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Hamburg, Museums and Such

December 11-14, 2008

Written December 18

Dear Friends and Families,


This part of our multi-part record of Hamburg covers three different city destinations:of a tourist spot, a couple of museum , and a monument. It turns out that these are just the tip of the iceberg for places for tourist to see in the city. Next time, we'll see the Emigration Museum (http://ballinstadt.de), reportedly a must-see for Americans, the Spice Museum, more of the Arts and Crafts Museum, and as many of the art museums and galleries as I can handle. And then there will be Churches, Castles, and Squares, although Hamburg lost much of that in bombing of WW II.


Enough preamble, on with the show.

Miniatur Wunderland

When my friend Wolfgang said we must see the model train display, I was skeptical, very skeptical. "OK for engineers" I said, "but not good for teachers/artists". He assured me that it had been a highlight for his wife and she would not normally be interested in little mechanical toys. Anyway, it was Christmas and no Christmas is complete without seeing a little choo choo run around a track.

Less than half finished, the Wunderland currently has 700 trains, nine kilometers (about six miles) of track, and almost a quarter-million lights. This is no little Christmas choo choo. In fact, the place defies description; you must see it to believe it. Our pictures give some indication and the Wunderland website shows more ( http://www.miniatur-wunderland.com ), but nothing can prepare a visitor for the size, complexity, and the imagination of the Miniatur Wunderland.

In our picture gallery, look for:

-- Los Vegas, day and night

-- Area 51, complete with little green men

-- A Finnish ice hotel

-- Since it's Christmas, a creche and a Christmas Market

-- German street parties and a rock concert

-- A grand casino, on fire*

-- A Swiss mountain village, deep in a granite gorge

-- Giants, part of the 150-person crew that keeps the place going and expanding


* The fire response has to be seen to be believed. First, smoke pours from the building and then individual fire trucks drive to the scene, red lights - and correct turn signals - flashing. The fire scenes were the most remarkable bit of technology I saw.


Photography, Arts and Crafts


A few blocks south of the main train station are the Deichterhallen, a two-building complex for displays of photography and for international art. We skipped the art but did wander through the photo exhibit (ironically, no photos allowed). ( http://www.deichtorhallen.de/357.html )

The large gallery was divided into two displays, a dark and mysterious set of black and whites by Kiyoshi Suzuki and a collection of pictures of American icons of the 1970's. The latter collection came from four American photographers (maloney, meyerowitz, shore, sternfeld) and was titled "New Color Photography" and was a nice balance to both the mood and subject matter of the first. All the works were both inspiring and intimidating to an amateur photographer.


Our second museum stop, even closer to the train station, was at the Arts and Crafts Museum (Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe) (http://www.mkg-hamburg.de/mkg.php/en/). We had a hard time finding the entrance, because the building is completely encased in scaffolding, undergoing renovation. Once inside, we saw a small part of the permanent exhibits, where photos were allowed, and a seasonal exhibit of "crafts" where we had to keep our cameras quiet.

The permanent exhibit was extraordinary, especially since we were the only people in this part of the building. Nevertheless, we had covered only part of one floor of the three-floor exhibit when we shifted to the exhibits of modern craftsmen and artists. (Leaving parts unseen gives us yet another Hamburg destination for the next trip.)

The temporary exhibit included the works of 60 artists, each with products for that special Christmas present. I'm in trouble because I didn't take the hint but my excuse is that the price range was certainly at the high end -- or well above -- our normal gift budget. Nevertheless, the jewelry, hand-made clothing, wood pieces, and sculpture were all interesting. It was easy to sense that Hamburg has a big city clientele, who would include some of these items under their Christmas trees. For us, maybe next year.


St. Nikolai Mahnmal (Memorial)


Not all German churches that were bombed in World War II have been restored. The St. Nikolai Mahnmal, or Monument, remains a shell, albeit with a glass elevator going up it's 76 meter (~250 foot) tower. From the top, it is possible to see much of today's Hamburg, while reading about the destruction visited upon the city in late July and early August, 1943, during the bombing of "Operation Gomorrah". Since it was such an important transportation and arms manufacturing center, hardly any part of the city was left as it was before the war. After the war, some parts were reconstructed, but much of the old grandeur was just too destroyed for post-war Germany to afford to rebuild.

St. Nikolai's also has an underground "Documentation Center" to explain and honor all the people who lost their freedom in Germany of the mid-20th century. We left this for our next trip too.




So, we saw a bit and have a whole lot more on our return list. That's probably a good sign.


John and Marianne.



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