Thursday, June 05, 2008

Urlaub von der Vorhölle's been a long time, I know. I've withdrawn a bit to avoid the topic of my future here, which is still uncertain. And I'll be lucky if my situation is settled before late July. He's working on it, he says, and I can't blame my (to be) employer for not moving faster -- after all, he is doing me a big favor.

In any event, the big picture has been good up in Norderstedt; work being fun, rewarding, and educational. However, the last two weeks have dragged a bit following the interview of one potential co-apprentice and a petering out of progress toward my goal.

And then today, I managed to embrace this limbo in which I'm trapped and simply enjoy the more tolerable temperatures and be reminded why I love this city so much:

After leaving work early from a job site near the city center, I headed to the vibrant, youthful, creative Altona district, a refreshing break from my generally older, more conservative Bergedorf. After checking out prospects for a short film festival at a local indep. cinema, I discovered a wonderful gallery housed in the same former Schiffsschraubenfabrik (manufacturer of screws for ships). It featured the work of an amazing woodworker whose complex and creative use of curves, joint, and above all, inlays, are technically awesome (think, original meaning of the word).

After snooping through a beautiful restaurant in the same complex, which showcases the dramatic size of the largely undisturbed and raw ruin, I got an ice cream cone from a little cafe and headed toward the city and through a neighborhood I'd never seen before. While architecturally dull, it was culturally diverse with a vibrancy not common in such neighborhoods (I may return there to try a packed, hole-in-the-wall Portuguese restaurant I passed).

As I approached the end of the district, I almost missed what could only be described as an anachronistic cemetery, hidden behind shrubbery, a high fence, and a row of old trees. The headstones, tipped and sunken, were decayed and moss-caked in a series of half circles weaving in and out of the ancient trees that darkened the whole plot.
Tracking the fence I was able to look back and make out that Hebrew was in relief on every one of them -- the Hamburg Jewish Cemetary, as I later read. This is the most significant and oldest (1611) of the handful of Jewish burial grounds in Hamburg, including the remains of composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

The last uplifting component of this afternoon was the podcast I was listening to as I walked through Altona. It was an NPR rebroadcast of a book-reading by a white, southern-African author (Alexandra Fuller) who had created a novel out of research she did while trying to write a critical expose about the oil industry in Wyoming, where she now lives. In pursuing the story of a young roughneck who died on a nearby rig while she was doing her research, she became obsessed with his story, and ended up recreating the entire world in which he lived, featuring the unique culture of these hardened cowboys in their rather barren and apparently limited experience. That I had already rented "There Will Be Blood" on iTunes for viewing this weekend proved to be a serendipitous continuation on the oil theme. Good film, incidentally.

I baked my very first loaf of bread last weekend (see below) and have been hooked. While initially uncertain of success, my fears proved baseless. I made a second batch this morning using a different recipe -- I look forward to a traditional German Abendbrot this evening before we head out to a free, end of semester concert on the Hamburg university campus.