Initial Impressions and Thoughts after Travel

You cannot get anywhere fast by road in Germany, not American West-style fast. Especially around Hamburg on Fridays or on Sunday afternoons. Frankfurt is probably just as much fun, but I wasn’t in that area this time. The Autobahns are great so long as there are no staus. (Stau – n. Traffic jam. Stoppung – n. A non-moving stau.) Then you go from no speed limit (in some areas) to three or four kmph. The 19 km Stoppung was on the north side of Hamburg as we were trying to go around the south side, thanks be.

Herring is a lot better than I remembered. Lots, lots better. Wonderfully better. Being on the North Sea coast and Baltic instead of Rhineland probably had something to do with it. Tinned fish is just not as good as fresh when you can get it.

Smoked salmon for breakfast is wonderful.

When there’s a polite sign at the front desk apologizing that the tourist boats are not running because of weather, you probably want to tie down your hat and use a log-chain to secure small children. The wind almost blew me backwards off the top of the sea-dike. And it wasn’t “a real storm.”

You can use sugar to preserve wood.

It is possible to go for two weeks without hearing an American accent, and a week without hearing English, without leaving Germany. And sort of refreshing in some ways.

Just because the land is flat doesn’t mean you won’t climb. Staircases, more staircases, dikes, into boats, out of boats… And cobblestone streets can be rough on ankles unless you have decent shoes and have walked a fair bit before you left home, to get into shape. And medieval-early modern stairs were not built to modern code in terms of width and slope and head clearance. When in doubt, duck.

If you wear a khaki travel vest and pale-colored trousers, you are invisible. If you wear those and are either walking a dog or eating ice cream, you are German, or so everyone assumes. Especially if you are over age [mutter mutter].

There’s a lot of Germany outside Bavaria and the Black Forest, and it is fascinating, beautiful, scary (see North Sea storms), and a delight to explore, especially if you are interested in history and culture. The North Sea coast has some fascinating prehistory and history, as does the Baltic, and there are some lovely regions tucked away from the main international tourist areas that are well worth seeking out if you have a way to do so.

Bruges has mosquitoes the size of small dogs. Plan accordingly. You cannot easily find DEET-based repellents in Germany or many other parts of Europe, so bring your own. The little individual wipes are very handy and I highly recommend them.

You can eat your way across Bruges from chocolate shop to chocolate shop and not find a bad one. Just don’t try to eat and see art at the same time.

Even with one of the big museums in Bruges closed, it was soooo worth visiting. To see Memling altarpieces up close (like nose-inches-from-the-panel-close)… ahhhh. Yes, my name is Alma and I’m an art nerd.

Northern Germany is cool, wet, and green. And doesn’t have as many mosquitoes as you’d think, at least not when the wind is blowing and it is 60 degrees F.

The Hanse museum in Lübeck is amazing, if you have lots of time and if you like to read and are interested, deeply interested, in business history. If not, you might not want to visit. It’s a great museum but with an odd undertone (more later). I say “like to read” because it is probably the most text-heavy museum I’ve visited. There are stuff displays, but far more reading displays.

German clothes driers can melt certain synthetics, especially stretchy stuff in synthetic sports socks. 85 C is too much heat for certain US materials, so you might use a lower setting and longer run.

If you go to enough churches and museums, you will encounter some very odd theological ideas encapsulated in the art. Don’t fuss about it, just blink, admire the craftsmanship, and go on. (Although the little devil that was harassing St. Anthony’s pig on the altarpiece in the Hamburg museum was about to get a nasty surprise, methinks.)

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11 thoughts on “Initial Impressions and Thoughts after Travel

  1. “And medieval-early modern stairs were not built to modern code in terms of width and slope and head clearance. When in doubt, duck.”

    Or if you are built to more standard height; get own on your hands and knees.

  2. Personally I’ve never had any desire to visit Europe, or any other place where I can’t carry a gun. But I enjoy reading about your travels.

  3. “(Although the little devil that was harassing St. Anthony’s pig on the altarpiece in the Hamburg museum was about to get a nasty surprise, methinks.)”

    Ah, yes. The influence of peasant agricultural practices (and experience) on theological development?

    🙂

    • Probably. I’ve also got a picture of St. Margaret strangling the dragon. And the grist mill of the Gospel from the church of St. Thomas a Beckett near Stralsund… Apparently it is a Cistercian teaching, but I’d never seen that one before.

  4. It has been too long since I’ve been to Europe, but at this point other travel plans are taking precedence, so it will be a while yet until I return.
    I remember being on a North Sea dike many years ago in autumn and the biggest part of the memory was the incredible wind.

  5. Thanks for the evocative view of a part of Germany I’ve not been to. Is it true that Plattdeutsch is disappearing, as predicted some years ago?

    • It is and it isn’t. It seems to be changing, but I heard a fair amount of dialect in the smaller towns. Granted, as soon as I walked up to pay for things or buy entry tickets, they switched to Hochdeutsch. I suspect the problem is the younger generation are leaving for the cities and not speaking it, and that the, ah, I’ll say “new residents,” can’t be bothered to learn it.

      I found Flemish easier than Platt, even though I’ve heard Platt more (working around Mennonites and Amish). Flemish was like Dutch, German, and English all twisted together and wound into a yarn-ball, like the fancy multi-colored knitting wool you can buy.

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