Staying Put

Trip Start Jul 03, 2011
Trip End Jan 17, 2012

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Flag of Germany  ,
Saturday, October 1, 2011

There are some places you go that are harder to leave than others.  Bulgaria was one of these places, Pamplona was another.  Hamburg, too, is one of these places.  I was supposed to leave Sunday.  That quickly changed to Monday.  The way things are going, I won't leave until Tuesday, and I plan to skip Dresden altogether for more time in Hamburg.

My dad used to live in Germany, and when I told him I was going, he looked up his ex-girlfriend in the hopes I could stay with her.  Even though they hadn't seen or spoken to each other in forty years, Eva and her husband Manfred were delighted to host me.  We got along so well, and I plied her with questions about my dad in the seventies.  It was fascinating to hear about him at my age, and going to Hamburg seemed to be somewhat of a heritage trip as I checked out his old haunts.  It was cool to imagine him running around in his old stomping grounds.  At my insistence, Eva showed me his old apartment.  At Manfred's insistence, she even dug up some old photos of my dad.  I couldn't help but be amazed-- here was my dad, in his twenties, doing exactly what I am doing now, in my twenties.  The world keeps spinning.

I've been hanging out with Eva every day.  She planned a bunch of fun excursions for us so we've been biking around the city, spent time around the two famous rivers in Hamburg (the Elbe and the Alster), visited the homeless shelter she volunteers at, and watched street performances and break dancers downtown.  Of course, now I have a new goal, and I am patiently teaching myself how to break dance (I should have started ten years ago-- my body isn't quite cooperating with this new plan).  Eva found a Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah feast for us to go to Friday night, with singing and dance performances from the Liberal Russian Jewish community here in Hamburg.  She is in theatre, so another night we also saw a show at Kampnagel, where she acts and directs.  The show was a modern dance piece called Sadeh21, from the Batshevah Dance Company from Tel Aviv.  We were blown away and clapped for ten minutes, not understanding why the dancers never came out to take a bow.  In short, we hit it off immediately, and really enjoyed each other's company.

Eva insisted that there are, however, "some places she couldn't show me."  For these places, she introduced me to her son Michael and his girlfriend Alev.  As Eva shows me Hamburg by day, they've been showing me Hamburg by night.  It was a-shock when they took me to St. Pauli and the Reeperbahn, which is infamous in Europe for its strip clubs, sex shops, looming clubs, prostitutes, and all things seedy.  This is the mayhem that is a regular night in St. Pauli:

There is a wall blocking off one street where prostitutes sit in windows with red lights announcing they're open for business (the red light district isn't just in Amsterdam after all!).  Only men are allowed to walk on this street; if a woman walks on it the prostitutes will throw cups of pee on her or come out and hit her. Needless to say, I didn't walk on this street.  We kept passing girls standing around and I'd naively ask Alev, "Is that a prostitute?  How about that?  Is that one?  How can you tell?"  She laughed as she finally told me I should just assume every girl not walking somewhere was a prostitute.  She was probably right.

Aside from how much fun I've been having during my days with Eva and my nights with Michael and Alev, Eva has made sure I feel completely at home here.  She borrowed a bike for me so that I have my own transportation around the city.  She also borrowed her friend's empty flat for me, so I've had an apartment to myself.  Having so much space after living out of my backpack for three months is incredible.  The first thing I did was empty out my entire backpack and sit in the middle of my stuff, content in the disarray.  With people this welcoming, a city this cool, weather this nice, an immediate feeling of being a part of a family, and a sense of independence you can't get in any hostel, it is no wonder I don't want to leave.

...A special thank you to Lillian Nir for the Rosh Hashanah trip donation!  L'shana tovah!
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Justin Jones on

I love reading your blogs as you really know how to travel/write. You look great and sound great and seems like your trip just gets better. Keep livin it up
My best,
Travel bud

adrinadrina on

oriana! are you going to cologne? estevan is either there or in the south of france, where he and his girlfriend & two children have a house... i know he would love to host you! do you remember him? xx

Militza on

You find a new family in every country, this is wonderful! I will tell Lena that you loved her city! :) :*

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