Getting Lost on the Way to the Museum

During our first week in Shanghai, I had set aside one day to visit the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. This was dear to my heart because I wanted to get a feel for the area around the former Synagogue which had once been a Ghetto for Jews running from Nazi persecution, German Jews nobody else in this world was willing to take in.

Many years ago I read a fascinating book by one of these German refugees, who lived with his mother in the ghetto as a teenager. “Shanghai Refuge” by Ernest G. Heppner is a true story, both fascinating and horrifying about an episode in the history of German Jews of which very few people are aware.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we were rather GPS-less in Shanghai. Instead, we carried around maps and photos with pertinent information. After meticulous preparations at home, where my laptop operated with a VPN, the route to the museum and the Metro lines we had to take were mapped out and recorded. Or so we thought.

As always we took our line 2 East into the city center. At Nanjing Road West station we were supposed to switch to a line 12 train going toward the Jinhai Road terminal. The station for the museum would have been the 5th stop. Yet, the day unfolded differently.

There was an English speaking couple sitting next to me on the train and as we exchanged polite little sentences, another gentleman who was standing in front of us chimed in. Who’da thunk it? Three English speakers in one train, unheard of. The standing guy professed to be knowledgeable about the museum and made a very strong argument about which train to take to get there. The couple next to me agreed with his advice and they all encouraged us, well, they practically pushed us off the train at the station where we had to take “his” train. We were on that darn train what seemed like hours, getting somewhat closer to the museum but never actually reaching it. And so we walked around in the approximate neighborhood of the Synagogue, which had been completely rebuilt in recent decades, naturally, and none of it provided any emotional feedback.

It turned out to be a very warm day and those long hours of walking in unknown areas, actually moving further and further away from where we wanted to be, were quite tiring. In exchange, we encountered a truly amazing business development and some vignettes of local Chinese life outside of the usual tourist attractions. Follow me along, won’t you?


Eventually and inadvertently, we found ourselves in the leisure yachting and cruise ship harbor area on the bank of the Huangpu River. This immense bas-relief mural with [inactive] fountain, lauding PRC’s shipping prowess, extended perpendicular to the river, right where you can find the Shanghai headquarters of the world’s most expensive [Italian] Yacht manufacturers, as well as the new International Cruise Harbour facilities [under construction].


The Soviet-style metal installation anchors the Eastern end of a huge business complex, as we were about to discover.

Turning left at the end of the mural and ascending a ramp, we found several, interconnected,  elevated plazas – an entire city of contemporary office buildings.

A fountain with an oversized sextant dominated the plaza above a parking garage.
Although, the bosses have their own parking rituals.


We walked between two of the buildings toward the river. Even though we could see the high rises in Pudong district across the Huangpu, there was no river access from this level. We turned right to walk along an elevated “boardwalk” stretching between the office complex and extensively landscaped green spaces. There is still much building going on in this area, so construction fences were everywhere.


Colorful glass balconies which look like acrylic shipping containers adorned the building façades under the shelter of their clear-glass curtain swooshes.
All of that verticality also extended below ground with multiple subterranean stories.

As much as we enjoyed these psychedelic glass behemoths, lining up one after another along the riverfront, we were desperate for a toilet, a comfortable chair in which to rest for a while, and something cold to drink. In that order!

Before we could zero in on a bar who’s twinkling lights straight ahead had attracted our attention, we were stopped short by three pods. Three pods suspended under a large checkered arch connecting two buildings. Three pods with crisscrossing walkways. Three funky pods reminding me somehow of manga drawings.





After that experience, we really needed to sit down!


We thoroughly enjoyed our rest in the Fortuna Bar & Café, before continuing to walk along the river, which would eventually take us through a small park, across some disused locks to a Korean noodle restaurant and back home. It was a long and very interesting day, despite the missed opportunity to visit the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.

Finally! Shiny Art Deco toilets 😎

This high-rise tower was not only aesthetically pleasing but through its LED light show endlessly entertaining.





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