Northern Nerdy Notes (a musical theatre lover in Hamburg)
Updated: Mar 14
Welcome to another blog post, or as I like to think of them… a window into the chaos death pit that I call my brain. Don’t get me wrong, I love it in here (inside my brain, that is) but it’s not always the clear-cut path it may appear along the way. This post will be a summary of a trip I took at the beginning of the month to Hamburg in Northern Germany with plenty of tangents and ramblings about the meaning of life along the way. Here we go.
Let’s start from a fun place…. trying to find internships in another country sucks. I love it, I’m glad I’m doing it, but this is hard. I have been working with the theatre, it has been really interesting (see last post for more information). However, I knew my contract there would only cover the first half of my Praktikum phase, so I have been applying for and having meetings about other internships. This has been such a great exercise (or at least that’s what I tell myself). I like to think I will be able to apply for jobs like a champion when I am back in the US considering a spent the last year doing it in a language and a culture I am just scratching the surface of understanding. All that said, I ended up with a few days off in between Praktikums and here is what I got up to.
I decided last minute to take a trip up north. Hamburg has been on my list since I knew I was coming to Germany for the reason of…. Theater. Hamburg serves as the main “Broadway” city here in Germany a bit like NYC in the states, or the West End in London. I knew there were shows I would like to see there, so it’s always been an idea in the back of my mind that I’d like to spend a little time in Hamburg. However, I’ve completed both my language and Uni phase in Southern Germany so I hadn’t had the chance to get up there yet. We’ll talk more about the theatre later, but I think the clearest way to get this thing written is going to be to just go chronologically, so here is a play-by-play of the trip.
Like most of the traveling I’ve done here in Europe, this was incredibly last minute. I texted the friends I would stay with 1-2 days before I came. God bless each of them for not just rolling their eyes and leaving me hanging, they had every right to. The first person I visited was Deb. She is another PPPler that studied with me Saarbrücken. She now lives in Hannover which is about one hour south of Hamburg. So, on Thursday morning I got up bright and early and caught a train to Hannover. My new life hack (Spoiler Alert: not a life hack, just common sense) is to always take the earliest train available. 1. You get to your destination sooner, and have more time to explore, and 2. Nobody wants to get up that early so the trains are always quiet and somewhat empty.
When I arrived in Hannover Deb picked me up at the Hauptbahnhof and we walked around the city a little bit. We went to a food hall where we both picked up some really authentic German food: Vegan burgers from an American Diner! We explored some of the highlights of the city before heading back to her apartment (it was a little windy and stormy so we didn’t want to be caught downtown if things got really bad). Once we were back at the apartment we got to catch up about our lives and German experiences post-Saarbrücken. We cooked dinner and played card games and even ate some Ben and Jerry's that was on sale at the grocery store. Overall, it was such a fun visit and so nice to see a familiar face again. Sometimes exploring new and exciting cities is just what I need, and other times, I just need a good chat with a friend. Sometimes you’re lucky and get both.
Hannover Rathaus Beautiful and Old... as promised.
I made Deb pose with this statue, she was very uncomfortable
Hannover... been there, done that.
On Friday morning, we had breakfast together before both heading to the train station to catch two different trains. I was headed north to Hamburg and Deb was heading south to Köln. After arriving in Hamburg, I took a Bahn to the house I was staying at to drop off my bags. I stayed the weekend with my host parents' daughter. So, my host sister. It seems strange to call her that since she doesn’t live here in the house anymore, but for clarity's sake, we’ll go with that. I dropped my things at her place, but she had to continue working for the afternoon so I decided to check out the Kunsthalle Hamburg and let me tell you that was definitely the right decision.
I don’t pretend to know a thing about art, but I love a good museum day. I love looking at pretty things. I love looking at weird things. I love when something out of nowhere totally makes me cry… these are all normal museum occurrences for me. My entrance was free to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the contemporary gallery. This meant not only was it a great day, but it was also a cheap one, hooray. I post some photos here of the highlights of the museum, but let me just tell you, it was a dream.
I also had the best luck in the world, cause the moment I arrived at the parking lot of the museum its started pouring rain, and I mean POURING. So, I accidentally picked the ideal activity for the weather as well. After finishing up the afternoon at the museum I grabbed some food to take back to the apartment where I ate and rested before heading to the main event of the day, the weekend, and possibly my whole life…kidding…..kind of.
A view from outside (just when it started to rain)
The entrance to the regular Kunsthalle (not the contemporary one) I was blown away by this room.
Big ass art
This is me in my natural habitat. :)
A little Green Guitar Guy from Mr. Picasso
I love this room, I love this statue, I love this picture
Beautiful photo of Kunsthalle
Cringe photo of Kunsthalle.... the duality of man
Okay, so hear me out
The next few minutes are going to get like really REALLY nerdy, so either 1. Bear with me or 2. If you want to remember me as the cool person you so obviously think I am, just skip ahead to the next bit.
So I read an article on Broadway.com back in like summer 2021. (I warned you!) This article discussed one of the first non-replica productions of the Musical wicked that was being staged in Hamburg, Germany. For non-theatre people, it basically means every production of Wicked (Broadway, touring, etc.) uses the same “production” (costumes, choreography, sets) and this new production in Hamburg is NEW. So, there are new costumes, new hair and makeup, new sets, new magic tricks, and more! The script remains completely the same but all the other elements and re-designed. Obviously, I wanted to see it. Obviously, I never thought I’d get the chance. And then I did a silly little thing where I moved to Germany for a year, and I knew I had to make it happen.
Call me basic, call me boring, but in literal first grade Wicked was THE MUSICAL that made me care about musical theatre, so when I tell you I cried when I sat down….like before the overture even started….. I have no shame in that. This felt like the wildest full circle moment ever. The first real professional musical I ever saw (in LA for my 10th birthday with my mom) was now the first musical I was seeing in Hamburg, alone, in a second language, that I actually speak. It was rad.
If you are a fan of the musical Wicked or have seen it before, I will attach a link to the trailer for this new production cause it is everything you love about the original but somehow prettier and more magical.
Here are some random thoughts about this experience bulleted out before we get into pictures:
It is such a cool thing to experience theatre at different stages of your life. I promise you this production has meant something different to me at 10, 15, 18, and 23 and will continue to carry and find new meaning until I’m 85. How freaking cool is that?
Let me tell you, there is a reason this show is running strong in the US and beyond. IT HOLDS UP! The characters in this show sing because they cannot express themselves in any other way (as musical theatre should be). They are playing the highest stakes all the time, you get love, you get friendship, you get belty and bubbly. It just hits, okay?
Seeing theatre alone is such a fun experience. That became a theme of this little trip without me really realizing it. Being alone is sometimes magical! I got to experience this completely on my teams and have no one be audience to my embarrassment, of course, I am telling you all about it now…. But that’s another story.
Translation of existing texts is so cool. I don’t claim to know anything about how a musical is translated. Heck, I’m very new to the world of understanding anything more than basic English, so who am I to talk? But understanding the German text (and also admittedly having every word of the English version memorized led to a fun opportunity to highlight changes in the text that are ever so slightly different) Some are a bit choppy… ex. Popular in german is Heißgeliebt which means popular but when broken down translates to ‘hot and loved’. Where others are a little stronger….ex. Dr. Dillmond’s board in English has been vandalized to say “Animals should be seen and not heard” where in German the vandalizers changed “Bitte alle Turen schliessen” (please close all doors) to “Bitte alle Tieren Erschiessen” (please shoot all Animals). Language is wild and beautiful and theatre is wild and beautiful, how cool. That being said, Hamilton is coming to Hamburg later this year, and it’s being fully translated.....I would sell my first-born child to see that production because I just can’t compute how that’s gonna work.
I asked my mom to send me this picture from the first time we saw Wicked... are we not the cutest?
Nothing has really changed, just a girl at a show with something on her face ;)
My view before the show started
V dark, but V happy to be there
This is a selfie I took in the bathroom during intermission to check if I had cried off all my makeup... you're welcome
View at the end of the performance 💚
Back to my normal very cool, suave, and sophisticated writing:
On Saturday my host-sister had morning plans, so I spent another few hours exploring alone before we met up later to spend the afternoon together, here are some of the highlights of what I did:
Before leaving the house I mapped out a short itinerary of what I might want to see, mostly just to save myself from looping back all over town so here is how it went, descriptions and pictures below:
I started by going to this bridge. I found it on a map and immediately knew I needed a picture. I asked a nice stranger to take this picture, she thought I was weird. Traveling alone isn’t lonely, it’s just an opportunity to make new friends!
I passed by this mural again. I really love it. I just kept thinking to myself. I want to frame this picture, but before I print it Photoshop in the words …it’s better.
Then I walked along the smaller of the two lakes in Hamburg. I was so SO lucky with the weather this Saturday it was B-E-A-utiful!
Then I explored a little bit at the Rathaus which, of course, is very old and very beautiful our two favorite adjectives for European buildings.
And now we’ve made it to our second tangent:
My last stop before meeting up with my host sister was the St. Nikolai church. It was a church that was almost completely destroyed during the WWII bombing in Hamburg. The foundation of the church, as well as the Steeple, is still standing. There are monuments built on the foundation and people can take a lift in the tower to see Hamburg from above. Below what’s left of the church there is a museum. I paid my 4 Euro for the ticket really only caring about seeing the pretty view from the tower, but I had some time so I decided to visit the museum as well, and let me tell you I’m so glad I did.
This was one of my favorite museums I’ve been to in Europe. Instead of covering a huge range of time, or land it focused on one thing: Bombing/Aerial Warfare and curated stories from a variety of perspectives that were both informative and moving. I’ll caption each of my photos to give you a little window into this highlight of my afternoon, but here’s what it really came down to. Sometimes I’m blown away by how perfect timing is. I may not have understood the depth of this museum had I not spent the morning reading about bombings in Ukraine. And if you look at the guest book and the end, you’ll see I wasn’t the only one making these connections. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this experience from the view of a potential curator and storyteller; how do we craft empathy-evoking narratives that allow us to understand history so that we work together to not repeat it?
Here are some of the moments in the museum that really stuck out to me:
Here is the Tower with the lift inside
The broken out windows of the main church
One of the memorials inside
View from the top of the tower
The feet of a broken crucifix
The valuable stained glass was removed from the church before the bombing occurred
An account from a bomber
Guest book images from the day of my visit
Another memorial outside the church
Afterward, I met up with my host sister and we did some exploring together. This included visiting the Elbphilharmonie (one of Hamburg’s most iconic buildings), walking through Speicherstadt (the old shipping district), enjoying some ice cream in the sun, taking a Ferry up and down the Elb and sunset, and having just the MOST AMAZING view, and of course, me spontaneously deciding to buy a last-minute ticket to another Broadway show….WHOOPS! So I spent the evening at Eis Königin (i.e. Frozen in German.)
I’ll attach summaries and reviews to each of the photos below…more of what you’re here for… my face and my opinions ;)
Ice Cream on the Elbe. If you're wondering why it is so dirty around us it is because there were severe storms the week before my visit and the whole area we are sitting on what completely underwater...fun!
This harbor is unreal, beautiful!
This is the home of philharmonic and you can visit that observation deck during the day. We did and let me tell you...beautiful building, beautiful view
Sunset from the ferry ride
The more industrial/shipping side of the harbor
The Elbphilharmonie as we came back on the ferry
So fun fact about the two largest musical theatres in Hamburg, you can only get to them by boat! So that meant I got to take another ferry to get to the theatre
A picture from the ship as we pulled up
This is a fav pic of the trip. I ordered a beer then asked the bartender to pour it in a kid's souvenir cup.... listen, I know what I'm about
this was such a wonderful trip and I am so glad I had these extra days. I’m now back to work in Heidelberg and busy living and learning. I’m sure I’ll have another update for you in no time.*
*3-5 weeks, lol. Don’t get your hopes up, we’ve all seen by now how inconsistent I am
Here are some last few random photos and updates:
This is the life :)
Had a last breakfast with a few Erasmus friends before they left & hugged thru the sad goodbyes
Had a party the night before (it was pretty impressive we made it to the breakfast in the first place)
A sunny walk home this week. Seeing people on the river just makes me smile.
Shameless crepe selfie. If you haven't seen that TikTok where that three-year-old says "Let me sit in your lap and take a picture of da' muffin" you don't understand my soul
Host mom and me on a coffee date. She took this picture, I'm just happy to see me that happy
When the sun is out....so am I. No questions asked
Eins) My wonderful friends in Northern Germany for letting me crash. You're the bomb!
Zwei) My mom for buying me those tickets to Wicked in 2007, look at the monster you've created!
Drei) My two host families for always making me feel at home despite work being crazy my poor german brain being FRIED. Love you guys.
Bis Zum nächsten Mal!