We’re planning to leave Hamburg in ten days, returning to the United States in a bit over a month. Here are some of the things I will really miss when I’m home, and things I won’t miss at all.
- Cities as the Center
- St. Louis is a great city in some ways, but it is a good example of a problem common in America but uncommon here: the city center is dead, surrounded by growing suburbs. In Europe, the city itself is the focus. The city is alive with pedestrians, partiers, and shoppers throughout the day and week. Pedestrian zones in almost all cities and towns are the center shopping and gathering areas. Residential areas near the center are preferred (inner city is not a negative thing here). Autobahns stay out of the city center instead of enabling the flight of people and business from the city, as the Interstates do in America.
- When visiting a new city, I know that I should head to the center to find the best sightseeing, the best restaurants, the best tourism information, etc. I also know that I can see the best of the city without needing a car. With the exception of a few select cities in America (Boston, New York, San Francisco), that’s just not true there. It’s definitely not true of St. Louis.
- Public Transportation
- Related to the earlier point, public transportation is usually much better in Europe than in America. Between buses, subways (U-Bahn), suburban trains (S-Bahn), and regional trains, one can get almost anywhere one needs to go cheaply and quickly. In St. Louis, we’ll need our cars to do almost anything.
- Bike Friendliness
- We ride our bikes almost every day here. The main roads in cities usually have bike lanes for us, and the drivers look out for us and respect us. Because of all this (and the more centralized cities), many people bike to work every day, and I biked to class every day instead of needing a car. It improves health, traffic, and pollution. I’ll bike much less at home without such a bike-friendly environment.
- The Alster
- Our favorite place to bike is around the Alster, the large lake in the center of Hamburg. Depending on the day, you can see executives biking to work in their suits, rollerbladers getting exercise, old women taking their dogs out for walks (or vice versa), picnickers, and sunbathers. The route goes through parkland, past a small marina, in view of the steeple-packed downtown, in front of consulates and places of worship. The closest analog I know of in America is the lakes of Minneapolis, but this is much nicer.
- Wind Farms
- When traveling through Europe by car, bike, train, or ferry, one is likely to see windmills everywhere. It’s a wonderful form of energy production that I’d love to see take better hold in America.
- As an engineer-by-training, I’m familiar with the Metric system. As a temporary resident of Europe, I’ve lived with the Metric system. It’s so much simpler than what we have in the United States. I’ll miss it.
- I’ll be able to see soccer in America, but I won’t be able to watch Confederation Cup games, UEFA World Cup qualifers, and Bundesliga games in person.
- Kölln Heidelbeer Müsli<
- This cereal is fantastic. It has blueberries and yogurt. I love it.
- Italian ice cream stands throughout Europe. Yummy.
- Erdnuss Flipps
- Imagine the big puffy Cheetos. However, instead of being flavored with cheese, imagine them tasting like peanut butter. Mmmmmm…
- Every week, for €0.40 (about $0.50), we buy a packet of six partially-cooked dinner rolls. We heat them at 200 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes, and they are fresher and tastier than any pre-made breads in America.
- Cheap Wine
- Bottles of good wine in grocery stores for $3-4. We’ll have sticker shock when we return.
- Europeans smoke a lot. They smoke pretty much anywhere. This was driven home yesterday at the soccer game, where people smoked frequently in their seats. I didn’t realize how nice the non-smoking sections of American stadia were until experiencing frequent second-hand smoke yesterday.
- Tiny Streets
- We rented cars a couple times, and the tiny streets of the old city centers are a nightmare to drive through. Of course, those streets are better left to pedestrians since they predate cars, so it’s not really a problem in the grand scale. However, after making a couple wrong turns and ending up in areas where I couldn’t turn around, I’m glad not to worry about those streets anymore.
- Mexican Food
- More specifically, what passes for Mexican food in Germany. I know I’m too Minnesotan really to know good authentic Mexican food, but what the Germans do is just to far the other way.
- Late-Night Baseball
- We love the Cardinals. Of course, they don’t show many MLB games on TV here. Thankfully, a friend lets us watch his TV through his Sling Box Unfortunately, we’re in the Central European time zone, so the evening games start in the middle of our night. Yesterday’s game was at 3:30 PM in St. Louis, a 10:30 PM start here. Since it was the NLCS, we watched it, staying up until 1:30 AM to see a loss. It will be nice to be able to watch games at a normal hour again next year.