Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hamburg Street Conversation

I'm well rugged up and walking, my daily mild exercise, around the tree-lined streets of the Blankenese suburb in Hamburg close to the Elba (across which is the A380 factory). I stroll past some magnificent Hansel and Gretel mansions in large, lost in the woods gardens - this is millionaires row, billionaires, whatever.

A well-dressed man, a bit older than myself, is crossing an intersection coming towards me. He slows down as he approaches me and it seems he wants to talk.

He stops, so I stop. Germans are so polite when they are not trying to take over the world. So, thinks: I'd better do the same (it's a tit-for-tat utilitarianism thing). I wonder what I am up for here. Have you heard the word of the Lord? Some pfennig for the old guy?

He starts talking as I take my left earphone out. In German of course.

"Nick sprecker Doych", I say. "Ick hab kynner Doych." In my impeccable accent.

"Ach, vot language? You speak, what do you..."


"Ach, good."

I take out my right earphone and raise my sunglasses to look him politely in the eye.

He is wearing a classy red windbreaker (I can't make out the brand) over a warm jumper as the summer in Hamburg is not all that impressive this week; cloudy, blustery, cool (14deg), a spit of rain today, pouring yesterday. He has what look like expensive-frames on his thick-lensed square glasses, and he swipes the air with a thick cigar stub that trails noxious fumes that dissipate quickly in the breeze as he speaks to me. He might live in one of those billionaire houses.

He says: "You know, I have stopped you to talk because, one, you have your sunglasses on; two, you have those... he waves his cigar around... those things in your ears; and three, because I wish to ask you a question."

The man is, I am confident now, not a complete nutter, but pushing it. Eccentric billionaire.

"Der built zeitung, you know?" I must have looked blank because he asks again. "Der built, it is the, vat you say, newspaper?"

Ah yes, Bild. I recall some German scandal rag like that.

"The very first word in der Bild today, do you know what it was? The very first word?"

Naturally I did not know. I shrug.

"The first word on the page. It is bordell."


He doesn't seem to have heard me because he repeats, "Bordell. You know where women sell themselves. A bordell!"

"Brothel." Yes, I know them.

"Yes, yes, a brothel. The very first word! What do you make of that? What is your opinion?" He holds his cigar up at his face, takes a puff, as he waits for my answer.

I smile as I consider what his opinion no doubt is.

"Well," I say, "Germany is a very open minded country, a very broad minded country."

He tilts his head back a little, looking in my eye with a bit of sparkle as he contemplates my answer briefly. He then points his cigar at me with slight gesture and gently smiles.

"Thank you", he says emphatically. And walks on.



DanPloy said...

Perhaps he was a ham Burger?

Skippy-san said...

Germany -Open minded? Not when it comes to trying their language. I have found Germans have no patience with you if you cannot speak the language perfectly. For example I try to use it whenever I can at stores-and they detect my American accent and immediately switch to English.

dibabear said...

Skippy...mostly because they'd rather practice their English. I've had more language chauvinism in Paris than in 20+ years in Germany. What I *have* had though is a refusal to speak English even when they can but that's a different kettle of fish.

Phil...dang, missed that you'd be in Hamburg. There's a wonderful beach bar, the Strandperle near where you were that's great for sitting out and watching the harbo(u)r.

expat@large said...

Skip: that's a bad thing?

Diba: we found this isolated but excellent drinking place on the bike/walking path along the Elba. opposite from the Airbus factory.

dibabear said...

Strandperle is west of the Airbus factory a ways across for the container port (or one of them). I think there are several establishments in that area. This one is right at the waters edge. I could've spent the night just sitting out watching the ships roll in and watch them roll away again.

expat@large said...

Didn't ride that far down, but stopped on the beach a this old place called, according to Google Maps:

Dill sin Döns Restaurant

I mean it had character, but it wasn't write home about brilliant. Mind the weather was shite.

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