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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gateway to the World

Me in my Gold Key t-shirt. If the other person in the
picture weren't already a Smithie, this would have been an awkward tour.

I volunteered to be a campus guide my sophomore year at Smith. Fairly regularly during the fall semester of that year, less so during the spring semester. I got a free t-shirt. Scratch that, I might have had to pay for it. Still, in general, I can't say that I was a particularly good tour guide, even given the fact that we weren't required to follow any particular script. I brushed up on my campus/college history facts, but I think I was just way too into the personal anecdotes and had a difficult time finding the happy medium between informative and relevant.

I don't know if I ever played a role in convincing a prospective student to attend Smith. Somehow, I doubt it. If I were to visit the campus and Northampton, Massachusetts tomorrow, I'm confident that I've pushed out most of the dates and facts that I learned all those nine years ago. But I'm equally confident that I could point out quite a number of sites of personal significance like, for instance:

  • The concrete steps to Scales House where I encountered Miss Fee reading The Picture of Dorian Gray under a lamppost and smoking a clove. Then we went to go watch the movie Election in Wright Hall and, afterwards, discovered our mutual admiration of the movie Army of Darkness. All of this sparking the beginning of our non-sexual life partnership.
  • The bus stop in front of JMG where I implored Miss Fee and company to quit "walking at the speed of light" on the way back to Scales. It was late and we were drunk and why the hell were they walking that fast anyway? "Walking at the speed of light" became a catchphrase and that night I sang-shouted the words to the Burt Bacharach hit "I Say a Little Prayer" in the circular driveway of the dorm and vowed to never drink Everclear again (a promise that I have kept).
  • Hopkins House. March 2003. Within a week, I learned how to operate a floor waxer, watched a "war" start live on CNN, was convinced for about 12 hours that someone stole an electric blue Ford Taurus (with a vanity plate that read "CLITAURUS") entrusted to my care. Worst. Spring. Break. Ever.
  • The spot where I peed on the Alumnae House, because I was drinking beers at night with some King House ladies and could not hold it until I got home.
I think that sums up the essence of my tour guiding skills: low brow and culturally insignificant. In spite of all of that, I love it when people come visit me (where ever it is that I happen to be living). It gives me the opportunity to introduce them to my world.

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about how I could entertain friends/family who (might possibly, eventually) visit me in Hamburg. And then I thought that maybe I should write about it here. The benefits would be twofold. First, it would entice you to spend your next European Vacation with me in Hamburg, Germany. Second, it'll be saved on the internet in case I forget. So let's get started, shall we?

Right off the top, I want to let you know that this isn't a city guide or an itinerary set in stone, but rather more like flexible and interchangeable "phases" tailored to your specific interests. It's mostly intended for my non-German friends (especially those coming from a US-American frame of reference) who have never been to Hamburg. An alternate version, designed for people who live in Germany available. The shortest version can be done in a day, but can also be expanded for longer stays. When you arrive, you can sleep on our couch or in our kitchen (or even the bathtub, if that's what you're into) and, more than likely, I'll shell out for your bus/train/ferry ticket so you can get around (this depends on my financial situation and the size of your travel party). With those things covered, you just have to concentrate on having a good time. Or else.

Before your arrival: I suggest you use this nifty little website called Google . Or you can take a look at the Hamburg travel wiki, some Lonely Planet shit or (if you can speak German) Vice Magazine's Guide to Hamburg. If you read about something that sounds interesting that you'd really like to see, write that ish down or send me a quick email. Otherwise, prepare to be astounded.

Your arrival: Going to new places is awesome, the actual getting there mostly sucks. I know if I've been in a plane/train/car/boat for extended periods of time (over two hours) I feel sick. Depending on the length of my journey, I need some time to get my bearings. This might involve puking or taking a dump or taking a shower or taking a nap or all of the above (not necessarily in that order). Maybe this doesn't apply to you, but if it does, take your time. I'll show you the special features* of our awesome apartment and you can get settled in.

*Special Feature #1 = The Poop Shelf Toilet

Phase A: Getting Around
As I mentioned, there's public transportation system in Hamburg comprised of buses, trains and ferries. This is what we'll mostly use to get around, second only to our legs and feet. If you want to learn something about the city and you get tired of my vague "that's-some-kind-of-building" answers, we can take some sort of extra bus tour. Or harbor tour. It's your call. I think you'll probably enjoy the sights and smells of Hamburg public transportation.

Phase B: Photo Ops
On the whole, sightseeing is the most boring thing ever. Unless you're on a staycation , you'll most likely feel compelled to take lots and lots of pictures; even though the majority of humanity hates looking at other people's vacation photos. However, I saw on the internet once that being a fucking show off encourages endorphin production and Europe provides the perfect backdrop to rub your awesomeness in everyone's faces. Hamburg has lots of old-looking crap, perfect for filling up space on your digital camera's memory card (or film rolls, if that's what you're into). You'll seem way cultured and cool, nevermind that many German cities were bombed to shit in WWII and lots of the buildings are reconstructions. Just remember that no one will ever believe you were even here if you don't provide them with photographic evidence.

So that's the first thing we'll get out of the way. We'll go to places where you can take fascinating pictures of local landmarks to solidify your advanced cultural standing among your circle of peers. And, if you're a German visitor, well...same thing without the more cultured part (you are already better than us all by default). These pictures will look great on your Facebook/Myspace/Preferred-social-networking page.

If you're here for a week or more, we can spread the touristy photo ops out over the course of a few days. It's probably best if we get this part out of the way as quickly as possible so we can get to other things.

Phase B, Part B: Optional Photo Manipulation
If you happen to forget your camera back at home, don't worry. I have a camera too. It's a good idea to remind me to bring my camera before we leave the apartment, because I often forget to bring it with me. Fortunately, should this occur, I have access to technology that renders camera-bringing obsolete. If we fail to take any photos while we're out on the town, you can also just send me another picture of yourself and I can insert your likeness onto an impressive background.

Just like so:
Look at that crazy money!

Phase Food, Part Hungry:
In a perfect world, we'd knock out all the landmarks on our first full day. As I mentioned, this will involved some light walking. Unless we do that whole bus tour thing. You will probably get hungry/thirsty in between. You might want to try out some German cuisine. You might an image in your head of eating this type of food, served by someone who looks like this:

And you think this, probably because you've confused the red portion on this map (Bavaria) with the smaller green portion near the top (Hamburg)

If you want to try more of a local flavor, it'll probably look more like this:

And be served by someone who looks like this:

If you're into corned beef covered with an egg, a beet slice, a pickle and a side of rolled fish, then I will make that happen for you. Otherwise, I know some other good places to eat. Thai, vegetarian, burritos, Scandinavian hot dogs, döner, the infamous corn in a cup. Or just, you know, bread (German bread is superior to all other bread nationalities).

Phase C: Intermission
Here's where we start making plans for the evening. If you like to party, I suggest maybe a nap and then skip directly to the evening phase. If you don't like to party...well...I guess we'll have to walk around some more. Maybe go to a museum. Did you write down some notes about things you want to see? An exhibit of some kind? We can fit that in here.

If you didn't make any preliminary research notes, we can just go ride one of these things to kill some time:

It's called a Paternoster and it's like a constantly moving, open-faced elevator. You just step on at the appropriate time and then step back off when you get to your destination floor. It's very exciting. I know where there's at least two in the city. We can visit both and compare.

Phase Evening, Part Party
Without getting into too much unnecessary detail (something I never do, I know), I have my own little tradition of how I show visitors the city's red light district. It works just as good on the weekdays as the weekends. Okay, maybe not just as good, but it works. And it involves open containers of alcohol in public.

Also, moon boots:

I think I'm done. Please come visit me.


Anonymous said...

...ein Paternoster ist in den Grindelhochhäusern. Aber wo ist der zweite?

Ich sehe schon, ich muss mal eine Nacht in Eurer Badewanne schlafen und mich von Dir durch die Stadt führen lassen.

Und dann essen wir endlich mal das famos corn in a cup. Yeah! ;)


lebrookski said...

Ich kenne eigentlich den Paternoster im Bezirksamt Eimbüttel (zählst du das zu den Grindelhochhäuser?) und den im Bezirksamt Hamburg Nord. Auf jeden Fall großes Kino...

Als Schlafplatz find ich allerdings die Küche viel gemütlicher als die Badewanne...

aber ich geb dir natürlich eine persönliche Durchführung wann auch immer du willst!

katie said...

i thought we were friends because i had a tv.

also, i remember facts from gold key, some of which might even be true: smith is a registered aboretum, smith was designed by the same man who designed central park, smith is the largest women's college, the steps to the gym are sized for women's feet (?)...

i did have a girl come up to me when i was a senior to say that i had been her gold key guide. so i earned that tshirt! which i still wear to the gym.

THE END! (jazz hands)

lebrookski said...

howard was just an extra perk. does he still exist?! the night we met and i realized that your name isn't sarah (i thought your name was sarah for the first few weeks of college) was magical. on the way back to scales you made an AoD reference and showed me your VHS collection of awesomeness. we're friends because of much more than a tv, my friend...

wait that sounds redundant.

i think you know what i mean.

katie said...

oh, howard still exists. we watch CNN together every morning because we are both now old and boring. but only one of us has a large sticker of trent from daria stuck on our side.

it is daunting to consider how many friends i actually owe to AoD. hmm.