International Maritime Museum

One of Hamburg’s most fascinating museums is a must for history buffs, maritime fans and anyone loving this city. It houses both international exhibits and showcases Hamburg’s prominent link to maritime history in Europe and the world.

I had been meaning to go for a while and found myself making my way there one Sunday morning. The trip there holds a certain amount of excitement in itself, as one of the possible routes takes you to Überseequartier, a cavernous, gleaming station inlaid with blue (immediately reminiscent of all those sea-inspired vibes) and part of Hamburg’s most recently completed subway line, the U4. Getting out, you’ll see ongoing construction in the still new HafenCity district, and then a few minutes walk will take you to the museum iteself.

The International Maritime Museum is located in Hamburg’s oldest warehouse, Kaispeicher B. 10 floors, or “docks” filled with an enormous scope of sailing and ship-building artefacts, sketching out voyages across the world, the development of navigation, battles taking place at sea and the expansion of modern passenger sea travel await discovery.

One of my favourite sections included an outline of the history of lighthouses – it turns out the first ones were built in ancient Egypt. A detailed, intricate model of one of Germany’s most famous lighthouses called Roter Sand accompanied the exhibit, giving a glimpse in to the inside of the structure.

I spent several minutes staring at a model of the cruise liner the Queen Mary 2, built out of Lego. It took six months and roughly one million Lego pieces to put it together.

Models of ships from various centuries hung suspended from the ceiling, some against a background painting of the sea, like that of Wapen von Hamburg (III) from 1722. She sailed from Hamburg, accompanying merchant ships solely for protecting them against pirate attacks. Staring at it, it was easy to forget the strings holding up the model and to imagine her sailing in front of you for real.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Advertisements

Labskaus: Another Hamburg Mystery

Hamburg, my love, you continue to delight, surprise and occasionally baffle me.

If you live here, you find yourself talking about local things to people. Local things include local dishes. Northern German cuisine is perhaps not as readily recognizable or identifiable as some others, but it exists, solidly and reliably. As with many things in the North, and that means Hamburg too, it needs some time to be discovered, and then you might feel like testing it out.

This is how I found myself looking at a large plate with Labskaus neatly scooped in the middle during my lunch break in the lovely Kleinhus Cafe und Weinbar. After many years of countless jokes, discussions with friends, incredulous exclamations, perusing articles online and trying to decide ja or nein, while all the time not having a clue what set Labskaus apart, the moment of truth was finally upon me.

Labskaus is a bit of an enigma for anyone who didn’t grow up here. Why? Simple. It looks like a mound of raw meat ground to mashed potato consistency with fried egg on top, and a side helping of gherkins and pickled herring fillets also known as rollmops. Something about the combination just makes some of us hesitate. Historically it was said to be a popular dish among sailors in Northern Germany, and the mashed consistency made it easy to eat since many of them had bad teeth.

Fast forward a few hundred years later to some wary diners. The meat is salted, not raw, it just looks that way in some cases, most likely due to a generous helping of beetroot and carrots. The dish might differ slightly in different restaurants. It’s warm, filling, and easy to eat. Don’t let what might look like a small-sized portion fool you, the helping is more than enough.

It all comes down to this. Labskaus by no means tastes how it looks…but it still looks the way it looks. Or some of us (me) overthink things. Guten Appetit!

Marble Painting for Beginners

Thanks to a friend I happened on Studio 42 in Hamburg and took their class on marble painting. Result: it’s addictive! While doing it does require some space and covering up to avoid a mess, the whole process is exciting and even a little addictive. Obviously there are various levels to the technique and the creations that full-time marble painting artists come up with are mind-blowing. But those of us just starting out or looking for some artsy, creative enjoyment can proceed with full assurance of producing a unique, (mostly) abstract print full of colours playing off each other.

Read below to see one example of how you can do your own bit of marble painting.

What you need:

Rectangular shallow basin or tray – size depends on the paper size you’ll be using for your painting

Bigger basin

Glass sheet

Drying rack

Drawing paper

Old newspapers

Acrylic paints

Paintbrushes

Toothpics

Water

Bowl

Thin sponge

Thin rubber gloves from a pharmacy

Aluminium sulfate

Ox gall

Step by step:

  1. Fill your tray or basin with water, but not all the way to the brim, leaving an inch or two.
  2. Add the ox gall to the water (if you Google this, you might find that opinions differ on how much to add and whether to add any to the tray at all – take your pick!)
  3. Put on the rubber gloves.
  4. Mix your colours in small jars or containers using the acrylic paints and add bottled water so that it will be possible to shake/ spray the paint on the surface of the water later on.
  5. Mark one side of your sheet of paper with an X.
  6. Dissolve the aluminium sulfate in a bowl of water (ditto on the amounts in terms of different opinions), soak the sponge in it and wet both sides of the paper with wide, even strokes.
  7. Set paper aside to dry.
  8. Dip the brush in the prepared colour you want to start with. Hold the brush in one hand, positioned above the surface of the water, and gently, but firmly tap it against the index and middle finger of your other hand. Ideally, paint splotches will fly off the brush and settle on the water’s surface. Repeat this with several colours. Use a toothpic to create patterns.
  9. Turn the sheet of paper with the side marked X facing up towards you, take the bottom corner on one side and the upper corner on the other, and lower the sheet, placing it on the surface of the water.
  10. After a few seconds, pick up the sheet by both upper corners, and transer it to the board or sheet of glass in the larger basin. Douse with water to get rid of excess paint, then carefully transfer to drying rack. Use wide strips of old newspaper to skim the surface of the water in the tray before the next session.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All photos by @juniperlu

What to Wear #26: An Evening at the Hamburg Opera

Dressing up is fun, and going to the opera theater here makes me extra excited about it. I can completely relate to this blog post on Oriana’s Notes about her own choice of outfit for going to the Opera Garnier in Paris. There’s just something undeniably elegant and pleasant about walking down the Staatsoper floors mercifully suitable for higher heels in attire that makes you feel festive, before you go on to enjoy the performance. Incidentally, it’s not an opera, it’s Duse performed by the Hamburg Ballet.

One of my clearest memories related to style moments and my mother is seeing her seated with a blouse in her lap, nail scissors in hand, as she carefully removed the (unnecessary) shoulder pads sewn on inside. She said they weren’t comfortable for her, and as I grew up, I quickly discovered that I shared the feeling. The 80s gave us a lot, and while I have mentioned my leg-warmers more than once in this blog, I’m sorry, but shoulder pads are simply not for me.

Which is why I found myself repeating a tiny slice of family history, as I took out the shimmering pale-gold (I’m guessing) crushed velvet blazer I’d been wanting to wear for a while and thoughtfully looked at the inside. The shoulder pads were there, alright, but they were not hanging down from the inside of the shoulder. No, they were cunningly sewn in between the velvet and the lining. But I come from a long line of women resourceful in getting rid of what they don’t need. As I carefully open up the stitching with nail scissors so that the hole is wide enough to pull the pad through, and then in turn work on the next bit of stitching, I find myself remembering key points on my extensive journey to self-knowledge.

I can’t sew and I was never keen to learn. As I continue to rip out the shoulder pads, a vivid memory of my sewing classes in middle school surfaces. No, I’m not from the 19th century. We really did have sewing class, girls only. When we would bring up the results of our work on what looked like antique sewing machines, if the teacher didn’t like what she saw, she tore the stitches out with her teeth. I do not remember being afraid, just being filled with a sense of, albeit horrified, amusement. What if she accidentally swallowed some thread? Nevertheless, there are three things I can do well with a needle and thread, and which I also enjoy: sewing on buttons, sequins and stitching up holes. I’m covered.

The blazer’s minor makeover is done. A long sleeveless chocolate-brown tank top goes underneath, black leggings and black lace-up high heels that I can walk in very well. This is also a fitting occasion to take the black glittery envelope clutch. The lipgloss choice is a fancy darker berry shade that I get out on special occasions.

He’s there

The Phantom of the opera

 

Magnolia Trees in the Rain

I touch the tip of my shoe to the surface of the puddle from yesterday’s rain and watch the rings on the water spread petals from the cherry tree nearby. And that sums up spring in the lovely city of Hamburg. It blooms, it rains, it blooms some more and it rains again. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Good Friday is upon us with its much awaited time for rest and some peace, so I pull a Lizzy Bennet and go scampering about the city(side). Actually, I’m starting small. There’s a stack of real paper maps, yes, lying around at home. I’ve collected them during various outings because they were free and looked nice, which in my opinion are two of the best reasons to take something with you.

I’m always game for a walk around town and I’m also curious about testing my map-reading ability anew. Also, my phone chose to die right before I went outside, so no Google Map insurance this time.

Off down Grindelallee I go, the Hamburg University campus behind me, and the intersection between Bezirksamt Eimsbüttel, Hallerstraße and Beim Schlump ahead. On any other day this street is teeming with cyclists, students, locals, shops are open, bakeries are working fast and the buses 4 and 5 speed past every five minutes. Today’s quiet is an interesting contrast to the usual noise and bustle, and I let it sink in as the map successfully leads me to my next turn, on to Hallerstraße. It’s a very legible map, with little illustrations and a list of places to stop at on the back.

Hallerstraße is a charming residential street, rhododendrons and cherry trees on front lawns adding to its beauty. I stop to read a sign in front of the first building in the gallery below – it says the house was built in the Neo-Renaissance style and the “generous apartments” cater to fine tastes. I’m sure.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Consulting the map, I turn left on to Rothenbaumchaussee and make a mental note of numerous pretty side streets to explore in the future. I pass elegant villas and new-looking apartment buildings, as well as the occasional purposeful parents shepherding their energetic offspring in to a car, most likely on the way to an Easter dinner with the grandparents. The headquarters of NDR (Northern German Broadcasting) are also located in the Rothenbaumchaussee.

After walking straight on for a few more minutes, I reach Klosterstern, and though I can get on the subway from there, I choose to walk some more, turning on to Jungfrauenthal. Other street names in addition to this one are indicative of the area’s earlier ties to religion and the church: Innocentiastraße, St. Benedictstraße. It’s raining a little and the air smells wonderful in these cosy streets lined with trees, more (I’m assuming also Neo-Renaissance) apartment buildings and plenty of bikes chained up in front of every door.

Isestraße is next, and when I reach the Hoheluftbrücke station, instead of continuing to where I started the walk, I turn on to Schlankreye, then Gustav-Falke-Straße. Brick buildings typical of Northern Germany line these streets, and I conclude my exploration with the discovery of two schools, one of which turns out to have a charming courtyard. All I can say is, if my high school had looked like this…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I feel as if I have only scratched the suface of my surroundings, because I have all these questions: why were the buildings built the way they were? What used to be there before? Did any famous people live here? What was it like to walk around here 50, 100 years ago? My romantic imagination enjoys the remaining sense of mystery.

The nicest surprise during this walk, though, have been the many magnolia trees.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Monday Diary: Rise Up Lights and Beauty and the Beast Trailer

Seriously, just try this, and see if you can ever stop thinking about this phrase in a new light (feeble pun!):

As shared on Girl Gone International Facebook

As shared on Girl Gone International Facebook

I first whispered and then just said this out loud to myself, and it works! Burning questions follow this entertaining linguistic trick. Do British people have an easier time switching to “razor blades” in their mind as soon as they hear themselves speak because of their accents? Do American accents still work nonetheless? Do various Aussie accents unwittingly get imitated as a result? If so, are they existing accents? Do we unconsciously try to Australian-ize our pronounciation (without really being able to, except after several episodes of McCleod’s Daughters in my case) as soon as we attempt to rise up lights? And most importantly: what will happen if an Australian simply says “rise up lights”? Life’s profound mysteries.

The internet was not done with us today, nor is it ever. A momentous event has taken place and I’m still fanning myself from excitement. Uploaded seven hours ago as of the time this is being typed and with close to half a million views already, I add my own click(s) to the official full-length movie trailer of Disney’s upcoming live-action version of the animated classic Beauty and the Beast. As soon as I hear those first piano bars from the opening track, despite having heard them thousands of times before, I’m gone.

If the teaser trailer already had me in pieces, this further gem makes me wriggle like an over-excited child and think, “OH MY GOD, this is real!” I can only hope that we will not be disappointed by the movie after the mood both trailers have successfully harnessed, and that Belle didn’t drop that candelabra after her first glimpse of the Beast. If there is one thing I’m certain of, it’s that I can’t imagine anyone other than Emma Watson playing our book-loving, plucky, dreaming heroine in this version.

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere/ I want it more than I can tell…”

It was a Monday of joyful, thought-provoking discoveries, and with all this talk of the supermoon, which I currently can’t see because of foggy Hamburg conditions, I’m in a witchy mood and will look up scenes with Piper Halliwell from Charmed on YouTube.

 

Sunday Diaries: Brunch Time

McDonald’s in Italy now has a Nutella burger on their menu. That was the first thing I saw in my Instagram feed when I scrolled through it on my phone as usual on Sunday mornings. I just want to ask, why go pay for something you can make just as easily at home, probably spend less money on and which simply seems…weird? I mean, a burger is not something I will always make myself, so I might go somewhere for it, but spreading Nutella on bread has not gone up astronomically in terms of levels of difficulty, I hope, unless I missed something. But hey, marketing, competition, whatever works and if it does make someone happy.

I spread some (non burger patty thick) Nutella on a warm, crisp bread bun myself today and it was deeply satisfying. Due to watching Crazy, Stupid, Love (and some of it was indeed stupid, though some was love because of Steve Carell and Julianne Moore) until late last night, getting up occured somewhat later and I did not have time for what I term as the breakfast before breakfast – eating a bite before getting to your late breakfast or brunch date so you won’t faint on the way. But then a glass of juice must be included and since the café wasn’t far away, I figured I’d manage. It is Sunday in Hamburg, and those who aren’t still asleep after a Saturday night out are most likely making their way to a brunch.

The cafébar Gloria is located in a beautiful street in Hamburg called Bellealliancestraße. Cosy, residential, inviting and with multicolored buildings following each other, it makes for a nice pre-brunch walk in these fresh winter temperatures. The Gloria is red, easy to find and hard to miss. With 20 years of existence behind it, it’s clearly a favorite neighborhood meeting point and I’m excited to try the brunch buffet with my friend. And what a buffet it is. Roughly 15 euro with a glass of champagne or orange juice included for all you can eat – fresh bread, small croissants, fruit, various cheese, butter, jam, potato salad, cooked red beets (Russian roots seal of approval), smoked salmon, just to name a few choices, and very prettily arranged. Almost floor-length windows let in the sunlight of this clear, cold morning, and the atmosphere is relaxed, welcoming, as I listen to the snippets of conversation around me in French, German and English and dig in to my food. The staff is quick, attentive and smiling without seeming stressed. As I lean back and sip my fresh peppermint tea, I think again about how much I enjoy being part of a morning crowd like this, and that I will have to come back, because there is no room for the homemade cheesecake that my friend warmly recommended.

One once again idyllic walk around the glistening Alster river later, and I make lunch for the next day at work, only to discover that I had forgotten to defrost the meat I needed for the dish. But the internet saved me with this trick that actually worked!

One could have made a Nutella burger, but I’ll leave that to the pros.