7/3/16 – The Stadtbibliothek Bremen used to be an old police office and jail. It’s massive walls were imposing and the entrance felt a little creepy. I imagined what it must have felt like to new prisoners during the Nazi era. Because the library was closed on this day we had the whole place to ourselves. Our guide, Lucia Weder, showed us all parts of the large library including the police office, the children’s library and boxes of books for refugees in camps. The books we see are in Persian and this library supports a large program for refugees. Several hours later we wind up in the large port city of Hamburg. Walker is the perfect tour guide and now he is in his element. We hopped on the subway and came out in an area dominated by large brick buildings. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and this 19th century area is one of the largest planned communities in the world. We have dinner at a German version of a dive pub that was dripping with atmosphere. The food was authentically German, heavy but good. We walked the streets of Hamburg celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary.
7/4/16 – The Bücheshallen Zentralbibliothek in Hamburg was big and full of people. It contained a great music room, a wonderful display of photographic posters, a training session for refugee tutors and wild sculptures in front of the library. The Stadts-und-Universitatsbibliothek Hamburg Carl von Ossentzsky library was named after a dissent writer that was shot by the Nazis. Unfortunately, it is closed but I photographed the impressive exterior. That night we landed in the beautiful old town of Lübeck. This island city was the center of the medieval Hanseatic League that basically set business interests ahead of the church or royalty. It was its own city-state and was occupied separately by the Americans after WW II. We walked through the magical old city center in the evening. We have another hearty German meal in an outdoor cafe watching the inhabitant of this delightful city strolling by. We had a toast to the 4th of July and realized that we hadn’t met any Americans since Brussels.
7/5/16 – At the Bibliothek der Hansestadt Lübeck we met the head librarian Bernd Hatscher. He gave us a quick but fascinating tour of this library that was partly founded by Martin Luther whose portrait hung above the door. The old part was originally a monastery and after Napoleon invaded Lübeck he parked his army’s horses in the church. He then turned the rest of it into a library. Old medieval paintings on the ceiling had been painted over. The effort to recover them had only been partial because the library had run out of money. The librarian sadly explained that he had had to let go a large part of his staff because of budget cutbacks. Glass covered panels in the floor showed off the remnant original bricks. Altogether, a fascinating place. Walker wanted to take us to one of the poorest and most conservative part of Germany. I photographed the library in the tiny town of Grevesmühlen and then visited a even smaller village that Walker described as being neo-Nazi. It was unremarkable except for a weird mural on a wall. We then quickly dropped by the old northern German town of Rostock. I jumped out under darkening skies and photographed the beautiful exterior just before it started to rain (again). Finally, we arrive at the beautiful east German coastal resort town of Sassnitz where we spent two nights and one day “on holiday”.
7/6/16 – Resting! Actually, it rained hard most of the day. Coming from four years of drought in California it was delightful to see the rain outside while I was standing in the shower, we had breakfast in a coffee shop on the shore of the dark and stormy ocean. I could see the rain to continue to pour from my bed as I worked on old emails. It cleared later in the afternoon and Walker and I played frisbee near an old Soviet monument to the workers, the Russian soldiers freeing east Germany and Lenin. Weird! Then we went to a spectacular National Forest on this island of Ruegen where brilliant white cliffs went straight down into the sparkling turquoise Baltic Sea.
7/7/16 – The rain that had following us for the last three weeks finally stopped today. I quickly photographed the local library Stadtbibliothek Sassnitz. We then went to a strange relic of the Nazi era the Prora Documentation Center. It was originally built as part of Hitler’s Strength Through Joy program to buy off the German workers after the Nazis smashed organized labor in the 1930s. This area was to be a workers paradise resort by the sea. The few,crumbling buildings here were all,that were built as the war ended this fantasy. Finally we visited the Stadtbibliothek Hans Fallada in Griefswald. The beautiful building was built in the 1500s. The wonderful librarians were thrilled we were there and gave us a nice book of the city as a present. At the end of our long drive we entered the fabled city of Berlin.