Wednesday, July 7th, 2004 *
Today my literature class went to Hamburg to see the places there that are featured in the novel we're reading, Die Entdeckung der Currywurst. Another American named Donovan and I are the only USAC students in the class; the others are Spanish students who as part of the Erasmus program have been in Lüneburg three fourths of a year already. Professor Werner asked Iris, the instructor of the Advanced German class Donovan and I are in, if we could leave early so we got to the Lüneburg Bahnhof by noon.

Donovan and I understood that we were to meet the other students, take the 12:29 train to Hamburg and meet Professor Werner on the platform there. The only thing was we couldn't find any of the other students. Fairly confident that we'd understood correctly, I went ahead and bought a ticket a few minutes before the train arrived, and off we went. We were still a bit unsure when we got off in Hamburg but soon saw the others getting off the train and then were met by the professor.

The spots on today's tour were new to me, but I've only been to Hamburg once, so it's not hard to go places there I've never been. We walked away from the river, ending up at Bruderstraße, where the fictional Lena Brücker lived. A friend of Professor Werner's owns a café on Bruderstraße, and we stopped there for refreshments and to discuss the book. Not far is the Großneumarkt on which Frau Brücker had her currywurst stand, not a very busy place this afternoon but pretty and sunny. We found a shop nearby selling what it claimed was the original currywurst, so a few of us tried some. Then it was off to the Gänsemarkt, where something in the book happened (I don't know what) and where there's a statue of the famous German author Lessing. Our last scheduled stop was to Dammtorstraße and the war memorial of 1876, which Frau Brücker and the book's narrator visit. It shows a company of marching soldiers and says, "Germany must live, and we die if we must." The narrator points out that two of the soldiers are smoking pipes, and we found them.

From there we walked to (I think) the Lombardsbrücke, near which stands a villa mentioned in the book. After that we were officially done with sites from the book, but the group wasn't quite ready to break up. Professor Werner wanted ice cream so we went to a nearby stand to get some (I abstained, still full from currywurst), and then we walked through a nearby park (featuring Planten un Blomen, as stated in low German) to the Japanese gardens. By that point the group was tired, so we headed back to the Bahnhof and home to Lüneburg.

Wednesday nights are karoake nights in the Old Dubliner pub in Lüneburg. I hadn't gone the week before but decided to tonight. Gay bars are a tricky thing since one doesn't want to get there too early. Not so with straight bars, or at least this one. I arrived fashionably late at 10:30 (which would be early for a gay bar) and the place was packed with people standing everywhere. I got a Smirnoff Ice (the one brand of "gay" drinks ala Zima that I can reliably find in Germany) and finally found a few USAC students at a table to one side. Ronnie sang, as you can see from the picture I took.
Saturday, June 26th, 2004 *
Today we met Eva downtown for a walking tour of Lüneburg. Another gray and cool day, but at least not a rainy one. Saturdays it seems that everyone in Lüneburg comes downtown to go shopping. I got to Am Sande, one of downtown's main streets, in time to buy some bread and detergent, which I'd forgotten to buy yesterday, and a pastry for breakfast. Eva walked us around the perimeter of downtown, pointing out each of the three main churches whose steeples serve as landmarks and showing us particular shops and restaurants. We walked to the historic harbor, small but from which the salt that made Lüneburg rich was shipped. Most of the buildings in Lüneburg are very, very old, a rarity in German towns, most of which were bombed during World War II. On the edge of town, at the edges of the underlying salt deposits, many buildings lean one way or another or sometimes both ways, with windows and roofs made crooked by the slowly-shifting ground underneath. I took a picture of a gate whose two posts had shifted so much over the years as to bring the gate's two halves together. Lüneburg's town hall (Rathaus) is also unique in that instead of tearing it down and rebuilding it as each new architectural style came into vogue, Lüneburg simply added on new parts in each style.

The tour over, we were again left to our own devices, but Eva had strongly encouraged us to spend the afternoon and evening in Hamburg. I'd misunderstood about our student passes getting us free transportation to Hamburg (only in Lüneburg unfortunately), but a schones Wochenende pass good on slow (local) trains throughout Germany costs only 28 € and is good for up to 5 people. After some logistics (dropping stuff off at home, making minute trips to the grocery, etc.) we all made it to the Bahnhof (train station) and onto a train to Hamburg, a trip that took only half an hour. Right around the corner from the Bahnhof is the Kunsthalle, Hamburg's art museum, which was hosting a special exhibition of Max Liebermann's garden paintings (very beautiful and very popular). After the museum, we took the S-Bahn to the Reeperbahn, Hamburg's well-known erotic district, full of bars and shops and theatres catering to every sexual interest. We walked from there to the river and along the harbor, stopping to eat at a pub there. We continued on to the ruins of a church on Ost-West Straße. Then pretty much tired out, we U-Bahned back to Reeperbahn for a last look at Hamburg's seedy district, surprised to find many older German couples looking at the sites there as dusk fell. We returned to the Bahnhof, missing a train to Lüneburg by only a few minutes, which gave us the greater part of an hour to explore the train station. We got back to Lüneburg around 11 and started walking home by way of downtown (busses stop around 8PM, although you can call a flat rate taxi for 2,50 € per person if you're willing to wait 30 minutes or so). We ended up deciding we were too tired to hit any of the many bars or cafes that were still open, instead heading for home and beds after about a 15-minute walk.

I'd known before I left this morning that it was my turn to wash the dishes, and when I made it back tonight, there were dishes all over the kitchen. Mind you, I haven't yet eaten a meal in the kitchen, having used so far only a glass, but I figured, okay, I'll pitch in for international harmony, so I spent 40 minutes before bed washing everyone else's dishes. I wasn't sure whether to throw away the potatos and rice that had been left in two pots on the stove, ending up making an executive decision that it's not good to throw away other people's food. (The space allocated to each of us for food storage and respecting each other's food was part of the rules I learned the first night here.) I did feel some satisfaction after dishes were put away and I spun the indicator forward to Conny.
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