Day 12: A Quiet Day in Hamburg

Tuesday, August 16

After yesterday’s go-go-go day, we decided to sleep in and just hang out. It was a good plan especially because I had a long-ish awake spell. But then, part of the day was spent posting a working version of the enormously long and photo-heavy blog for yesterday, since it turned out to be a bit of a hassle to get the many photos to work right. But otherwise: Mark and I took another walk to the little botanical garden and then picked up some groceries for lunch on the way back. Andrea made us pasta with a delicious summery feta-and-lime sauce with zucchini slices for lunch, and then we napped a little, and nearly jumped for joy when a thunderstorm brought a tiny little bit of rain.

Once we got up, I actually ironed clothes for tomorrow for my mom’s special day (more on that on Day 13, but I am happy to report that ironing, like riding a bicycle, is a skill that does not decay over time). Then we had coffee to gather the necessary energy to go for a joint walk, first to Andrea and Peter’s favorite ice cream place, a little corner cafe a mile or so from their place, with a specialty of ice cream in “bubble waffles”–a soft waffle that looks like bubble wrap that has a couple of scoops of ice cream in it. It was delicious but a little messy! Then we walked along some more canals towards the neighborhood of Barmbek and then took the subway back. Not quite to where I used to live in the dorms (that would have been the NEXT subway station) but everything looked pretty familiar. On the way back from the bus, we picked up some more groceries and had our usual bread and cold cuts for dinner. We watched a new episode of Peter and Andrea’s favorite on-line “maker space” show (Laura Kraft), and then turned in. No photos, either!

A note about the climate news that now preoccupies the Europeans as well as the Americans. It is really hard for me to “compare droughts” in a summer where there are drought conditions all over the Northern hemisphere. On the one hand, the drought conditions in the Western US states, in the news yesterday because of the Colorado River’s historic low, are not really *news* in the sense that many areas are in the 23rd year of this drought, and Lake Mead’s “bathtub ring” gets bigger every year, the fire “season” is expected to be year-round in parts of the West, while the running dry of the Colorado and the Rio Grande in many areas is just what happens every summer now. On the other hand, the drought here is experienced as so severe because what is happening here this year was not necessarily expected, and so the photos of houseboats on dry river beds, “hunger stones” and megaliths visible as the water levels get lower, are dramatic and new to everyone, as are instructions to save water and energy. But in many places, certainly here in the North of Germany, the drought is invisible unless you know what you are looking for. Granted, it is also not nearly as severe as in the South, where parts of the Rhine are no longer navigable by barges and the late crops (potatoes, sugar beets) are also at risk. Here, the trees are green, as are meadows that are not irrigated, and the rivers and creeks are flowing, because the water and soil moisture levels here are so very high here. (I grew up with lush green gardens and never saw a sprinkler on anyone’s lawn). But this moisture is typically replenished by lots of rain, and the many weeks of no rain and now high temperatures (highs in the 90s are hard on Germans) mean that there is a hidden drought even underneath the green canopy of the north. Generally speaking, the Europeans, and certainly the Germans, whose Green Party emerged in the 1980s, are very environmentally aware and less likely to deny climate change is happening, but dealing with this level of drought is still an enormous challenge. Even when there is no heat wave and the concurrent energy need is not necessarily the issue–currently there is not, it is just warm and too dry, and the next heat wave (like the ones in France and in Spain right now) is just around the corner, and thus the next energy crisis. Germany has just decided that its last three operating nuclear power plants will stay on a bit longer because they need to be, especially with the embargo on Russian oil and gas, which were a big source of energy here before the war with Ukraine. Our friends all expect severe energy saving measures to kick in soon, and they are all worried about rising costs for electricity and gas–some to the extent that they are worried they will not be able to afford this winter’s utility bills.

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