Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nature Notes: Smile!

Death's Head Roach
My friend keeps Death's Head Roaches (Blaberus craniifer), a pretty big (2 inches) and very fast roach species that has markings on its back that are supposed to resemble a skull.
Maybe it's just me, but I think it's more a happy smiley face. Okay, a vampiric smiley face. But it's definitely very happy.
Death's Head Roach

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

ABC Wednesday: F is fo Feuersturm

On the night of 27. July 1943, 793 bombers of the Royal Air Force attacked Hamburg as part of Operation Gomorrha. The intense bombing in combination with the dry and warm weather created a firestorm (Feuersturm), a tornado of fire that reached temperatures of 800°C (1500°F) and a height of up to 1000 ft.

The fire was so huge and so intense that there was no chance of extinguishing it and it created winds that were strong enough to suck in trees, cars, debris and of course humans. 30.000 people were killed that night, many of them were caught in air raid shelters by the fire or simply died from lack of oxygen when the fire consumed it all.
Source: Wikipedia
The Feuersturm shaped Hamburg very much. Hamburg doesn't have an historic centre any more and neither has Altona (at that time not yet part of Hamburg). Some residential neighbourhoods were so severely destroyed that they were not restored after the war, instead turned into industrial parks, and many of the big streets in Hamburg could only be created because the houses that once were there were too damaged to be rebuild.

The Nikolaikirche was destroyed and left as a ruin, to serve as a memorial. On many houses you can find memorial plaques like this one showing the year the house was destroyed and the year it was rebuild under the cot of arms of Hamburg.

Find out what else F stands for with ABC Wednesday

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nature Notes: Volksdorfer Teichwiesen

We used the nice weather on Saturday for a walk at the Volksdorfer Teichwiesen, a nature reserve not far from where I live. It may look a bit bleak with spring still to come


but winter does have its own beauty.

We also saw some mallards that were already paired up and preparing to chase an intruder


and a species I hadn't seen before, Common Mergansers. The ones with the brown heads are the females.

gänsesäger paargänsesäger

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ABC Wednesday: E is for Elbtunnel


This is the entrance to the old Elbtunnel. It was built from 1907 to 1911 and allowed the people who worked at the dockyards and in the port to reach their workplace on foot and for free. Before the tunnel was built, the 45.000 workers (a rough estimate) had to use ferries and of course pay for them.

a view up from the stairs

To this day, using the tunnel is free if you're on foot or using a bike and it is open at all times. If you want to drive through it with a car, you have to pay and it's only possible at certain times. But you get to ride an elevator with your car, which I think is pretty cool. In 2008, 300.000 cars, 63.000 bicycles and 700.000 pedestrians used the Elbtunnel. If it looks somewhat familiar, you may have seen it in the thriller "The Odessa Files"
the entrance to the elevator
a view from below
The northern side of the tunnel gives you a great view of Hamburg. It's usually much less crowded than the Landungsbrücken, so if you want to watch the Hafengeburtstag (Harbour Birthday) or other big events in the harbour, this is a good place.
michel und cap san diego
See what else E stands for with ABC Wednesday

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nature Notes: First Flowers

Primroses are my favourite flowers in the spring. The one I have on my windowsill has been blooming for a while now (it doesn't seem to know that it's supposed to be annual), but this is the first one I saw outside.

the rhododendron is preparing fresh leaves

a view of the backyard, I made a photo from the same spot a while ago

These croci are not quite ready

but these have more sun and are in full bloom. It's been quite warm for the last week or so, but I think that we will have at least one more snowfall before spring really comes. Meanwhile, I enjoy the flowers.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at RamblingWoods

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ABC Wednesday: D is for Davidwache


D is for Davidwache, the most famous police station in Hamburg and maybe in Germany. It has the smallest precinct of all police stations in Europe, only 0,92 km², encompassing less than half of St. Pauli. 14,000 people live there, but about 200,000 people come every weekend to party on the Reeperbahn and Große Freiheit.


It's right on the Reeperbahn which of course if the reason why it is so famous. Davidwache is actually the official name since 1970, usually police stations have numbers (the Davidwache is Hamburger Polizeikommissariat 15).


It was founded in 1840, when St Pauli wasn't even inside the Hamburg city walls. The station moved to the place it is located now in 1868 and the famous Davidwache was build in 1914, designed by Fritz Schuhmacher who has shaped the face of Hamburg considerably with his brick buildings. You can see a couple of old photos of the Davidwache here. The last photo shows the emblem of the Davidwache, designed by Richard Kuöhl, who also designed the decorations on the side of the building.

See what else D stands for with ABC Wednesday

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nature Notes: Meet Arti Morty

Arti Morty is a Syrian hamster, about 8 months old. He was given up for adoption at the shelter along with his siblings and extended family, I think there were more than 20 hamsters. The hamster rescue I volunteer for took them all in and Arti has stayed with me.

He's a teddy hamster which means that he has really fluffy, long fur. That may look cute, but he can't really keep himself clean all that well and has bedding and poop stuck to his back all the time. Which is why I cut his fur every two weeks or so, he doesn't seem to mind.

Arti has had bad luck with finding a new home, the two people who were interested never got back to me. I wouldn't mind if they can't take him for some reason, but is it too much to ask to write a short mail to say so?
Anyway, if he's still here when my own dwarf hamster isn't around anymore, Arti will stay for good. Syrian hamsters were my first furry pets and I have a special place in my heart for them.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ABC Wednesday: C is for Cap San Diego

The Cap San Diego is a bulk carrier. She used to make the run between Hamburg and South America, often Buenos Aires, taking such things as chemicals, and livestock on the way to South America and coffee, meat and textiles back to Hamburg. A small number of passengers could also travel on board in surprising comfort.

In the 1980, the big container ships replaced the bulk carriers and in 1986, the Cap San Diego was to be scrapped, but the city of Hamburg bought her. She was restored and is now a museum ship, currently hosting an exhibition about immigrants who started into their new life overseas from Hamburg.

The Cap San Diego is still seaworthy and leaves Hamburg every year for a trip to Cuxhaven and for other trips. You can book a stay on the Cap in one of the passenger cabins and if you want to spend a bit more money, you can actually charter the whole ship.

This is the second big museum ship in the port of Hamburg, the Rickmer Rickmers. She's a three masted bark launched in 1896 and made runs to Asia and later mainly to Chile for salpetre. From 1924 to 1962 she was a training ship in Portugal, after having been confiscated after WWI. She returned to Hamburg in 1983. Here's a stamp that show her under sails

By the way, you tend to have a much more spectacular view of the port from where I stood to take those photos. I had waited for sunshine for three weeks, this was the last possible weekend and the fog just wouldn't lift. It was like a white wall someone erected right on the middle of the Elbe. Good thing I hadn't planned on getting any clear photos of the Blohm & Voss docks.

See what else C stands for with ABC Wednesday.
I'm going to try for a complete Hamburg ABC, after my animal ABC. Some letters are tricky (Y...), but I hope I can come up with something for each one.