“So much to say”—shout out to Dave Matthews!
Well, my last days in Hamburg were great! It was amazing to have the chance to take a German class again and to speak so much German! I am already daydreaming about when I can come back. Truthfully, I’m dreaming about if I can stay. It wouldn’t be too expensive to change my flights and I found a 4-week course in Frankfurt that’s superintensive…. But, I don’t know when my job in South Korea is going to start, and it might be good to be home before I go. I need to keep reminding myself that I don’t need to do everything rightthissecond. Germany and German will still be here when I am done with my next big adventure.
Again, I need to recommend Couch Surfing so much. You don’t even need to sleep on someone’s couch to enjoy CouchSurfing! I did stay Stefanie’s place, but I also met up with Keno for a beer and had Abendbrot with Nadine and her son, Kilian.
Bread is very important to the German culture. Bread is often a big part of German breakfast and it is certainly a part of dinner, or Abendbrot, which translates to “evening bread.” I worked in Britain for the summer between my two German years, and I met a bunch of German people. We prepared German breakfast together, and it was so comical for me to try to find bread on a Sunday morning. In Germany, it feels like everything is closed on Sunday except the bakery! Sundays are for family (and God?). Stores are closed but cafes and restaurants are still open so people can spend time together. When I was studying in Heidelberg, the university library was closed on Sunday, which I hated! (I think that has changed.) In Britain, it felt like everything was open on Sunday except the bakery. In any case, there is a bakery on every corner in Germany, but Nadine baked her own bread for abendbrot!
She said she doesn’t doing it often because she and her son can’t finish it before it gets stale, but with guests that process goes faster.
I took the S-Bahn & U-Bahn to Nadine’s house.
When I got there, I took my shoes off and she loaned me some house shoes! (This is very common in Germany. Sometimes people—especially kids, I think—bring their own house shoes with them when they go to other people’s houses.)
While we had coffee and chatted, Kilian arranged his own monster movie! They had hung a sheet of paper on his walls and he painted the scenery. He was taking a video when I snapped my pic. It’s been so nice for me to be around families on this trip—of all shapes and sizes. It feels so relaxed and cozy. I don’t have many friends who are parents yet, so it always calms me down to hang out with parents who are still cool and have good relationship with their kids.
Home grown tomatoes and homemade bread!
become a delicious salad and perfect slices (extra delicious with butter and herb-salt)
Killian enjoyed his with some FreddyFox bologna! Look at the cool face:
Abendbrot ist wunderbar!
For me, this was a comfortable and familiar experience. I’ve had abendbrot with lots of different families, so it’s interesting to see all the different rituals and taste the variety of bread-offerings! (The dad of a good friend of mine says that I lust after German bread… not false.) I can’t wait to try CouchSurfing in a culture that I don’t know as well, so I can learn something new. It’s almost like having good friends in a foreign country.
My last day in Altona I tried to make as Altona-ish as possible.
I woke up and did my homework with some coffee. I love how Balzac makes it fresh! The Barista there said they enjoy making it because it gives them something else to do besides heat up milk. Honestly, I feel like everyone in Germany has been so much more friendly than I’ve ever experienced before, but I think that honestly comes from the fact that I am more open and trying harder to engage with people and use my language skills. So important. (She says before she moves to another place where she doesn’t know the culture or speak the language…)
I had my last German class and then headed over to the Altona museum. There were lots of ship figures and special paintings of the Elbe River. They even had a set-up of an old house and old shops—it felt very Colonial Williamsburg to me. I loved it!
It was really fun to go through the museum, but the most fun part was chatting with a woman who was born and spent her childhood in Altona. I didn’t realize that until the late 193os, Altona was separate from Hamburg. It was a separate (and much richer!) city with its own surrounding wall. During a cholera epidemic, Hamburg lost a lot of citizens, but Altona only three (including the great-grandfather of the woman I was speaking with). Hamburg wanted Altona, and in the late 30s Hitler ended the separation of a lot of the neighborhoods in Hamburg to create the city as it currently it. Freaking Hitler. You think having lived in Germany (and then spending the first part of this trip traveling through one of the Fronts of WWII) I’d be used to him by now, but damn. We spoke this sweet mix of mostly German and the occasional word of English, and she said she found my German impressive.
Now, I’m proud of myself, and I know I have learned a lot, but half the time I think people are just impressed that someone speaks any German! (I don’t mean people that know me, just people off the street.) Especially since I’m an American—we aren’t known for our language abilities. I’ve so enjoyed stretching my language muscles, but my favorite thing about German is being able to understand the daily stuff. It’s fun to read German books and watch tv shows, but it’s almost more fun to hear regular (even boring) daily conversations. “Should we turn here?” “Should I keep driving straight?” “Is this the street?” It’s so normal and wonderful and it reminds me that the language is alive. People speak German and conduct their entire lives in German, and it’s such a gift to have the time to be part of that.
When I was teaching high school, we had an assembly about a summer trip that some of the kids had taken. At one point, when a girl was talking about the trip to France, she blurted out, “And all the signs were in French!” People laughed at her (teachers, too) but I saw her point. Yes, on some so-obvious-it’s-dumb level, of course all the signs in France would be written in French. But on another, very profound level, when you learn English from a book in a country as isolated as America, it’s a beautiful shock to land in another country and see that WOW, everything you’ve learned is useful. There are people who speak this language and use this language and you can be a part of it.
I learned Spanish in school, but the reason I have pursued German with more ferocity than I ever pursued Spanish is because I lived there. I love the culture and the people and the language is such an intricate part of that. I find the German language interesting and beautiful. I know it sounds harsh if you don’t speak it, but it’s amazing to hear know how the language comes together. It’s such a complete language. I don’t know quite how to express that…
In English, we only need subject/verb. I should have gone running (over the river and through the woods on Sunday). The prepositional phrases can drop out without anyone losing the meaning of the sentence.
In German, the sentence would read live this:
I have on Sunday over the river and through the woods run should. (it’s hard to translate the tense precisely.) Look how so much of the meaning of that sentence comes at the end! When I was learning German, I was so thrilled the first time I made a sentence with the verbs on the end! (It is a danger to lose your train of thought halfway through though.)
Now that I’ve waxed poetic about learning German, I will admit that I continued my day by reading some more of Harry Potter auf Deutsch. Because I already know the story, I am learning a lot of vocabulary as I read.
I had a quiet night in, though I didn’t finish the book!! before getting up early for one last Altona Elbe-run (you saw my route) before heading to Hannover!