OverKnight Voyager finds small joys in ‘Gateway to the World’
HAMBURG, Germany — Hello! I suppose I could also say hallo, hola, namaskaram, Chao chi, ni hao or Konnichiwa. You see, I am but a simple Rutgers sophomore who has been caught unaware by the allure of a multiple-country study abroad program, known as Semester at Sea.
I’ve just begun a whole semester’s worth of seafaring, land-faring and general exploration. Though I sorely miss the ups and downs of being a Scarlet Knight — and I do indeed miss having a stable internet connection — for the next three months, I hope to share with you beautiful pictures, fun stories and interesting information about the places I’m #blessed enough to visit.
The first stop on the journey was Hamburg, Germany. This quaint little port city is not quite so little. It is recognized as both a city and a state in Germany, similar to Australia’s status as both a country and a continent. My first and favorite stop was Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland, which truly lives up to its name.
It’s an ironically large collection of small figurines, landscapes and scenarios. Visitors can walk through several rooms of many different crafted settings, including rural and urban areas, various water bodies, large stretches of mountainous landscapes and mini-people and objects frozen in any situation imagined by the creators.
I saw scenes of medieval castle life, bustling cosmopolitan life, townsfolk celebrating festivals and parading through the streets, fans cheering in huge stadiums for concerts and sports matches, animals going about their busy lives, on and on in a seemingly endless series of scenarios. The intricacies of this literal wonderland kept me quite entertained and amazed, and after I left the museum it felt like I was viewing the outside world too as a series of beautifully crafted scenes.
While in Hamburg I also learned from one of my fellow shipmates that many places in Europe, including Germany, have small brass tiles inlaid in the ground to mark the homes, or workplaces, of Holocaust victims. This is a decentralized monument project started by a German artist in 1992, known as "stolperstein."
I saw two stolpersteine side by side that marked a couple who lived in an apartment above a small shop in the city. At the sights of the stolperstein, pictures aren't taken because locals believe the memorials are meant to commemorate of the enormous amount of suffering and shouldn’t be treated as tourist attractions.
This project is still growing unlike traditional monuments that are fully built at the beginning and remain that way, this monument project pays a continuous and increasing respect to the horrors people suffered due to the Holocaust.
Overall my time in Hamburg taught me about appreciating the beauty in the little things, both literally — as in the Miniatur Wunderland — and figuratively, with the stolperstein project. Even being able to enjoy light meals in small cafés and restaurants were little sources of joy in my days there.
I felt encouraged to slow down and take in my surroundings and find remarkable things amongst the ordinary, such as the beauty of miniature children going sledding or a stolperstein tile fitted among the otherwise normal cobblestone ground. I’ve become so accustomed to constantly being on the run that I have never taken a minute to smell the flowers. So I encourage you all to slow down for a minute as well, and to recognize the beauty that could be hidden away in something ordinary.