The Birds of Hamburg

The road to Hamburg had one big traffic jam; we got off and tried to go around it but ultimately I think it would have taken the same amount of time if we’d just toughed it out. Someone opined that Google Maps doesn’t give everyone the same advice, to keep the various possibilities equally busy.

It was fairly difficult in Hamburg to find a parking spot near the restaurant, but yet we did, a couple long blocks away. We joined our friend Sebastian and his girlfriend Jenny, and our friend Thomas from Braunschweig, who is Sebastian’s business partner. The restaurant was French; we had merguez with couscous, and a nice fish. Afterwards, we all crammed in the car, and drove to Jenny’s house, which is in a fabulous neighborhood. An apartment house among mansions. We were “staying at Sebastian’s girlfriend’s”, but on other nights, people would stay there as an airbnb. We walked to a nearby bar, but it was full of Germans watching Manchester and Newcastle play soccer. We chose a quieter place, an English pub down the street with no TV. Soon our friend Kevin joined us, after biking over from the train station after work. The owner, a Swedish lady, corrected my pronunciation when I said we were going to Malmo (“mal-mow”) instead of Malmö (“malm-oo” not unlike the oo in book). She touched both our beards and found them very soft. We took pictures with her. Jenny said her admiration verged on #MeToo territory, but Tina did ask, after all. Schlubby guys in their 60’s don’t get weary of admiration the way really really pretty Hamburg girls do, in their 20’s.

We walked to the main street to find coffee. On the way, we saw a pretty bird, very tiny, a big patch of orange beneath its beak: this turned out to be a European Robin. And another multicolored bird, brown on top but with distinctive blue patches on the wings: this was a European Jay. At the local outlet of Balzac Coffee, where we were warned the credit card machine didn’t work. We tried the WiFi, and realized that its lack of function was probably why the credit card machine didn’t work. But they did squeeze oranges.

After doing another load of laundry, we set out walking around noon, and kept walking all day until dinner at 7:30. We walked along the shore of the lake near where we were staying, checking out the various water birds. The most impressive were the Great Crested Grebes, two of whom were assembling a little island made out of tufts of grass. They almost look like they have bunny ears. We passed the US Embassy, with its usual defenses. Eventually we ended up at the Radiation Martyrs Memorial, to remember the doctors and scientists who worked with radioactive material before people were aware of its dangers. There are hundreds of people listed; I think they may have stopped adding more. Marie Curie was pretty early in the list. After that we went to the Deichtorhallen, which had a show featuring the work of Robert Longo. He exhibits very large politically charged photographs. Except they are charcoal drawings of those photographs. A raft of refugees on a turbulent ocean. A bullet hole at Charlie Hebdo. Football players coming onto the field with their hands up. He also curated drawings from Fernando Goya, and movies at 1/100th speed from Sergei Eisenstein, and tied it all together into one exhibition. Later, we walked past the philharmonic hall, a cute piece of architecture from the outside, at lesat, then down the Reeperbahn to join our friends for dinner, this time also including Lindsay, up from Berlin. Kevin brought a few of his coworkers from Apple as well.