)
just the way I remember it from 41 years ago. Except there weren't any golden arches or quite as sleek looking trains.
TRAIN TRAVEL IN GERMANY is a joy. Halle - Hannover 2 hours 15 minutes (travelling by car on the Autobahn you'd have to add at least another hour)! Thirteen minutes wait for the InterCity Express to Hamburg, 1 hour 20 minutes. And they are on time... by the second! I have a six-seater compartment -- like you see in those old movies -- window seat all to myself for much of the trip. Ah, feet up on the seat opposite (shoes off, of course), write on my laptop computer for a while, then doze as the landscape whizzes by -- from east to west. Conductor slides open the door to check my ticket, but of course no border police appears, like in the old days. After all, this is now one Germany, a united Europe. Dark clouds are forming, piling up in large thunderheads above the fields the train streaks through; perhaps a sign the sunny weather and my travels are coming to an end?
The pension I've booked near the centre of the city of Hamburg looked and sounded fancier online than it is in real life. My bedroom: two floors up in the attic, 7-foot ceiling,
Not just another castle
but the one in Hamburg suburb of Bergedorf, the place of my childhood.
antique furniture (well, a hodge-podge of old commodes and a massive writing desk actually), creaky wooden floors, basin in bedroom. The single bathroom with shower on each floor is shared by four suites! No telephone or internet connection, but the hostess gives me access to her washing machine in a dungeon of a basement across the street where she rents out a couple of apartments. In spite of it all this I somehow don't mind. It's a funky sort of place not too far from the U-Bahn (Underground). 9 July:
I take the S-Bahn (rapid transit regional train) to my old hometown of Bergedorf, a picturesque suburb at the eastern outskirts of the city state of Hamburg. I do so with trepidation. Don't know how my mind (for a lack of a better word) will react to the changed face of what once were the stamping grounds of my youth. I walk for a couple of hours, pass the hospital that in my early childhood displaced our post-war cabin and its (to me then) huge garden, unsuccessfully try to find the duck pond that stood in the adjacent fields that have now grown into a forest... It all looks
St. Petri and Paul church
in the old town square of Bergedorf.
foreign, built-up; not the rural paradise I remember. But what did I expect after half a century?
I walk to the centre of town. The old, narrow, winding main street opening into a central square is now closed to vehicle traffic and, on this mid-week afternoon, bustles with pedestrians. A sign on the plaza in front of the early-16th-century St. Petri and Paul Church says "open," so I step in just to see where 62 years ago I was carried to the baptism font to be christened. It is surprisingly ornate inside, not what I expected from the half-timbered appearance outside reminding me of a little chapel in the country. Old, buckling ceiling timbers contrast with biblical theme paintings and fancy carvings around altar and chancellery. And right there in the middle is the copper basin that may have held my baptismal water!
Behind the church is Hamburg's only castle surrounded by a moat and an expansive park. I am going to pass it by as it's never been part of my realm. But I don't. In search for a photo opportunity I begin exploring the gravel paths, discover the castle café, have lunch because I really do
Baptism pedestal and altar
inside St. Petri and Paul church.
need a break from my long walk on hard pavement, and learn about an exhibition of art installations in the park that starts this very day! It's an unusual feature for this laid-back town I'm told, and has been more than a year in the making -- mostly because of the local officials' reluctance to fund modern art in this historical venue. I speak at length with one of the artists who has set up her labyrinth on the top of the Schneckenberg (Snail Mountain). When I mention that my own trip has been one of discovery, of both my past and my future, she tells me, "A labyrinth is like a voyage. Hopefully one arrives in the middle, but one can always wander back from whence one came." I don't know how and why this keeps happening to me -- I stumble into places I don't always intend to go. And then, unexpectedly, I meet someone who adds another fragments to a puzzle I didn't fully realize I was trying to complete.
There are more photos below