We had the good fortune to spend a few days with some family friends in Hamburg, Dirk/Tilli & Imke/Bertram. Imke and I were classmates at Purdue a few years back, and our families have hosted each other during travel excursions ever since. They were gracious to host us in their Hamburg homes for a few days between their own vacations and business trips. Unlike most Americans, Europeans generally take 5 or 6 weeks of vacation per year. Luckily our friends were able to slip us into their vacation schedule. We enjoyed great back yard BBQ’s with steak, chicken, sausage, and home-made dishes. All served with engaging conversation. Even though we have only been on the road for a couple of weeks, it was refreshing to spend time with friends, reminisce about times past, and catch up on recent events.
When we arrived in Hamburg the weather was cold with occasional showers. Our hosts assured us that Germany usually has good weather in the summer, but if truth be told, not for the past couple years.
Dirk and Tilli gave us a guided boat tour of the Hamburg Port. Dirk explained that the port was the biggest in Europe for quite a while, now the newer and bigger ships need deeper water – so other ports have taken some of the business. The city is still a center of financial management for the container shipping business with something like 75% of the Container Shipping manged by Hamburg brokers. I understand that this is a traditional business in Hamburg and there are many Hamburg families that have engaged in global shipping for hundreds of years and the city has the big, classy, old-world financial district to show for it.
During the boat ride Alex and her new friend Xenia played I Spy in English and German – learning nouns. Xenia is quite proficient, and by the end of the ride we were all trying to find words to stump her. Suzanne pulled out “jetty” and I had to resort to sailing terms like “stern” and “bow”. It was not a challenge for her to stump any of us on German nouns.
Surprisingly, the topic of laundry came up again during our stay in Hamburg. We discovered that most Germans don’t consider laundry clean until it has boiled in scalding hot water for a couple of hours. The conviction we encountered from our friends on the correctness of very high water temperatures and 2 hour wash cycles has shaken our belief that clothes could actually get clean in the measly tepid water and paltry wash cycles we use at home. I never anticipated that laundry would be a continuing theme in this blog – but I’ll go where the story takes me.
The day we explored the Hamburg city center was wonderful weather (as my friends tell me it usually is in Germany – I’m still skeptical). The historic downtown is a great place to hang out on a sunny day, have some lunch, and watch the people walk by. Suzanne took the opportunity to do a little shopping at one of the malls. We are all getting a better feel for what clothes and equipment we want – and she needed to add a pair jeans to her road wardrobe.