24 January 2009

Old Friends

Thinking of people is easy. It doesn't require an effort. You just do.

Staying in touch, making the effort to write or phone regularly, is a different story. At least I seem to botch this up regularly. But it doesn't mean I forget.

Today I finally found a trace again of someone I spent time with decades ago. In Occidental College, Glendale, CA, to be exact.

Ginny was my roomate at Oxy, from Tucson, Arizona. She always was avid on hiking, but over 20 years ago, she decided to take the ultimate hike and walk the Appalachian Trail. I only walked a few days on the West Highland Way in Scotland about the same time, without knowing what she did, but I got a glimpse of the fascination of long trail hiking.

Ginny kept on walking, I didn't. Her trail diaries, which I found today, are impressive. They are worthwhile reading. And maybe they will get you longing, just as I do now.

5 January 2009

Winterstammtisch in Hamburg-Harburg

On December 20th (yes, we're going back in time a little but then that's normal for re-enactors), we went to Hamburg-Harburg for the annual Winterstammtisch. This time, 'we' was not just Schatz and I but also Kees, Danny, Marion and Janneke from Holland who drove up here for a long weekend. See also Kees' blog entry of December 23rd.

do they have cheese in Harburg?

As I mentioned before, history or rather re-enactment enthousiasts meet in Hamburg-Harburg once a month on a Friday evening for a meal, a drink and some merry-making.

Wall of rememberance in the FZ Nöldekestraße pub

And in December, around the Yul weekend, we meet for a lavish banquet.

Everybody shows up dressed in their finest garb - except for me, I still need a real party dress. I tried to bluff my way through with two dresses atop each other but it wasn't quite as grand as I had hoped. Maybe I'll do better next year.

As people entered, they put plates and bowls on the table, as well as some cutlery and drinking vessels, and slowly the table was set.

getting ready

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Michi was keeping an eye on things.

in the eye of the storm

Birgitt was lighting candles and providing everyone with drinks.

"there's a light, over at the FZ place..."

And we - well, we were milling about, admiring each others' dresses and discussing fashion throughout the millenia, and taking pictures.

milling and mixing and admiring

women across time

suffering from gout?
or just conspicuosly inconspicous checking out her camera's TFT screen?

Whereas in past years most participants 'came from' the Early and High Middle Ages, there were hardly any late Middle Agers around this year. Instead, we had a lady from the first century AD and a couple of folks from Napoleonic times. Most fascinating indeed!

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Michi was still keeping an eye on things.

Michi developing the menu on the go

Slowly but surely we sat down and then the first course arrived, announced by the Chef himself.
Instead of going through all the details, with a picture for each dish, here's the menu.

the masterplan in runic inscriptions

For those of you who by now are totally confused, check out the Trutzhavener Feldküche website (for that's who Michi and Birgitt are) for the original menu in German, or read on for the menu in English.

- First Course
  • melon and apple on a bed of rocket lettuce with a honey-ginger dressing spiced with parsley and mint
  • small omelettes with salmon and dates
  • pastries with a goat cheese, onion, parmesan and gingerbread filling, served on a bed of red beets with red wine and thyme
  • slices of pork fillet, pickled with sugar, pepper and salt
  • moretum
  • whole rye-dinkel bread, wheat bread
- Second Course
  • pork shoulder butt ragout with slices of cooked and raw pears
  • fish fillet rolls with gingerbread and dille
  • parsnip and pumpkin mousse
  • sugarcrusted herbed curds (quark) with almond splinters
- Third Course
  • smoked trout, filled with goat cheese, walnuts and honey
  • veal saddle, marinated with gooseberries and poppyseeds and cooked at low temperature
  • slices of eggs and orange in a peppery orange sauce
  • grilled garlic gambas on a bed of roasted pork belly
  • goat cheese baked in honey with an almond splinter crust
- Fourth Course
  • small pancakes with apples and amarettini
  • fruit bread with a sauce of spiced wine and marzipan
If you think you have gained weight by just reading this, try taking a look at the collage that Schatz put together:

Chef and his evil creations

We tried to eat slowly, we tried to enjoy every morsel, and we tried to talk to keep our thoughts from our slowly but surely filling stomachs while coveting our neighbour's bowl.

gimme gimme gimme!

No, I am not yet stuffed!

it's only a teensie weensie bit, honestly!

he: if I eat any more they will have to alter my tunic again! or:
she: if he eats any more, I will have to alter his tunic again!

I still am somewhat at a loss of words to describe this feast but our faces should say more than enough.

uhhhummm! fingerlickin' good!


it's a ... food! a twin!
or: we may be able to eat again next year...

But all good things come to an end. Birgitt did some fast cleaning in the kitchen...

the gods be thanked for industrialization!

...and the rest of us cleared the tables.

all gone...

I will leave you with my two favourite pictures, one by Schatz:

seems to be fun to get your head chopped off by Robespierre

And the other one by Kees, from his set of photographs on Flickr (and his blog):

just before the breaking of bread

PS: if you have any complaints about pictures, those must be Schatzes! My pictures do not offend...

PPS: some may wonder what melons or oranges are doing at a 'medieval' banquet - but then nobody said it was an authentic copy but rather a mix of ingredients from various times and various parts of Europe.

4 January 2009

Little Dubai

I had interrupted my earlier entry about our visit to Bremerhaven as I wanted to add some pictures Schatz took with one of his various cameras. Unfortunately, that very camera had a faulty light baffle, as he found out - some rubbery thingie in that old camera let light into the camera body where and when it wasn't supposed to come inside and ruin the picture.

Anyway, I ended the first part of the Christmas 2008 Bremerhaven story with a picture of Schatz leaning against the side of the house, taking pictures of the 'new harbour' in the late afternoon. He photographed something like this:

more Christmas trees

Walking further south along the River, I caught sight of yet another illuminated object, the so-called radar tower.

radar tower

It's much like the tower for air traffic controllers, only in this case it is for sea traffic controllers... looking after ships on the River Weser north of Bremen to the island of Wangerooge. It also houses all sorts of equipment and facilities for maritime radio.

Like the globe at the Auswandererhaus, the radar tower is illuminated. And it changes colours. And it will continue to do so!

They started the light show a few years ago but as something rather temporary. It was continued year after year, but the city council thought the cost was too high, and so they only renewd the budget post year after year. Mind you, we are talking about the mindblowing sum of €15,000 a year! Most of this actually has not been for electricity expenses but for buying new light bulbs...

It seems they have now decided to make the illumination a more permanent feature and so maybe they will look for a more long-term and less bulb-consuming solution.

Looking the other way, you see this fancy new development:

not changing lights at night.

And looking great in the daytime too.

The Bremerhaven Burj al Arab

No, this hotel was not built by Atkins, a British design company, and it is not located on Jumeirah Beach. The 'Fischtowners', however, do call it Little Dubai.

hotel, conference center and offices

To be honest, the 'sail' looks better in this location than a 15 floor square highrise would but one wonders about the conferences that will take place in this small town. Not that I would mind working there, of course.

But back to Christmas Day late afternoon. We had by now walked past the Fischtown Burj, on to the terrain of the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum where Schatz enjoyed some more special photographic moments.

Schatz adoring a whaleboat

Rau IX, a former whaleboat, as adored by Schatz

In the meantime, I took another shot over Schatz' back.

former lightship from the Elbe 3 position

And looking in the opposite direction, I spotted yet another Christmas tree high up in a mast.

tug boat Stier at night...

...and the next day.

And, especially for Kees, here's a picture of the Wilhelm Bauer, also moored in the museum harbour:

Wilhelm Bauer - closed to visitors until end of March

That's basically all from Bremerhaven this time, although maybe I should mention that Schatz talked me into playing some snooker. Oh my...

3 January 2009

Labskaus and Emigration

On Christmas Eve, Schatz and I went to Bremerhaven to spend the holidays with his Dad. When we arrived, it was already dark (no big feat this time of year), but there were so many lights on in the city that I snapped my little Canon anyway, like outside the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum where the lines and masts of the museum ships were covered with lights.

passing ships in the night

It was Christmas everywhere:

In the hallway

...and on the other side of the hallway.

Schatz' Dad conveniently lives in a highrise built on top of a parking garage and shopping mall, which comes in very handy when the weather is bad. It is also great because it is only yards from the River Weser and offers a superb view over the waterway.

On Christmas Day, we had Labskaus for lunch. I have loved this dish ever since Karin made it for me more than 30 years ago. Her recipe - from 30 km south of Bremen - was slightly different from the one Schatz makes - from 50 km north of Bremen - but the dish is traditional Northern German although it can also be found in parts of Scandinavia.

Labskaus (Schatz style)

Labskaus is considered a typical dish for long sea voyages, and though it doesn't look like much to some, the combination of salted beef (or corned beef), potatoes, onions, red beets, gurkins, sour herrings, fried egg, salt and pepper is not only savoury but also refreshing in its own way. Onions, potatoes, and beets also are good against scurvy.

After lunch, we went for a walk. First down into the shopping mall. Where it was Christmas.

Christmas in the central plaza - or:
"Süßer die Kassen nie klingeln..." (caption by Schatz)

But the shops were closed, including this coffee house which tries to benefit from some loopholes in the anti-smoking law for pubs and restaurants. This owner thinks he can solve the problem by having customers smoke locally...

from Babel Fish with love

Eventually, we walked along the dyke of the River Weser. It was cold and grey but quite a few people were out for a stroll.

reconstruction of old semaphore

The original semaphore was located about 30 km downriver from here on the quay of a lighthouse, and used from 1893 to 1973 to indicate to mariners both wind direction and speed for the islands of Borkum and Heligoland. In the above setup, winds are Eastern for both locations and 3 beaufort for Borkum and 6 beaufort for Heligoland respectively.

Schatz and his dad waiting patiently while I do my semaphore thing

We walked on and finally reached our destination, the "Deutsches Auswandererhaus" (German Emigration Center).

Deutsches Auswandererhaus

Its main focus is on Bremerhaven as the major port for emigration from (or via) Germany from 183o to 1974 for Germans but also Eastern and South-Eastern Europeans. From these quays, more than 7 million people left Europe for a new life.

Even before actually entering the exhibition, the museum tries to create the right kind of atmosphere with transparent boxes of what things people might have taken aboard throughout the decades of emigration, from the late 19th century right up to the 1970's. You then enter a room that takes you a step further, with images and sounds, and then releases you up some stairs onto the quay.

Emigrants waiting at the gangway

Once you have climbed the gangway yourself, you pass holds filled with luggage on your way to the various cabins and berths.

berths around 1850 on a sailing vessel

simple steamship berths around 1890

tourist class berth early 20th century

By now, people were actually not just going one way into a hopefully better life but were traveling back and forth between the US and Europe, for example, for business and for holidays.

Throughout the exhibition, you are accompanied by visual and audio effects - great when you are ablebodied but somewhat of a nuisance when you have some hearing problems. But there are also plenty of items from the respective eras to take you right back in time, as well as some models occasionally.

models of the bark 'Bremen' and 'SS Columbus', both prominent migration vessels

Also well done is the room of the 5 million - drawer upon drawer, images, names, audio sources about famous and not so famous emigrants. Actually, your entrance ticket carries the name of an emigrant and you can follow their tales throughout the exhibition, not just in this room.

drawers upon drawers

Whereas in the 19th and first half of the 20th century, the majority of emigrants left Germany for the New World - mainly the Americas - things were a bit different in 2006:

favourite emigration target 2006: Switzerland

But people not only left Europe via Bremerhaven, some also arrived here, like this young man on October 1st, 1958:

The King and his Court

By the time we left the museum, Elvis had left the building, too.

Outside, it was dark by now - which meant that we got to see the changing lights on the globe on the upper floor of the museum in a variety of colours (see the full image for a better view).

the world is-a-changing

There are more pictures to come, notably from the various cameras of Schatz. Here is one of the man himself:

Schatz catching a light in the dark

PS: Just to pre-empt any such comment - Labskaus never was the cause of emigration, but only of re-migration!