Hamburg

‘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.

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Packet pick-up hub-hub

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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)

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IMG_1108 Hamburg Messehallen (convention center)

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Blomben

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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,

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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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”

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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:

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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.

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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

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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

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Part of the movement to get the 2022 Olympics to Hamburg

aufdate

How do you say “up” in German? Originally I wanted to make this an überdate, but that wouldn’t have been linguistically appropriate. So I’m giving you an auf-date.

But first, a few notes about the fascination with “über.” Basically, it’s because it has an umlaut and an umlaut is just another kind of accent… and accents make everything sexier.

… though it is possible to go overboard

At any rate, it’s common knowledge that the German language involves umlauts (and actually, the part of the fascination with über comes from Nietzsche’s übermensch, but this is neither the time nor the place). But after dealing with the language long enough, one doesn’t think twice about umlauts. Do you think twice about the letter “g”? Didn’t think so.

But what takes longer getting used to is that these umlauts make the keyboards in Germany funky. The image below shows the differences.

I lug my laptop to and from the states for my academic work, so it’s easier to get through my writing assignments, e-mails, and papers. But occasionally I find myself at the library, on German computers, and I struggle through everything I type… though admittedly, when writing in German, those keyboards are convenient. The “z” is used more than the “y,” and it’s handy to have the key to press rather than a key-combo and finger-twister to produce umlauts on the screen.

But whoa, way off track.

This post is supposed to be an update and basically an apology that I’ll have to be a little scarce producing for this blog. I am currently challenged by finishing up the German winter semester and producing my MA thesis (and three papers) by the end of February. Once it becomes apparent I can’t finish by March, I may return earlier. Otherwise, I have to focus and spend more time in my room, which means I’ll have less to observe anyway. (just kidding, VDAC! I still plan to take advantage of all the cool things I can experience here! most recently, it was a slam competition in this gorgeous building:

Hamburger Laeiszhalle Saal

). I just can’t write about them all.

The good news is, I have a whole semester break and summer semester to comment on after this ordeal, so there will be enough forthcoming that I don’t have to give up this blog quite yet. 🙂 In the meantime, post questions about what you’d like me to comment on (there’s so much to talk about! A little focus helps), or what you think about the umlaut (or accents). Don’t you think it’s sexy?

Cheers!

Commuting in German

Life in Hamburg is pretty sweet. I’ve paid my rent for the month. Have groceries (of course, this makes it on top of my list of things going well! The convenience of being able to go to the kitchen and grab something to eat? So underrated). Classes have started up again and I’m generally in good health (sigh, sans foot issues). So what’s there to write about, in the new year of studying abroad?

Since it’s pretty easy to talk about things I do on a daily basis, I’ll share some tips I’ve learned about commuting in Hamburg. One can drive, use public transportation, or ride a bike. Since I don’t have a car, I’ll focus on the latter two options.

Public Transportation in Hamburg (S-Bahn, Bus, U-Bahn…Straßenbahn [those still exist?])

The S-Bahn and U-Bahn systems are really quite similar. Similar enough to not spend time describing both individually. The main difference is that the U-Bahn is designed to be underground (hence, untergrund Bahn) and the S-Bahn (Schnellbahn) is often designed to get you further distances slightly more quickly than the U-Bahn. I live half a mile from an s-Bahn station, which is pretty good considering that some people live up to two miles from a station even if they’re in the city.  My university is five sub-way stops and one change away from where I live, so I’d say I’m in an excellent location!

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common S-Bahn sign

Hamburg U-Bahn S-Bahn map

said colorful lines

My first experience with the S-Bahn was on my first trip from the university to my dorm on the first night. Since I’ve been in other major German cities and in the world, I know the standard layout of a subway system: there’s stops connected by railway lines and these lines, while not always overlapping or allowing for a three stop missed stop (i.e. woops, I should have gotten off three stops ago), will get you where you need to go. There’s usually a network, represented with colored lines on a background and a lot of foreign sounding names. There are copies of this network in nice large, I don’t need my reading glasses print at every station.

So as I mentioned before, I took on this network at 7 PM  on my first day in Hamburg after not having slept for 40 hours. But I knew which stop I was heading towards and the name of the line that would get me there. There are signs at the front and back of each entrance to the  platform showing the line that come and go at the platform, what stops are on those lines, and how long it will take to get from the current location to that stop. I relied on these signs to makes sure I was about to step in the right train. I still find these very helpful when I am unsure if I am heading in the right direction (which happens a lot). 

There’s also a sign overhead saying the final destination of the Bahn that is coming and how soon it will be there.

These tools are enough to help most people navigate around the city if they know the name of the stop they want to get to. For those hopelessly lost, there’s info-call boxes at every station as well. And finally, if one can stand the embarrassment, there’s almost always a Hamburger who is more than happy to help, or throw a few words at you over their shoulder while they run to catch the next train.  

A few things I learned as I used the system more is that some lines run at certain times while other don’t. Just like I only later discovered that at some stops, trains will coordinate their rides by waiting for another train to come in or, rather than having the opposite track be for the train going in the opposite direction from whence you just came, there will be connecting lines just across the track. This is especially convenient if you happen to be changing trains. I also realized that trains come at scheduled times (no randomness here!) throughout the day and I can avoid the feeling of a missed train if I time my exit from my dorm properly.

As I mentioned before, the U-bahn is similar in theory to the S-Bahn. A bus is a bus pretty much anywhere you go, except in Hamburg, they aren’t associated with the similar stigma there is in the US. They are just as clean and well organized (with electronic signs at stops telling you when the next buses are arriving) as all other public transportation in Hamburg (and Germany) and it really is a shame that the US never caught on to this trend of public transportation properly. There’s a lot of catching up to do!

hvv.de is a nifty site that allows to me to put a stop name or an address and it will give me the names and times of the quickest and least complicated routes, whether it be bus, trail, U-bahn, s-bahn, or tram (which is nothing like the old-school tram image I had in my head. It’s just an electric vehicle that goes on the street).

Bike 

Oh no. I spent so much time on public transportation, I’ve run out of steam (and you’ve probably run out of patience). But I’ll comment all the same about all the reasons it’s great to bike to commute in Hamburg:

  1. Bike lanes are for bikes only. And they’re most usually off the street.
  2. Bike riders often have their own crossing lights. These lights come equipped with a yellow, start-up light that tells you when the light is about to turn green and you better get those feet on the pedals, because the little kid behind you is going to run you over.
  3. You don’t have to wear a helmet (on second thought, that’s a negative aspect about riding in Hamburg, people here should take their brain bucket more seriously. I wear mine with pride).
  4. It’s absolutely normal to ride through the city dressed in a suit.
  5. It’s law to have functioning lights for nighttime riding. Most bikes have it and you can see other riders at all times- and be seen by cars.
  6. The weather here is often fine enough to ride. And even if it’s raining, there’s a lot of fashionable rain pants/jackets to wear over clothes to protect them.
  7. Cars here must yield to bike riders and are usually well-behaved enough to do so.

Need I say more? Bike riding in Hamburg is much more convenient and normal than it is in Florida or many places in the US. Plus, it’s a way to get out some much needed energy when, say, you can’t run.

So, tell me, how would you chose to commute?