Einmal Oldenburg & Retour

Once upon a time, young girls from across the globe were delivered into the hands of stern guardians, to live closely supervised lives of ora et labora. And of mischief, of course, as is the way of adolescent beings. Most of us survived this time of incarceration and close ties among us inmates persist even into our present age of decrepitude. 
One of my mates from boarding school lives in Ooldenbuurich (Frisian), usually called Oldenburg. Oldenburg, a town in Niedersachsen, where my father was born, is a two-hour train ride from Hamburg and last Friday I journeyed there for a reminiscential visit. 

Train rides are comfortable and great fun. They also offer a unique perspective into our environment, especially the urban landscape. Since our trip to Hamburg was designed not as a photo op, but to reconnect with old friends and family, I deliberately didn’t bring any cameras with me. Thus my cell phone turned into the only third eye available to record images during my train ride. 

The day was rainy and gray. Nevertheless, I held the phone against the greasily smeared train window, tapping the shutter release almost at random, as we careened along the rails, screeching through curves and over reverberating steel arched bridges, capturing life alongside the tracks. 


The ‘Deichtorhallen’, a museum for contemporary art & photography

Der Spiegel‘ (the mirror) a famous weekly magazine. The foremost investigative journal in the world, which held up mirrors in politician’s and industrialist’s faces for 67 years now. Quite unintentionally, its colossal new headquarters appeared three times in my frames.

Hamburg – permanently under construction
Hamburg – the second largest commercial harbor in Europe
Suburbia – oh so natty


Hurry, hurry to Oldenburg

Waiting for my connection in the freezing cold winds of the train station in Bremen

Upon my eventual arrival, the winds were temporarily forgotten when I was treated to a cozy sight-seeing tour by car through Oldenburg and its Gründerzeit and Jugendstil architecture. My friend lives in a protected Gründerzeit villa, where both the inside floor plan and the outside appearance may not be altered. It’s quite difficult to update and maintain a home like this, because members of the historical preservation society ring your doorbell for a surprise inspection, as soon as they suspect unauthorized changes. 

Afterward, we drove to the Jadebusen to be assaulted again by fierce North Sea winds. We soon took shelter in the Kurhaus Dangast, to be fortified with their famous Rhabarberkuchen (rhubarb cake) and a hot drink. This is not your average ‘Kurhaus’ or wellness spa in any traditional sense. It’s an institution in the area, as quirky as the artists which work in Dangast. It is most certainly one of the more unusual places, one might encounter along the North Sea coast. Among many other works of art displayed around Dangast is a 3.2 m tall phallus, which sits, or rather stands, right there, on the beach, at the high water line. The stone penis was created by local artist Eckart Grenzer in 1984. His grandmother taught him that the sea is female and the earth is male, so he placed his statue where the two meet in an eternal rhythm. Besides, where in the world would such a statue be more appropriately placed, than on the beach of a body of water called bosom*? 
*If you translate ‘Jadebusen’ literally, it means ‘bosom of jade’.

One can, of course, not live on cake alone, one also needs eel. In the Ammerland, the region between the city of Oldenburg and the Jadebusen, smoked eel is a cherished specialty. I’m quite familiar with eel, having grown up not too far from there, and I really like it. My friend took me to a museum in Bad Zwischenahn, which operates a rustic restaurant located in an authentic Ammerländer farmhouse. The ‘Spiecker‘ is a fun place and takes eating eel to new and unexpected levels of … intoxication. 

Part of the ritual of eating the smocked fish the traditional way, are large amounts of triple-distilled grain liquor slurped from deep, antique pewter spoons. And pumpernickel bread to soak up the alcohol, not necessarily successfully. Eal is very, very greasy, heavy food and my late father firmly believed that the schnapps “cuts the grease” and helps the body to digest such an unwise meal.

I yearn for you through all my living days * my beloved Ammerland (or similar)
Ammerländer windmill

The night was far from over for us two old chattering birds, though. When we got home to Oldenburg, we settled around the kitchen table and continued one of the many conversations, which were so rudely interrupted by life all those many years ago. Until we were interrupted one more time. This time by birdsong. 

The birds announced the dawn of another beautiful day with the promise of many more exchanges of thoughts and ideas. But it was 05:30 h – time to go to sleep for a few hours.

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