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Elbphitharmonie Kulturcafe

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Hamburg, Germany  April 4, 2011

I got up early enough to have breakfast with Volker and Esther before she went off to her job. I said goodbye to Volker a while later and walked to the S-Bahn and got off three stops later at the train station. Having no stated time to arrive in Kiel I went looking for a Starbucks and free Wifi. The Starbucks up the street from the train station in Hamburg was very interesting. It was in its own self contained building in the middle of a plaza. The building seemed to be about a hundred years old. There was very little seating on the ground floor but lots of tables outside. A third of the ground floor was taken up by a raised area with three computers with what looked like some sort of travel agency team manning them. The main indoor seating was upstairs. It was a big open room where old time dances could have been occurred. I guessed it was more probably for fraternal club meetings. Or maybe it had been the reading room of a library. There was an upright piano in the corner. I had started with a medium cup of Pike Place Roast coffee and then had a “Wild Blueberry” muffin with my refill. I am not sure what sort of wild that meant. I spent a lazy couple of hours getting caught up on things.  Soft sunlight glanced off the brown wood table I had claimed for my space.

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I walked outside outside and circumnavigated the building. I had originally approached it from the rear. It was a nice day.  In the front was the table area. It was contained by a low stone wall that extended from the outer walls of the porch of the building. At the front of the tables, and still connected to the building by the low walls, was a fountain. It had a tower in the middle at least fifteen feet high topped by a statue of a lion. It was flanked at a lower level by statues of both a man and woman, both posing with what looked like Harbor Seals. Below the man was a plaque that read:

Gestfifit Von Den

Burgern Hamburg

1914-1926

There was also a plaque below the woman:

Demandenken en

Burgermeister

John Georg

Monckeberg

Atop the pillars in the front at the eaves level it said Elbphitharmonie Kulturcafe. A few feet below that, hanging between the pillars, was a sign that said Starbucks.

I later found out that before it became a Starbucks it had been a Burger King.  When it was a Burger King the words Elbphitharmonie Kulturcafe had been replaced with Burger King.  All things considered Starbucks was a step in a better and more tasteful direction.

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It being a lazy day I ambled to the station and found a train to Kiel leaving immediately.  I hurried and got on board.  I left my bags on a rack at the front and took my seat.  When we hadn’t left in several minutes I realized I had missed that train to Kiel.  Sure enough, I was on the train to Lubbock.  Luckily it didn’t leave until after I got off.  I then found it was twenty minutes until the Kiel train.  I bought the Trib and a bottle of Becks beers.  It seems the height of indulgence to open a beer on a train and relax during an afternoon ride.  George Will recently wrote an editorial claiming the movement for more trains in America was a Liberal plot to “diminish Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.”  Oh?  I’d like to see George crack open a cold one in his car and wave it as a salute to Liberty at the police passing by.

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When I arrived at Kiel the sky had darkened and rain was pouring down.  I went into the Sophie Mall to get out of the downpour.  When I exited from the back a few minutes later I walked into blue skies that  had replaced the storm clouds.  I walked to Karsten’s house. There I found Martina in the kitchen.  That was nice.  It is more usual to enter the house and find it empty.  Karsten soon got back from his errand of buying bike locking gear at a hardware store.

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I went to the store and bought beer.  I got  Dithmarscher Maibock from a display rack.  Martina told me that it was beer only produced in the spring.  It had first been produced in the middle ages when Monks had to fast for forty days for Lent.  It was created as a liquid that would substitute for food, a sort of Dark Ages nutritional supplement.  It was tasty and I could see how it could soften difficult  times.

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It being Asparagus season we had asparagus and fish stew.  Very nice.  In general I would say cooking in Europe is more seasonally oriented than in America.  Food from a box or a can doesn’t depend on the weather.  We talked after dinner and into the evening.  I then retired to bed and enjoyed a couple of chapters of Charles Dickens’ wonderful tome The Old Curiosity Shop  featuring  Little Nell.

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