Month: April 2015

Two days to recover, two days to savour- HaSpa Marathoner!

I suppose I could have seen it coming, but yesterday would not have been any better even if I had been better prepared for it. Who put me on the second floor of my building?!

As to be expected after 26.2 miles (or the scarily higher-number 42.196), my quads were not happy with me. I was happy with them, though, and what they had accomplished for me. For one thing, I’m glad they took the beating without letting it out on my knees or knee ligaments. Still, climbing stairs (worse, going down them) was no fun lately. Actually, it was bad enough to put me in a bad mood until dinner time, where I was finally home and allowed to rest again. That’s saying a lot, since I’m a generally happy person.

But since that’s the worst of it, I will say I’m grateful with how things turned out.

Basically, I had a good run. No, actually, I can say I had the best run of my life thus far.

Gruppe_Marathon_Hamburg 2015

It was especially great to have people to meet before the race, take care of business with (pun intended, though not literally with) and wish one another luck.

This was the first marathon where I actually feel like I raced it. It’s a tough distance to run and I think that the first time, I only ran to run.The second time, I ran to race, but ended up not fueling properly and not being well enough prepared. This time (three times a charm!), I fueled hella well, but maybe could have been more prepared. However, the point is, I knew I could have raced smarter, and that, I think, is the truth to the beginning of a beautiful life aspiration that I can carry with me from here on out.

Here's a picture of me at 16K. Of course it has proof running across it. Does anyone want to buy it for me for 39 Euro? Just kidding. I think I'll wait for another race.

Here’s a picture of me at 16K. Of course it has proof running across it. Does anyone want to buy it for me for 39 Euro? Just kidding. I think I’ll wait for another race.

At least, I figured out that what they (people like Sabrina Mockenhaupt, the German favorite at this marathon) mean by saying “the race begins at mile 20 (or kilometer 30). I had two plans for this race. One was in regard to fueling, and the other in regard to running. Both aspects needed separate, but equal attention.

For running, I took the advice to not start off too fast very well… perhaps too well, as that is probably what set me back the few minutes it would have taken me to run a 3:47 (my less-reach-goal than 3:45). I walked across the starting line (not that I had much of a choice with the mass of people around me) and settled into a comfortable 9 mpm pace. No weaving or skipping across people’s trajectories for me. I just wanted to take it easy, soak in the sprinkling of rain and people’s cheers at the starting line, and appreciate the fact that the race was indeed underway. My first 5K split was 27:56. I had an almost even split for the 10K, coming in at 55:51. This was slower than I had anticipated, but I wasn’t worried about falling too far off track yet. I just wanted to take it easy, make sure all systems were in check. I had slight tightness on the back of my knees and my right hamstring, but it wasn’t a dangerous kind. I also had to go pee since before we had even gotten started, but I told myself I could handle it. I would only stop to go number 2, if I had to. Turns out, I was able to finish the race without stopping. Success!

So there I was, trotting along at a reasonable pace, feeling alright about things, couldn’t stop smiling about the cheers, running through the streets like a rebel, running, hearing the conversations around me, and feeling life in color. I had a few people from my dorm I was expecting to see on the course, but I think I must have missed them, and they me. But looking for them through the faces of the spectators, while exhausting in its own way, took my mind off running.

Part of my plan was to keep steady until the half-marathon point, and then pick it up for a negative split. I split my sections into 3 miles, which coincided with the 5K splits the race course was divided into, and just stayed positive. After nine miles, I thought to myself “already 1/3 through!” I had a similar sort of feeling after 18 miles… the race was almost going by too quickly to be true!

I will say that things got harder after 22 miles. At mile 20, I told myself “10K left to go!” and thought of how simple that distance usually is for me. But after 20 miles, 10K is a lot and it became harder to keep up the pace. Even though I was still keeping a pretty steady 8:45 pace that I had started around mile 14, consistently passing people (always making sure to pass on an encouraging word or sentence- and passing people is psychologically very motivating for a competitive person like myself) things (my quads specifically) were starting to hurt. Also, anytime I slowed down to get water, a banana or a gel, I could feel the lactic acid starting to build up. It took forever to get to mile 23, where I could tell myself “only 5k left!” Mile 24 was a blur, and I hit tunnel vision around then as well.

Mile 25 was only a “one mile left, one mile left” mantra, and at the 42K mark, I could see the finish line. I hit full-speed (as much as I had) and went soaring in… into the wrong entrance. There was a relay race done for this marathon as well (6,000 runners doing the relay!), and I ended up in the lane where they ran in together to finish. I saw this just in time to turn around before hitting the finish line, but it cost me at least 25 meters. I must have looked like a dork, though I was too high off running to care, but I did have huge thumbs up to show!

3:50:55

I’m proud of my ability to stay strong through the finish. This is the first marathon where I did not walk. I am also very pleased with my negative split. The only thing I regret, is that I realized with my spurt at the end (I passed at least 20 people in the last 200 yards) that I could have run a faster race. Oh well, that’s what next time is for. For now, I have a 7+ minute PR and an idea of how these races are run.

I wasn't just saying it when I wrote that I couldn't stop smiling. I didn't even know this picture was being taken.

Here’s a picture of me at 38K. I wasn’t just saying it when I wrote that I couldn’t stop smiling. I didn’t even know this picture was being taken.

The way I ran, of course, would not have been possible if I had not fueled properly.

The other plan I had in regard to nutrition was something I developed during my long training runs. I used to be (and still am, for the most part) someone who will run 13 miles without bringing fuel or water if I can find fountains along the route. This can get tricky in Florida, but in northern Germany during the winter and early spring, dehydration was not really an issue. If I ate a sturdy breakfast and had a decent amount of simple carbs the night before, I could head out and feel strong for 13 miles no problem. However, at some point during my last marathon training cycle (which ended with injury), I figured out that I can run better after 15 miles if I’ve eaten something during it. This marathon training cycle, I discovered that eating something as early as 6 miles in would ensure I had the strength to pick it up and stay strong through the end of my run. If I ate again at 13 miles, I had enough to get through 18 strong, and if I ate at 18, 20 was a breeze. Basically, even though I’ve read the advice for years, I never actually practiced mid-run fueling properly. Now I have, though I find that refueling every 6 miles works best for me.

The best part about this marathon for me was that they provided bananas, electrolyte drinks, water, and the energy gels (albeit gels only after 22K). As someone who has decided to go sugar-free, bananas on the route were amazingly thoughtful. The food aid stations came every 5-8K (perfect for me to take something every other time ) and the water was every 5K. I felt weak between miles 10 and 13 (because I hadn’t taken solid fuel yet, my mistake), but got a high around mile 13 and picked it up after each refueling on the route. That could account for some of my smiling on the route.

While the fueling during the run was almost perfect, I still need to work on pre-race fueling. I took the advice that carb-loading should start 72 hours before the race, and had a good balance of complex and simple carbs during the Wednesday-Saturday of the race. I was actually feeling good-energy was high and I felt confident. But then I overdid it at the pasta-dinner a fellow soccer player and runner hosted, and ended up with a little too much in my system. I didn’t feel stuffed or bloated, but I knew I had too much, on top of what I had already consumed, leading up to this race. Thus, on race morning, because I knew something had to leave, I resorted to a very risky measure. I took a laxative early before the race… it worked within 15 minutes and all was well (sorry if this is all TMI), but I don’t ever want to have to risk it not working in time again, or working for too long. I will be more careful about what I eat the night before the race next time. I’m thinking that the last full meal should be at lunchtime, and then a lighter supper fare is more reasonable for the evening. I still stand by my yogurt, fruit, and coffee on race morning though.

All in all, this was a great race. As some closing notes, I’ll say that the German racing system is kind of neat. They award certificates after the races for all finishers. Here’s mine: urkunde.They also took a picture of me at the finish line, but mine is not updated yet. They’re still sorting through multiples of 21000 to get everyone their links.

I also got to know the city of Hamburg is a splendid new way. We ran by some of Hamburg’s best sites and I saw the Stadtpark, an area I had never previously seen before. It was beautiful. The people of Hamburg also put on a great supportive face, coming out despite the poor weather. I had a lot of random people yell “go Dorothea!” or “Lauf, Doro!” (Doro being the German nickname for Dorothea). It was really encouraging and the race was so much fun. I can only say again and again how happily I would do it again… though give my quads a chance to recover first.

Advertisements

‘Twas the Night before the Race- HaSpa marathon

I’m starting to think that I only need one site, not three. The problem is, I will probably annoy everyone who subscribed to my other blogs (running and reading) just to read about those things. However, I’m getting to the point where I don’t care, especially for this post, since it is the juncture where Hamburg study-abroad meets my running passion: the Hamburg Marathon (more on that later in the post). In reflection, all my passions juncture with one another and I think I may be more successful (a term I define for myself in this context as reaching as many readers as possible) if I consolidate all my writings into this one blog to create a better platform for me to express myself.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection lately. There are creative writing projects blooming in my notebooks and I am about to complete my third marathon after a two year injury-healing cycle. I consider today a little like the day before my birthday, the night before Christmas where the anticipation slowly builds for what the next day will hold.

This poem from goneforarun.com comes to mind:

Goneforarunpoem

 

Tomorrow, April 26th, while many runners will be getting ready for the London Marathon, I’ll be starting in Hamburg’s 30th annual marathon.When I signed up back in December, I knew I was heading into something big.

However, as January saw me plagued by bad plantar fasciitis in my right foot, and January and February were struggles to the death with my MA thesis, training fell to the wayside. I was still running, and I tried to get in at least 25-30 miles a week, but I wasn’t able to get long runs in.

Then, as the thesis fog cleared and my feet itched to get out, I slowly got into serious marathon training. The first few days in March I spent researching whether I would even be able to train in time (less than two months), but I decided to just get started and see how far I could get.

As opposed to the last two marathons I started training for, but got injured during training, I did not follow a plan and was extra attentive to the signs my body gave me. This time around, I also had a foam roller, ice packs, regular cross training, and orthopedics in my regular day-shoes on my side.

All in all, starting February (where I was doing regular 11 miles, so not completely unfit) my long runs progressed like this: 12, 13, 15, 16, 20, 8… 26.2

It was a bit of a (read: a huge, what was I thinking?) risk jumping from 12 to 20 miles in five weeks. However, I only took the risk because I needed the confidence boost. Since then (two weeks ago), I have been extremely careful (ha ha, not really… soccer game last Sunday?), and very laissez faire. This past week, I’ve been feeling a bit run down, and I did not expect differently. I skipped the run I wanted to go on Thursday, and feel better about that decision. I realized at that point that pushing myself out the door was not as wise as just laying back to put forth my efforts tomorrow.

IMG_1109

Packet pick-up hub-hub

IMG_1110

It may be difficult to tell, but the row for the men to pick up their packets was twice as long as it was for the women (at the end).

Gah! Tomorrow? Yup, tomorrow, I run a marathon. Yesterday (Friday) the expo opened. Being the impatient dork that I am, I made sure to get there right away.

The best part about visiting a race expo in Hamburg is that I get to see two important corners of the city: the convention center (Messe) and the famous park (Planten und Blomben) that borders it. (the pictures I took were with my iPod,  Excuse the crookedness, please!

 Fueling with white asparagus (Spargel) in the days leading up the race. It's a customary German dish with potatoes and hollandaise sause (that has nothing to do with Holland) 

Fueling with white asparagus (Spargel) in the days leading up the race. It’s a customary German dish with potatoes and hollandaise sause (that has nothing to do with Holland)

IMG_1099

IMG_1108 Hamburg Messehallen (convention center)

IMG_1098

Blomben

IMG_1100

Some beautiful forehead wrinkles and tents set up for the race

I met up with a few fellow soccer players at the expo, saw a girl who is going to the U.S. next year through my same program (two VDAC students will be running!), and exchanged some nervousness.

Also, I was interviewed with the others by a German TV station (SAT.1). Who knows if they will use that excerpt? But how cool is that?!

Finally, I spent yesterday and this morning getting some excellent German carbs in my belly (if I do well tomorrow, then it’s only because German Broetchen are the best in the world).

One thing the Germans don’t do as well however, as I noticed yesterday, was that they don’t give away as many free things. The expo yesterday had one table with free alcohol-free beer (not bad stuff) and a table with free tasters of Cliff bars (I noted how US products appear and are promoted in German spaces), but otherwise the pickings were fairly dry. I’m too excited by other things to spend a lot of time thinking about that right now though. I just thought I’d note it.

In conclusion, I feel fairly well-prepared for tomorrow. I am very excited that there are many of my dorm-mates who will come out to support me, and that this time tomorrow I’ll hopefully be finishing (reach goal is 3:45). One obstacle I’ll still have to overcome is that I’ll have to think in terms of kilometers rather than miles! Geez… 42 sounds much scarier than 26.. but it is what it is. Cultural experience number five million.

All the best to anyone racing tomorrow!

Tl; dr: I am a little kid, anxious for race day to get here because I’m excited about all that it promises to hold. Also, I am merging my blogs. The end.

Cheers,

Some legitimate wandering- Braga, Portugal

2015-04-16 20.49.21

It is likely that there are more words to type out here than I have the time or energy to let flow from the jumbled collection in my mind through my fingers, but I will try a little.

2015-04-16 15.41.33The collection is jumbled because I haven’t thought of a way to summarize my trip. I guess I could say that I went for a conference based on one of my chapters for my thesis (it’s amazing what a 20 minute time limit and weeks of digestion can do for an argument; I almost wish I could rewrite the darned thing, but not really). On the other hand, I also went to see Portugal and learn something about a country I had never seen before. In fact, I haven’t been to a single country south of France, so I’m pretty limited in my world view. Ultimately, I suppose one could say I traveled, as we discussed at the conference, to learn a little about myself… but also to forget myself.

While in Braga, Portugal, which is/was the un/official catholic center of Portugal since the Middle Ages (there was a church almost on every corner), I learned to forget preconceptions, worrying about how I presented myself, how to greet and say goodbye to strangers or people who I spoke animatedly with for hours at a time. I also learned that it is possible to travel with very little funds, and that not having change rattling around in one’s pocket makes traveling more relaxed because one doesn’t have to worry about collecting souvenirs for others. Souvenirs are only pieces of displaced memories that perform the same work as photos, and photos are free. I took many photos, but also learned to leave my camera in my pocket and resist the urge to pull it out, taking in the images only for myself.

2015-04-17 14.00.36 2015-04-17 16.06.17

2015-04-16 20.27.21 2015-04-16 20.29.22

Some things I noticed about  Braga is that the Portguguese like their lemon trees, roundabouts, tiled facades, and churches.

2015-04-16 10.06.10  2015-04-16 19.07.55 2015-04-16 19.11.24 2015-04-16 19.59.46

What surprised me about Portugal was how strong the recent EU crisis and recession hit their country. I hadn’t been aware that the wealth of a city or country would reflect so strongly in its buildings. I found a ghost town just north of Braga’s university campus, and was struck by the contrast of natural beauty and dilapidation.

2015-04-16 19.18.332015-04-16 19.29.19

This trip was different than my longer trip to Hamburg to study abroad because in Braga I was able to forget about myself. I think my first weeks in Hamburg were the same way, but eventually academic and social responsibilities brought me back to myself in a way that traveling to Braga let me release for a little while again.

I can understand how traveling can be addicting. One does not have to claim a productive presence as long as one does not stray too far outside the expectations of the culture. Not knowing the language is an excuse for any step out of line, and most people that are not irritated at themselves will be helpful and want to make sure you’re okay, are able to enjoy their country. I think people like tourists to some extent, because they validate the choice to live where one lives. One has to accept that if other people will travel to be where one lives, one lives in a pretty damn good spot. Of course, I don’t mean to say everyone should like tourists or look for validation. I just used the opportunity to think to a larger audience than myself for a while. Thanks for putting up with it.

Hope you’re having a good weekend and that the next week brings you something exciting!

A touch of Hamburg on a spring day

I scored my first goal for my soccer team today! It was a swooping sensation that I’ve been feeling sporadically throughout the past weeks since being back in Hamburg. I can’t say whether it’s only because I am relieved of thesis stress, but I’m convinced that it’s also part of being in a space that I’m slowly turning into a home.

Sure, people can say that six and a half interrupted months are not nearly enough to claim identity, but if I feel like the person I am now is because of being here, then why can’t I say that it’s become part of my identity? And if I’m at home with myself, then I am home here.

Quite possibly I could not be more honored if others were to agree with me.

There are moments here that speak to me in ways that I guess are not as unique as I originally thought. I was surprised to see my thoughts written on the walls of Hamburg Airport with other names ascribed to them.

2015-04-15 20.20.15

The other day, I had to head towards the hub-hub surrounding the main train station and was struck by the straight edges of the buildings juxtaposed against the softer lines of s-bahn trains crawling into the station like caterpillars.

2015-04-13 12.29.47My intention was to receive a refund for the public transportation ticket I had to buy before receiving my official student pass in the mail. After the short exchange with the Beamtin who happily told me her name was the same as mine, I spent a contented hour wandering around the library, much more connected to the city than the university library. The building had two sculptures in front whose meaning I still haven’t figured out.

2015-04-13 12.35.36

That was Wednesday and in the meantime, I’ve been to Portugal and back (I seem like such the world traveler, but I’m not… it was the first trip I took outside of Germany since being here) and now I’m siting in my room, watching the sun enjoy one last glorious hour to end a rather perfect day. I was intoxicated by the sun today, as I think the rest of Hamburg was. Despite the intense soccer game this morning (did I mention, I scored a goal?) and reading I still need to do, I went for a bike ride along the dry streets and paths of south west Hamburg, enjoying the sight of families and couples who had come out into the sun to play games and enjoy time together. I think if there’s anything endearing about the Germans, it’s their urge to enjoy the sun and let it dance on their skin when the weather is good.

Small sprays of spring blossoms floated into my room through the open window, bringing their pastel colors and promise of trees with heady crowns (don’t get me wrong, they can still be a nuisance to clean up. I’m glad I don’t have a garden here).

I have good things planned for this week. I’m skipping soccer practice tomorrow to go to a slam poetry event some of the soccer gals told me about, visiting courses Tuesday through Thursday, visiting a race expo on Friday, and running a marathon on Sunday. If I feel tired this week, who knows what I’ll feel like in 172 hours. But I’m sure if the trend continues, I’ll be just as happy then as I am right now, maybe even more so.

Hope you’re having a good weekend, letting the sun dance on your skin, and finding moments to reflect and be grateful.

Tourist for another day- Berlin

2015-04-04 18.21.19  2015-04-04 18.23.35 2015-04-04 18.32.58 2015-04-04 18.38.53

I’ve done my share of hogging the “Reader” feed for today, but I couldn’t leave WordPress without posting something about my recent trip to Berlin.

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera for the first part of the day, but the second part (thank goodness it stays light fairly long) I was able to take some photos.

There are the iconic goldene Else, a sign post (there are hundreds of these in Berlin, since it was and continues to be a city that draws artists from all over Germany and the world) announcing where Kurt Weil, composer for Brecht, lived for a while, a statue from the garden for the president’s house, the Schloss Bellvue, and the palace itself. I was intrigued by the paths and cameras along the interior of the garden, that was framed by a high, strong fence. I didn’t realize that the president needed so much security, since he’s more of a ceremonial figure than a politically decisive one. Yet, apparently, his cultural and political value is still strong.

The mix of history, politics, culture, art and nature in Berlin fascinates me.

Easter in Germany

The first time I saw one, I thought someone missed Christmas, and wanted to relive the experience of hanging ornaments on a tree, even if there weren’t any green trees and it was early April.
Then I saw another, and another. Each time, the trees and their decorations (and number of ornaments) varied.

2015-04-09 12.37.56

This was the most heavily decorated tree I found. A little over the top, but pretty.

What am I talking about? The Easter egg tree of course! It’s called Ostereierbaum in German and the tradition for hanging mouth-blown eggs from the branches of trees and bushes is centuries old. Like many of the traditions around Easter, the rebirth of life (symbolized by the egg and the bare branches) is being celebrated.
For some reason, I really enjoy how the same holidays are celebrated in different ways in difference places. I saw it at Christmas, but since many of the Christmas traditions I know in the US (Christmas trees, wreaths, many songs) come from Germany, the differences were not so great. While the Easter Bunny also comes from the German Lutherans, I had never heard of the Ostereierbaum or the Osterfeuer before.

Osterfeuer am Elbstrand

Image from Hamburg.de

Apparently, it is also tradition to host a bonfire on the night before Easter. Called the Osterfeuer, it has pre-Christian origins, but its symbolism of chasing away the winter and rebirth as the ashes of the fire scatter over the fields and fertilize the earth made it an Easter tradition. In a religious sense, it is part of the closing of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. However, in Hamburg, Berlin, and many other German cities, it is set up as a secular celebration for the citizens of the city to meet and enjoy a sense of community. In Hamburg alone, 7 separate fires were set up at different points all over the city, each with different audiences in mind. The main idea is that all the “bad spirits” that gathered in winter can be scared away.

In writing this, I realize how practical many of these celebrations are. All the traditions that are connected with holidays originated with a particular purpose. I think part of my fascination with seeing how others celebrate holidays has to do with the way it makes me look things up to understand more about their traditions, and mine, originated.

Bild Foto Osterkarte Osterhase Ostern Osterei KükenAt any rate, the last Easter tradition I wanted to write about is the Osterhase (in German, a Hase is a Hare, but in English we think of it as a bunny). In Germany, the hare plays much the same role as St. Nikolas or the Christkind at Christmas. The Hare determines whether children were good over Lent and whether they deserve the presents that the Hare has brought with him.

I found many representations of the Osterhase while here, and I had to remind myself every time that the idea was not that the rabbit look cute, rather, it had a serious role to perform and by virtue of being a hare, would not look as cuddly as a bunny.

Made me wonder if the English are a bit soft (just kidding!).

2015-04-02 19.53.27

The tradition of the chocolate Easter bunny originates with someone who took the idea of the Easter bunny and combined it with the tasty confection known as chocolate. I don’t know where it comes from , but it’s a reason to look forward to Easter every year.

This was my first Easter away from home, but there was enough to observe that I didn’t feel like I missed anything except the traditional lamb for dinner, and my family. It was good.

Tourist for a Day- Hamburg

Since being stuck in my thesis cave for days at a time, I craved my first free day to explore the city like I did when I first arrived in October.

Packing my U-bahn ticket, wallet, and camera, I went out around 11 AM with no appointments or reasons to return back to the dorm before I had seen my fill.

What I discovered is that Hamburg is even more beautiful than my first impression of the city, zero expectations always mean exceeded expectations, and tourists have to be fairly fit.

I started by getting out at Landungsbruecken. 2015-04-02 12.02.13

This used to be the old docking site (as one hears in the name) and now it’s the site where all the ferries pick up the tourists and citizens to bring them up and down the Elbe, or across. The neat thing about the public ferries is that one can use them using the standard HVV Hamburg city transportation pass. Basically, it’s a free site-seeing tour.

2015-04-02 12.15.16   2015-04-02 12.10.00 2015-04-02 12.06.36 2015-04-02 12.06.26

I didn’t realize how much water means to my feeling at home until I came to Hamburg. Even if I am partial to ocean water, seeing ships, cranes, and water comforts me.

It helps that it was such a sunny day (absolutely gorgeous weather… anyone who says Hamburg is cold and wet must be here on only those few days in the year), but I was struck by the beauty of all the architecture along the river. Even basic office buildings and cruise docking sites (that interesting side-pyramid thing) saturated my aural senses.

Back on land (back at the Landungbruecken), I went over to the entrance to the “Alte Elbtunnel”

2015-04-02 13.12.17

2015-04-02 13.25.552015-04-02 13.11.52

The reliefs on the sides of the walls to the staircases that took one down into the tunnel belied the age of the tunnel. I was also excited when I stepped into the old vehicle elevators. They were huge and open as the top, reminding me of the elevators at Universal Studios or Disney, but without the authentic atmosphere of 1920s automobiles.

2015-04-02 13.20.09I was the fastest person to walk from one of the tunnel, look out across the river to Landungsbruecken and the nice view of the Elbphilharmonie (still not finished), before walking across again. It was super cool and something I had on my list of things I had wanted to do while in Hamburg, so that experience alone made me happy. Add the thrill of a boat ride on a sunny, crisp day, and you can begin to imagine the high I was moving off.

The high carried me to St. Michel:

2015-04-02 14.16.27

2015-04-02 14.14.28

I figured out after sitting in the church for about 45 minutes that it was Lutheran, after I saw his statue outside on my way back to central Hamburg.

One of the best experiences while in the Church was that there was a symphony practicing for an Easter performance that was to occur the following day. They played their music, the singers sang their arias, and I could only sit there and let the sounds and beauty of the interior of the church wash over me. I took as long as I wanted to let go of the stress I had carried with me for months, release the worries, and sit and be thankful for everything I was helped with and had been gifted to experience over the past year. Sitting in the pews, I was transported in a way I find difficult to describe.

It was weird to walk through down-town Hamburg, since all the stores were closed because of Good Friday- another reason to like Germany better than the US is that they have days where capitalism really shuts down and allows people to spend time outside of stores with their friends, family, or introspection.

2015-04-02 14.27.17 2015-04-02 14.28.58

2015-04-02 14.26.39

I came across the ruins of the St. Nikolas Church that the city had long decided to leave as a monument to World War II. The entire skeleton of the church was left, with the altar at the front ready for service, and I had the spooky feeling that congregations of the past were gathered there, listening to the spirit of a priest as I walked by. The bell power is being renovated, so maybe I’ll take a trip up before I leave the city.

2015-04-02 14.34.03By the time I made it to the Ratshaus, I was ready to go home. To draw it out a little more, however, I made the decision to visit one random place on the U-Bahn map. I picked Hagenbeck Tierpark, because depending on the cost, I would visit it to complete my tourist experience for the day.

However, when I got there and saw the 20 Euro price tag, I figured I would save it for a day where I had the whole day.2015-04-02 15.14.46

2015-04-02 15.36.50

So I went home, but not before remembering my promise to show an example of the signs available at each U-Bahn or S-Bahn stop to help orient oneself. Looking at this sign one can tell that one is at Osterstrasse (interesting coincidence to be on this street so shortly before Easter) on the side of the track where trains come in going towards Meummelmannsberg, and that it will take 11 minutes to get to the main train station.

All in all, it was a great day. I was tired at the end of it, as one can expect following at least five miles of walking around the city, but it was well worth it. Especially since the trek was filled with surprises like the symphony concert, or the image below, reminding one of Hamburg’s bid to host the Olympics

2015-04-02 13.43.23

Part of the movement to get the 2022 Olympics to Hamburg