(the Holstentor Gate)
Bright and early on Wednesday morning, I departed Frankfurt; destined for Lübeck, a town in northern Germany. Arriving by train, I was met by a friend of my mother; my tour guide in Lübeck and Berlin over the next six days. Originally, this woman became friends with my mom when she was a high school exchange student, studying in my mom’s hometown in Oregon; living with my mom and grandparents for almost a year. Then, when my mom was about my age, she lived in Germany for eleven months; often reuniting with her friend to travel throughout the country. As the women grew older, this woman once again visited the U.S.; accompanied by her own mother to meet her Oregonian host family from years ago. Now, I have been privileged enough to meet this friend as well as her son; bringing this international relationship full-circle through three generations. To know that a relationship made through an international student exchange program can last through so many years allows me to rest in the hope that I will again see friends whom I have grown close with over this semester.
To begin my stay in Lübeck, we commenced our tour from her home in the center of the Old Town; starting with the landmark Holstentor Gate which was built in 1478. No longer used for its original purpose of entering the city, the gate now houses a museum; recounting the Hanseatic League capital’s long history as a port city on the Trave River. With thousands of historical buildings located throughout the town, the entire Old Town is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Dotted by seven churches with rising steeples, the city is also called the “City of Seven Towers.” Riding a lift to the top of one of the churches, we looked out over the fog-covered town; viewing the characteristic architecture and narrow cobblestone streets of a medieval town. Like something right out of a fairy tale, Lübeck was a beautiful sight to behold; meandering through the streets with a native of this beautiful town.
Thursday, we left the Old Town behind; traveling to the coast of the Baltic Sea to see the area. Using bikes to peddle our way along the coast, we peacefully enjoyed the wonderful combination of ocean breeze, autumn trees, and open fields. Riding past cottages and small restaurants, we let the cool salt water wind cool our faces. A perfect afternoon, full of relaxation and exercise, we returned to Lübeck for an evening in the apartment with a warm fire and a few glasses of wine.
(a bike ride along the Baltic Sea coast)
On Friday, we made a daytrip to Hamburg; taking a forty-five minute train to the second-largest city in Germany. Located on the Elbe River (which leads to the Atlantic Ocean), Hamburg is the third-largest port in Europe; also a member of the medieval Hanseatic League and now a city-state within Germany. Walking through the streets of this watery city, we viewed both the new and the old warehouses of the port; sitting side by side across the waterways. Hamburg’s HafenCity is the site of Europe’s largest project of city development; creating a whole new quarter from scratch in the former harbor region. Later in the day, we took a boat through the harbor; seeing the large cargo ships on which this wealthy city thrives. Disembarking on a peninsula, we toured a museum on the location of the departure point of many Europeans for America. As an American, it was fascinating to see firsthand the struggles and obstacles many people went through to voyage to America, the land of hope. Who knew that I trip to Europe would lead me to appreciate the freedom which I was born into?