The Chicago of Germany, and it even looks a little like Chicago. The second largest port city in Europe after Rotterdam, and once a great Hanseatic city state. The city is still a separate state in the German Federal Republic.
Here is the splendid Rathaus, a 19th century rebuild.
The Petrikirche viewed from the Rathaus, a mostly 19th century rebuilding of a medieval church. The Hauptkirche St. Petri was once the city's cathedral church before the Reformation.
Speaking of Chicago, like that great city, Hamburg burned down and was rebuilt, not just once, but twice in its history.
I've always had a fondness for those great red brick churches of northern Germany with their tall spires, even after they've been rebuilt after fires or war.
Only the tower survives. The rest of the church was destroyed in the Bombing of Hamburg in 1943.
British and American forces bombed the city of Hamburg in the last week of July, 1943 in the middle of an unusually hot and dry summer. The resulting fire storm devastated most of the city and killed almost 43,000 people. The city lost 10% of its population in the raids, and never recovered its former industrial capacity until long after the War. This was the first and among the worst such raids on German cities in the Second World War.
The Michaeliskirche, first built in the 17th century and rebuilt in 1786 (and substantially restored after World War II), the church where Johannes Brahms was baptized.
Lutheran baroque. Who knew that German Protestants could so enthusiastically embrace a very Italian Catholic building vocabulary?
Interior of the Michaeliskirche, the largest in Hamburg with its large seating capacity.
The very Baroque altar and even more Baroque pulpit.
Just a few blocks south of the Michaeliskirche is the waterfront and the enormous port at the mouth of the Elbe river.
Our host in Hamburg, Chrystal Tsang, the 86 year old widow of Pastor Alvin Tsang, a close friend of Bill Paulsen to the right. Chrystal and Alvin were married for 50 years and met in Hong Kong. She now presides over a large German and Chinese family full of remarkable people.
Chrystal's own father was a pastor in the Confessing Church movement that actively opposed the Nazi regime. She remembers vividly the troubles and difficulties her parents had trying to keep her and her sister out of Nazi youth organizations. Membership was legally required. She also remembers the bombing of her native city of Bremen when she was a young girl.
She was easily the most remarkable thing I saw in Hamburg.
Here is the view out the window of the room where I stayed in Chrystal Tsang's house in a suburb just south and east of the city center of Hamburg.
An anonymous painting in the Metropolitan Museum in New York of a ferocious looking family of Hamburg Protestants, apparently a patrician mercantile family, getting right with Jesus. The spires of old medieval Hamburg appear in the orb under Jesus' left hand. All the text in the painting is old Nieder-Deutsch, old Low German which appears to be very close to Dutch.
All of the people we encountered in Hamburg were much more pleasant than these folks.
Frankfurt, the financial center of Germany, is the only German city that I've visited before. I spent 3 days in Frankfurt at the end of my Italian Journey in 1988. At that time, the cheapest flights across the Atlantic were to Frankfurt, so I flew into that city and took the train to Florence, and then took a train back. The Goldenen Stern hotel where I stayed in 1988 no longer exists.
Like most financial capitals around the world, Frankfurt had grown larger and taller than it was in 1988.
The one museum in Europe that I've seen before is the Staedel in Frankfurt, and it was a pleasure to see this collection again. Here are the Flemalle panels by the great Flemish painter Robert Campin, panels from a dismantled altarpiece.
A detail from Robert Campin's magnificent painting of Saint Veronica with here remarkable transparent veil with the image of Christ.
The hanging cloth of honor behind her is also a striking painting of expensive embroidered fabric.
My very bad photograph of a favorite early Rembrandt, the Blinding of Samson; a painting that is horrifically violent and comic all at the same time.
Another bad photograph of Nicholas Poussin's splendid stormy landscape with the story of Pyramus and Thisbe
Gelli Tsang on the right with her 2 of her 3 children Ulrike and Franz. I've met her oldest Tobias before in New York. He lives in Cambridge in the UK. I didn't see the kids very long. They headed off for a sailing trip on the Bodensee soon after I got there.
Gelli is one of Chrystal Tsang's 2 daughters. She is married to Peter Bader.
The Tsangs were definitely the best thing to see in Frankfurt and worth a trip back to that city to visit. They are wonderful and remarkable people.
We took a day trip from Frankfurt to Koblenz to see a sight near and dear to Bill Paulsen's heart, which in his many years of living in Germany he had never seen, the Deutsche Eck, the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers.
Here are Gelli Tsang and Peter Bader.
Behind them is Kaiser Wilhelm I.
On the Deutsche Eck is a giant statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I (not Kaiser Bill II of WWI fame), the King of Prussia and the first Emperor of Germany united under Prussian domination after 1870. The monument was first built in 1897 in defiance of French claims upon the Rhineland. The monument was largely destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in the 1950s.
Giant bronze Kaiser Bill the First
The Tsangs and Bill Paulsen walking toward the point where the Rhine and Moselle rivers come together.
Riding in a tramway gondola over the Rhine up to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress on the bluffs above the river.
The clear waters of the Moselle meet the muddy waters of the Rhine from the tramway.
Giant Kaiser Bill from the tram
I had to kick Bill Paulsen in the shins when he started singing this at the Deutsche Eck, "Heil Dir im Siegerkranz," the old Imperial German national anthem.
The tune should be familiar. Sing along with the Hohenzollerns.
While Bill has a certain respect for Wilhelm I, I'm not a fan of the Hohenzollerns or of Prussia even though I have Prussian ancestors (from Posen and Pomerania).
While we're here, let's practice our goose-step.
A German friend of mine in New York says that the happiest period in the 3000 year history of Germany is right now, and I think he's right. The "Business Man State" (as the late Günther Grass derisively called it) for all its abundant flaws is probably the best state Germany ever had with a lot of prosperous Germans. Germany is a relatively healthy liberal democracy, though it too is having its struggles with creeping plutocracy, like most Western democracies (especially ours). Like most European countries, Germany too struggles with issues of identity, trying to reconcile its historic national identity with a new cosmopolitan world. I remember Bill Paulsen remarking that he never thought he'd see the day when Germans would be happy to be Germans again, especially when we saw so much flag-waving in the weeks that followed their big World Cup win.
"I'm loyal to the Black, Red, and Gold," said a 15 year old boy from Frankfurt , "never to the Black, Red, and White."
Quite a remarkable comeback 70 years after defeat, destruction, and infamy.
Germany today looks much more like its winning soccer team than it does the discredited visions of the völkisch nationalists of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The autobahn on the way back to Frankfurt from Koblenz; yes, there are no speed limits on long stretches of the autobahn, but when there are speed limits, you better watch yourself. They don't chase you down in a cop car (unless you're a menace on the road), but robots posted along the road will take your picture and send you a very steep fine in the mail.
We took another day trip with Gelli Tsang to Heidelberg, home to the oldest university in Germany and one of the great universities in the world, founded in the 14th century. It counts many of the greats in science, medicine, and philosophy among its alumni and faculty; among them Georg Friedrich Hegel, Dimitri Mendeleev, Franz Boas, Alfred Wegener (who came up with the idea of continental drift), Phillip Melanchthon, Pope Pius II (when he was still Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini from Siena), Max Weber, Robert Schumann, Somerset Maugham, and Jürgen Habermas.
It was here that Hannah Arendt wrote her dissertation on the concept of love in the writings of Saint Augustine under the direction of Karl Jaspers. Today, Heidelberg University is a public research university full of foreign students who crowd the city.
I think there is still a functioning American military base nearby because this was the only place we visited in Germany where we saw a lot of Americans. We met an American veteran here who was stationed here in the 1960s, and was back for the first time in around 45 years for a visit with his wife.
The 18th century Rathaus in Heidelberg
Heidelberg castle from the Rathaus
A better view of Heidelberg Castle from the river. The castle is mostly ruins after King Louis XIV invaded and devastated the city in 1688 in a war over the Palatinate succession (the local dynasty had died out and Louis wanted to give his cousin the Duchess of Orleans the title).
The very beautiful Heilige Geist Kirche in Heidelberg surrounded by small shops. The church mostly dates from the 15th century. The spire and the roof are 18th century rebuilds after destruction by King Louis' troops.
The very beautiful choir of the Heilige Geist Kirche, a splendid example of a German hall church.
Me photographed by Gelli Tsang on a short boat tour through the town
The Heidelberg Bridge
I spent just a day in this magnificent city, only an hour train ride from Nuremberg, enough to make me want to come back and spend more time here.
A 15th century tomb slab with a transi image of a corpse decaying in the grave; a preoccupation with the disintegration of the flesh that began in the wake of the Black Death and never really left Western culture. The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out here and in any number of horror movies ever since.
Bill Paulsen and Daniele Bruno in her apartment in Munich. She's a remarkable woman who does her own carpentry and builds a lot of her own furniture, like the book shelves behind her.
When it was first built, the Alte Pinakhotek was considered an innovative modern gallery that influenced museum design throughout Europe and the Americas.
Alas, the galleries containing the museum's spectacular collection of paintings by Rubens were closed for renovation, but happily, the rest of the museum and its collections were wide open.
Visitors looking at Rogier Van Der Weyden's Columba Altarpiece, a great favorite of mine for many years. It was a great pleasure to finally see this work in the original.
Me posing with Albrecht Dürer's most famous and controversial self portrait. The museum has a spectacular collection of major works from the German Renaissance; including paintings by Dürer, Mathis Grünewald, Albrecht Altdorfer, Lucas Cranach, Hans Holbein, Michael Pacher, and many more.
From Paris, we arrived in the ancient city of Lyon where the Rhone and the Saone rivers meet on a rainy day. Lyon was once the great Roman city of Lugdunum, a capital of the Roman province of Gaul on a very strategic hill overlooking the confluence of two major rivers. The Emperor Claudius was born here, and the great early Christian Church Father Irenaeus lived here in the 2nd century.
We are standing on a terrace near the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere that dominates the city.
Henry and Marie dress up as Jupiter and Juno married by Hymen, goddess of marriage. An allegorical personification of the city of Lyon looks on from below.
Dominating the city of Lyon and visible from just about everywhere in the city is the 19th century Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourviere, dedicated to the Virgin Mary credited for saving the city in the 14th and 15th centuries from the plague, and again in 1870 from the advancing Prussian armies during the Franco Prussian War. Like Sacre Couer in Paris, the basilica is a triumphalist monument over the vanquished forces of the Paris Commune, and a big public apology by the Third Republic for everything that had happened since 1789.
Here we are dining on wild mushrooms, rabbit, the best au gratin potatoes I've ever had in my life, local cheeses and fruit, and a home made caramel custard. I had seconds and thirds on all of it. She must have spent hours preparing this, and it took hours (happy ones) eating it.
The chateau's ground floor kitchen opening out into the garden.
A 16th century barn on the chateau grounds that contains a lot of very old wine making equipment. The chateau once made wine for the great Abbey of Tournus. Here is the old wine press behind stacks of fire wood.
The next post about the trip to Europe in 2014 will be the last. It will be about the city where the trip began, Oslo in Norway.