Saturday, March 31, 2018

Getting to Know You Better

After that first post from the first week of the year about lowkey Saturdays and Sundays getting to know our new home city, I thought I would end up making more posts about individual weekends, but there weren't very many pictures from each of them. And then they started to build up on me.

So, what to do? You guessed it: image dump post! These are all the getting-acquainted-with-Hamburg weekend walks and points of interest from February and March.

This stroll on the weekend of Feb. 10th - 11th.

The Binnenalster, the smaller of two connected artificial lakes in the city center, is just down the street from City Hall, and has a large waterfront restaurant surrounded by outdoor tables and flanked by concrete steps that are probably extremely popular at times of the year when the lake is not frozen solid and the wind is not strong enough to carry away small dogs and underfed children.

The almost violent-looking architecture of this region often terminates in incredibly tall spires. These four Hauptkirchen or main churches of Hamburg are sometimes referred to as "the Four Sisters" because of views like this. The other one you can see is the Rathaus (City Hall) and is not a sister. 

Most of the buildings in Hamburg are fairly short, maybe around 5 stories tall, like ours. With only a few skyscrapers (though apparently it's getting another one), it mostly has relevant historical architecture like these pointy-ass churches, and is also a very green city, making it pretty unique.

Something about winter coming

Beyond Kennedy Bridge on the far side of the Binnenalster, with its little part and dirt paths, begins the long and winding Außenalster (the former meaning "inner"-, the latter meaning "outer" Alster). It has walking, jogging, and bike paths all along its edges, and carries on for a good long while into a very wealthy neighbourhood full of huge majestic homes. We were cold, though, and only walked along it for a few minutes before crossing the street back into the center of town.

Being a grungy, far-left port city, Hamburg inevitably has a lot of good street art.
This was the first of what became a motif that day, stencils of animated 80's characters saying that Putin is gay.

I want to think that this guy is from one of the older Gundam series, maybe? He kind of reminds me of Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid but I'm sure he's a classic anime dude. Anyway, he's also quite firmly of the opinion that Vladimir Putin is in fact a homosexual. -nods thoughtfully-

Very Mockingjay-esque hummingbirds

I like that Superman seems to be looking up wistfully and announcing this to the stars

The winner of the bunch was the last one: Putin as Ursula x'D
Maybe that last guy was Prince Eric?

Yet another pleasantly imposing and spooky old church, but this time with disturbing iron-coloured statues of Jesus and his crucified friends outside, this is the Dreieinigkeitskirche.

Even more imposing and very typically brick gothic, this is one of the sisters up close, 
the St. Petri Kirche.

And this is the Rathaus, as you can see, constructed in a much more elaborate and very different style, also much later on (at the end of the 19th century), and yet still extremely pointy. Although I did talk about all of that in more detail already in the post about the Rathaus Christmas market.

At the Kleinen Alster (which flows into the Binnenalster) just in front of the Rathaus.
This cupid stencil reads "Bitches stole my arrows"

And heading back home... The biggest icicles I'd seen yet hanging off our train station.
Those longest ones are easily half a meter or a foot and a half long.

And there was cake. Ohh, yes, there was cake. Blackcurrant (Johannesbeer) cheesecake.
Sunday afternoon coffee and cake is kind of like what they've replaced church with here.

The following Sunday we took another very crisp and refreshing walk, this time through the Hamburger Stadtpark, which is the main, massive park in the center of the city. It has various duck ponds, all manner of sports fields and courts, a huge playground for kids, cafés here and there, an artificial lake connected to a public swimming pool, various bronze and other statues of relevance, and also the city's planetarium.  

Why, here's one now! One of those charming duck ponds that I was so looking forward to!
-muffled sounds of ice crackling-
... Welp.

Maybe next time, huh ducks? It's still nice to get some fresh air, even when everything is frozen and leafless. I've been cooped up in the house with no money and nothing to do, so these weekend strolls are much needed.

So lovely and scenic! That white stuff there is snow that was still on the ground.

Here's a snippet of the massive playground.. Aaaand the most awkward way to lean against something I've seen in a good long time lol

I thought these little black duck thingies (Eurasian coots, if like me you must know) with the white masks were so cute, until I saw one out of the water. They have big horrible freaky clown feet! What the hell?! Dx

Here's the artificial lake, frozen over and silent just like the Binnenalster the week before.

I know there's no focal point or anything interesting going on in this photo, but it's for scale - this body of water is pretty huge, and it's weird to see it so silent and still and glassy. That crowd of specks is a flock of ducks or geese.

Diana auf der Hirschkuh, one of the aforementioned relevant (or at least mildly interesting, imo) bronze statues in the park. It's by Georg Wrba, a late-19th - early-20th century German sculptor.

Actually, a guy with a concrete sea lion up his butt and freaky bird feet weren't the only funny things we saw on our lengthy stroll through the park that day. 

There's a sort of long, narrow, open area where this statue is, like the layout of a garden in front of a palace or castle. Leading up to this statue, at the end of it, are some steps, one set on either side. 

We stopped and watched, the pants charmed right off us, as two young women on both sides of the steps photographed their dogs. Just in front of us was a girl with a chubby Jack Russel, and he looked like a bored boyfriend who just barely tolerates the number of selfies being taken and wants them to be over. 
The situation on the other side, though, was totally different: that girl had three massive dogs, all looking super friendly and excited, and she was able to get a few pictures of them standing majestically, but mostly it looked like that .gif of the person trying to arrange a dozen tiny kittens into a neat row and get them to stay put. One of them, a pit bull, couldn't understand that she wanted him to stay in place with his head down on the ground as he lay at the edge of the steps. She kept gently pushing it down but that lovable idiot lifted it right up again as soon as she turned, ears perked up all eagerly and tongue lolled out, waiting for the next set of instructions, blissfully unaware that he kept missing them. 
Even funnier was that these women didn't look at each other or talk to each other or even seem to be similar, yet there they were doing the exact same thing in the same spot. I wondered if this was actually some kind of famous spot for this one specific activity. Several minutes later, though, we passed them walking together and talking, boofers and yippers in tow, and clearly, they did know each other afterall.

And here's a cool stencil I found across the street.

More cheesecake!
(Going back through these pictures is like logging exactly how I've put on weight
 since I've been here, but at least I've been gymming again..)

That same day, after our park walk and cake break, we walked over to the Arbeitsmuseum, or Museum of Work, for their Das Kapital exhibition. Both the park point at which we started our stroll and this museum are only a couple of stops away from us.

Look at this great transformer box tho

When you first enter you're in a supermarket-esque display of abstract ideas, living creatures, and generally very important things being sold as faceless, homogeneous, monotonous commodities, alongside things like beans and shampoo. 

Jannes, who wanted to go to this but hadn't yet and is often a little too intellectual for me, said that this was super ironic not because depictions of Marx and references to Kapital were commodified, "but because of universal philosophies being rendered into hollow pop culture symbols". I mean, like. Yeah. That too. :P

-exasperated dramatic sigh emoji-

There were loads of different copies of the book itself in a great many languages, and there were even various manga of it! In English, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. 

Engels explaining to some freezing peasants that value is relative to your situation

Basically my motto in life: 
"It's because I am taking a good look at reality that I think something is wrong".

All in all, a very satisfying and interactive exhibit.

Elevator selfie transition into the other exhibits, because it's a fairly large museum..

The printing presses and plates were pretty cool. 
They had a book printing workshop a little while ago, but I didn't go.

Like how fancy is this thing though?

We also learned from a woman at the museum how shitty it was to be a switchboard girl. 

I guess I never really thought about the hazards of one of those early female-dominated jobs, aside from corset or girdle cramps, poor pay, and sexual harassment, but as it turns out, the lines were full of electrical charge and discharge. 
When the fat rich men in suits who could afford phones would make calls, they had to crank the phone by hand to get enough electrical charge to use it. They frequently over-cranked, because fair enough I guess, you don't want to suddenly run out of call-juice, but the lines just held onto all the extra charge. It didn't dissipate or exit anywhere. So, all day long, the switchboard girls would hear the ever-louder vibrating hum of the built-up excess charge, and over several years, they would get tinnitus, their hearing would be irreparably damaged, or they would go deaf. 

The people who owned and ran the switchboard rooms generally attributed this to "female hysteria". When a woman could no longer work, she would simply be fired, and there was no system of any kind of social security or unemployment or compensation for the damage, injury, or lost salary in place. That was that. It's almost like things like social welfare and labour unions are important, right?

We also tried our hands at using old-fashioned typewriters. 
Aligning the lines of text is hard!

Outside there's this thing, placed in the courtyard like a big postapocalyptic scultpure - 
it's Trude, the largest tunnel-boring drill machine head in the world.

Now we're on the weekend of March 10th and 11th, because the last weekend of February, we were in Rostock. Our only real plan was to hit at least one flöhmarkt, or flea market, because we still didn't have basic things for our apartment and were getting tired of it (I summed this up by telling people that we could start thinking about inviting them over for dinner once we owned a trash can). 

Mostly I really wanted to find frames and get some things up on the wall; this was always super easy back home, going to huge thrift stores the size of supermarkets for highly specific things like awkwardly-sized frames and very often finding them. 
But, well, that didn't end up being the case with these weekend markets, though it did end up being a really interesting day.

First we went to Gängeviertel ("Alleyway Quarter"), a popular little complex centered around one main building that UNESCO apparently lists as a site for cultural diversity? and that functions mainly as a collection of murals and other street art, a concert venue, exhibition space, and yes, a weekend flea market.

I love these three-dimensional street art sculptures you can find around Hamburg, like the brightly-coloured Popsicles and little round soot sprite-like guys I mentioned before. This was was a layered cardboard cutout, I think, but still really unique.

Originally I thought these were Marshal Arts like the Moses with tablets one, 
but it's a combination piece by TONA and Adey (who specialises in rabbits).

I don't know who painted this one, but I like that they rolled with the missing bricks.

And I really love this picture of Hannes.

The only photo I took inside the main building itself, where the art and flea markets were being held on maybe three different floors, was this random one in the entryway, while I was waiting for Hannes to use the bathroom. 

The place was not only packed with people, including old couples and women obnoxious enough to think that strollers would be acceptable in narrow makeshift spaces full of stairways, but there was also hardly anything at all for sale. A few shitty clothes and a coffee stand and poor-quality handmade things like magnets, that was it. 

The only cool thing was the screenprinting that was going on, where you can bring a pair of jeans or a jacket or whatever, choose from the designs taped up everywhere, and have them do it for you right there for 10 - 20 euro. I pissed the guy off by trying to take a photo, though. Left-wing people here are paranoid about that to the point of being hostile, because right-wing thugs have used social media to report protesters and activists to the police.

It's to the point that Solvig, for example, has virtually zero photos of her and her friends doing stuff and having fun together, which Hannes and I both find ridiculous and too extreme. We live in a world of a high-quality smartphone camera in every pocket and CCTV on every corner and at every ATM; you can't avoid having your image recorded completely, it's impossible. 
And how can you feel confident that you're doing the right thing if you're augmenting your behaviour and hiding to that extent? Maybe you were winging bricks at cops' heads during the G20 protests when they cracked down to an extent that hasn't been seen in Germany for a long time and beat a bunch of people half to death. Maybe it's complicated, and sometimes what you do isn't quite right.

So I can understand the fear of persecution, but at the same time, people also tend to have that and to adopt an air of martyrdom when they think themselves more important than they actually are. And that is definitely something that people here do.

Anyway, point is, there are a lot of places and events here where they say "No photos", and you have to try to respect that.

This massive freaking spider is "Cross-Section of a Black Widow", by Nychos.

Here's one by Marshal Arts, on the main street outside. 

And Adey again, with some pretty involved cut-paper shenanigans.

Oh wait, there's more. 
We didn't see this tunnel before, though it goes to the same area we already walked around. There are various art installations, other murals, and (soggy abandoned) outdoor café setups on this side.

I was trying to get a decent photo of this pigeon next to the mural pigeons 
but it refused to do anything interesting.

Now, on the way to another flöhmarkt at the huge and historical St. Michaelis church 
(one of those Four Sisters from before), here's the Marshal Arts Ten Commandments one I was talking about.

Fuckin' lohl

We took a curved, uphill, cobblestone side street to get to the church.

You can see how misty, rainy, grey, and very cold it was again/still; this was when that massive Polar Vortex system comfortably settled its fat frigid ass right over most of Europe (while the second piece of it settled over the northeastern coast of the U.S.), so that people in London were sledding down their streets and people in Amsterdam were ice skating on the rock-solid canals.

This is one of those things that you know is tall, but still impresses you when you get up close.

"St. Michael's Victory Over the Devil", above the entrance.
Not today, Satan!

Instead of going into the main part of the church we decided to take a look at the crypt underneath it. 

St. Michaelis charges admission for each individual part of the church (including the tower in the first pics), which we had never seen before and thought was a little much, and honestly, we thought that even more once we had given the anticlimactic basement space the once-over. There just isn't a whole lot of anything down there; it's interesting from an historical perspective, sure, but so are most cemeteries, which is what the crypt is. 
Apparently they even have church service and concerts down there, and they were setting up seating for some kind of event when we went that day.

A total of 2,425 people were buried here, a few coffins deep, during the hundred or so years it was open for internments. One of Bach's sons, who was also a composer, is among them.

This cool creepy statue is by Oskar Ulmer (bronze; 1912).

At first I thought these were stair railings; the /r/mildlyinteresting fact that St. Michaelis has the largest clock tower of its kind in Europe checks out when you realise how big the hands are. These ones were on the clock until, I think 1904.

Onto the flöhmarkt! It was mostly old folks, and for old folks, being at a church and everything; and by this time the Easter candy was out in the supermarkets and many of the crafts here were pleasantly Easter-themed.

A charming vintage fan

Handmade Easter ornaments; I didn't buy one, but I did buy a little angel made out of a folded piece of sheet music from the same lovely old lady. As you can see, though, we also found nothing resembling the housewares we were looking for at this market!

Across the main road and down a smaller one was the KomponistenQuartier, or Composers' Quarter, which I had been interested in seeing since I noticed it on Google Maps, so we took a detour for a couple of blocks on our way toward St. Pauli.

And just a couple of blocks it was! There's a Brahms museum and maybe a couple of other small points of interest for those who know something about classical German composers, but aside from the architecture, that's it.

Although, this entire city is known for its historically relevant architecture.

We walked past this tree trunk sculpture, too, just by chance, the Hamburg-Baum. 
It's at the entrance of the city's huge botanical park, Planten und Blomen, at Millerntor. A collaboration of those two sculptors whose names are carved into it, it's full of Hamburg-relevant motifs, such as the city seal (which you see everywhere) on the bottom left, a mermaid, a water carrier, gulls, fish, and the lettering for "Alster".

We had decided to hit Flohschanze, possibly the biggest, longest-running, and most frequent of them all, though it was getting late and people were already packing up when we arrived, and it was also starting to mist-rain.

Long story short, we didn't find anything at all there, either, aside from one of these colourful street art Popsicles (which are probably made by a different person than the plastic ones, or are at least totally distinct from those). It would probably be fun to check out again on a nicer, warmer day, earlier in the day, when there aren't mobs of identically-dressed drunk guys who've just left a St. Pauli football game everywhere.

We wandered around the area for a while looking for something to eat.
Here, on a stoop, Marshal Arts strikes again. 
I don't know who does these very 90's fish, though.

This cardboard fly is just great.

And this seems right.  Maybe Hamburgler with Ronald McDonald hair and clown makeup would be even more accurate? You know, since he's stolen and swindled and lied and avoided any semblance of punishment or consequence his whole disgusting life?

We just walked past this church, but I want to go inside at some point; it's supposed to be quite opulent. It's a Russian Orthodox one called Gnadenkirche, and I think it looks like a haunted mansion or maybe one of those little idealised miniature building models you see around Christmastime that are all put together to form perfect little Christmas towns.

We ended up circling back around to where Flohschanze is held and going to a cozy restaurant and pub with heavy wooden chairs and tables called Feldstern. We shared an order of spicy bean and vegetable soup and risotto with fake meat and arugula, both vegan, and a pint. We tried to find a show or something similar to go to that night, but after walking around the entire city all day, we were too tired to wait until 9 or 9:30 for something very mediocre, and called it a day.

... But not before I spotted some more of these very 90's cartoon fish on the way out.

On St. Patrick's Day, the following weekend, Hannes' parents came to visit. At first we all thought walking around town and showing them some of the obligatory things - since they've never really experienced Hamburg - would be just fine because it was clear and sunny, but even post-Polar Vortex, it was absurdly, bitterly cold and windy. 

I was also in a very sour mood, I'm sorry to say; March was a bad month for me, and I was really depressed. I'd been getting progressively moreso for quite a while, and being stuck all day every day in an apartment we were too preoccupied with stressful bureaucratic shit to decorate or settle into and that I still didn't even feel like I lived in four months later because I still had no legal residency status, was taking its toll. 

That morning started out good, though! I love the coffee cups from this franchise bakery; isn't the design great? The texture is nice, too; some of them are 100% recycled.

We literally went underground for shelter from the elements, taking Anke and Marco through the old Elbtunnel that spans the river and that some people who live on the sparser and more invonvenient side of the Elbe actually use to commute, as they do the scenic ferries. You might remember this from the first time we visited Hamburg. Lars took us there because it's his favourite place in the city.

It's most notably decorated with large art deco tiles throughout, from the 1910's.
I don't know if I noticed this one the first time; we debated whether or not a pirate or sailor's leg was still in that boot. I say it is, because the rats wouldn't be showing so much interest otherwise. Macabre!

On the other side, with a panoramic view of the city across the mighty river, I wanted to re-create that first experience, and had been looking forward to having another lumumba (hot chocolate with rum, but also a Congolese independence leader and Pan-Africanist, because again, that's how far left this city is) there for years. Unfortunately, the wind was so strong and miserable that it was not only blowing peoples' cups right out of their hands, but blowing their drinks out of the cups.

Marco found it pretty amusing, even though the wind 
had spritzed his drink all over the front of his coat.

The Elbphilharmonie again

My one plan for the day had been to ask Anke to take a photo of us for our wedding announcements here, with the city in the background. Welp!

-wind blasting, hair whipping-

Oh look, the Lion King musical boat ride tour thing.

Taking shelter again, we went to a large German restaurant and pub right at Landungsbrücken 
even though we weren't really hungry yet, though that ended up being a good thing because 
a touristy place like this tends to have too-small portions for too-high prices.

Ah well, cheers anyway!

At least the sunset was pretty.

That night I went to bed pretty early and the next morning we had a hearty brunch before the 'rents drove back home. As far as entertaining visitors goes that weekend really tripped all over itself and faceplanted, but it was nice seeing them, and of course, Anke brought all kinds of goodies for us, too.

The last weekend I'll tell you about in this phase of getting to know Hamburg better is the next one, March 24th and 25th, when we tried a Car2Go for the first time to finally get to Ikea, and to finally see a possible venue for the summer garden party.

I had made it clear to Anke the weekend before that we'd been way too preoccupied and stressed out to start thinking about the wedding party, which is just the kind of future thing that's really hard to force yourself to wrap your mind around when you're jobless and penniless and spending 5 months of expensive paperwork and appointments actually, legally getting married. 

Because my German isn't good enough I couldn't call venues to ask questions and make appointments myself, so once again, it was up to Hannes, who was already neck-deep in necessary and pressing high-level adulting stuff for the both of us. He kept saying "We have time, it's still months away," and putting it off. That's fair enough, but I mean, people usually spend about a year planning a wedding, and we were down to four months without even a single possible venue. 
So, his mom basically started planning it for us right then and there, asking difficult yet rapid-fire questions like she always does, and writing down all the names she could think of, because we really weren't even sure how many people we were talking about inviting but couldn't do anything without a number. It was stressful and completely unfun. We found a nice-looking place with reasonable prices after a bit of searching, though, and had decided to do rent a car to go see it and to finally get our picture frames and trash can.

Lars uses these all the time; you sign up, pay, and unlock the cars with their app on your phone.

And look! Someone was swigging a bottle of wine while driving this the night before 
and they were kind enough to leave it for us :/

"This is the kind of thing I want for the garden party, only not wooden! 
Just a structure, with lights, and plants and stuff."
"-blank exhausted stare-"

I tried out the beautifying selfie settings on my phone and holy shit are they weird. 
Never again lol

This is Röperhof, a massive thatched-roof hall of a building that looks really awesome from the outside and in photos, but weirdly, their teeny tiny square of garden and terrace behind that hedge there is sandwiched between two parking lots, one of which is the employee one, and also has the dumpsters. Even with two parking lots, there's only enough space for about eight cars. 

To the left there, on the other side of the trees and next door to the tiny lawn patch, are peoples' houses. Behind where I was standing to take the photo is a huge open field park thingy with a pond, but it looks more like a spooky swamp, and beyond that, to the right, are big obvious industrial business parks with buildings that totally spoil whatever remaining view and atmosphere the parking lots didn't. We instantly said no. There wouldn't even be enough space for fifty people outside if they were doing nothing but standing close together, much less sitting at tables and mingling and whatnot.

Not only that, but they refused to give us any kind of quote or estimate over the phone, even though Hannes was being very polite and asked specifically how much it would cost for 50 people. They had said to come down any time on a weekend to ask, but when we did get there, the place was booked, and a huge fancy private party was going on inside, so it was impossible to talk to anyone.

We peaced the fuck out. At least it had been a nice, scenic drive and we'd gotten the basics we'd been needing for the apartment. Hamburg is also super small! It's crazy how tiny it seems from a car! It only takes ten minutes to get here or there or cross through the entire city centre. I was flabbergasted, even though we had casually seen pretty much all of it on foot.

(Finding a garden party venue in Hamburg - an exceptionally green city full of beer gardens and large restaurants - proved totally impossible for whatever weird reason, and getting very little is exorbitantly expensive, so after Hannes called and e-mailed several more places that were either booked up, too expensive, weird and unfriendly like this one, or all of the above, we had decided to cancel the whole thing and hope to find something next year. 

After that decision was made, the very next day, Anke miraculously found us a venue in a huge park in Rostock, where the overwhelming majority of the guests live anyway. Good price, food and drinks to our liking, big outdoor area, rambling grounds, and so on. It's also proved to be weird and unfriendly, but at least the wedding garden party is booked!)

Oh finally: not only kitchen and bathroom trash cans and picture frames for some of the million things I want to put on the wall but cushions for the covers my mom bought us, full-sized bath towels and a bath mat, and a random stylish lightbulb cage!

Nico and Andrea got us that world map; it's scratch-off, 
and we're only scratching the places we've been together. 

The painting on the left I randomly did at my desk at work a few years ago, and the other two are Meika's; I'd asked Hannes for them for my birthday. You can buy her prints here, and originals on Etsy.

Another by me, two by Alexandra, and the wonderful little original Meika gave me as a present for the same birthday. Also a Kittyzilla linocut print and postcards and a die-cut card I collected in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.

Oh boy, that was another super long post! But it's also a lot easier to catch up on lost time this way, and everything here is the same sort of theme or activity in the same place, so.. there you go. Now you've gotten to know Hamburg better along with us. At least I feel like I actually live here now.

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