Fear the Reeper

Trip Start Feb 23, 2010
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Trip End Jul 15, 2010


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Where I stayed
Hotel Hanseport

Flag of Germany  , Hamburg,
Monday, May 31, 2010

Lesly visited the Bernhard Nocht Institute and presented a seminar on her research. Uh oh, I feel another Science History Minute coming on (Red Light Challe-e-e-enge!!!)!  Hamburg was, and still is, a busy seaport, handling cargo ships from all over the world. On those ships came all kinds of goods bound for Europe. Unfortunately, those ships also carried some "bads", namely nasty communicable tropical diseases. In 1892, during a worldwide cholera epidemic, Hamburg was hit especially hard and suffered terribly. As a result of this, in 1900 the Institute for Maritime and Tropical Diseases was established in Hamburg for the study and treatment of these diseases. A naval physician, Dr. Bernhard Nocht, was appointed the first Director of the hospital, and it was in his honor that the current Institute was named in 1942. For Lesly, visiting and speaking at the Institute was especially exciting. Dr. Fritz Schaudinn, a pioneer in the study of dysenteric amoebae (Lesly's area of research) was a scientist at the Bernhard Nocht Institute during its infancy. During the years when little was known about the microorganism(s) that cause such diseases, Dr. Schaudinn took one for the team and ingested the amobae himself so that he could better study their effects. He died in 1906 at the age of 35 of an overwhelming amoebic infection. A little trivia for you cell biologists out there: in 1905 an assistant to Dr. Nocht, Gustav Giemsa, (of Giemsa Stain fame), developed a dye that helps scientists stabilze and visualize cells during microscopy (the dye is still used in laboratories today).

For our convenience, the Institute booked a room for us in a hotel a couple of blocks from the Institute. We checked out of the Holiday Inn Express and checked into Hotel Hanseport, just a few blocks from the wharf. To get there we took the Metro to the Reeperbahn district of Hamburg. The district is in the St. Pauli area, which is famous for its beer (Astra, “St. Pauli Girl”), and boasts a popular “foosball” team (soccer for you Yanks & Canucks), whose logo is a pirate (Arrrrgh!!!).
Now, before I go on, you may want to send the kids away for a couple of minutes. The Reeperbahn district is well known for its, uh, shops and businesses catering to those folks with a wander lust – they're feeling lusty, so they wander into the Reeperbahn district. You can’t miss our hotel- it is across the street from the Boutique de Sade (no kidding). I had flashbacks of my Moulin Rouge adventures in the Pigalle neighborhood in Paris (see earlier post).  Because of Hamburg’s fine shipping and fishing history, and the prevalence of sailors, there are many bars, beer halls, brothels and "shops" in our district. Maybe we’ll finally get an answer to the age-old question: “Just what do you do with a drunken sailor?”

The Reeperbahn district has a slightly less seedy history. “Reeperbahn” means “rope makers’ way” – and ships need lots of rope – for netting, lines, keel hauling, and tying up drunken sailors so they don’t fall overboard. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a lot of hempen rope was produced there. Before they were famous, The Beatles cut their musical teeth in Hamburg in the early 1960’s, mainly playing clubs in the Reeperbahn, such as The Indira Club, The Kaiserkeller, and The Top Ten Club. We took a stroll down Große Freiheit Strasse where the Kaiserkeller still stands. The names of musicians who have performed there over the decades are written on the front facade of the club. The name of the street, Große Freiheit means “Great Freedom”. As a result of the Reformation, largely Protestant Hamburg had outlawed practice of the Catholic faith. The street was named in 1610 when Catholics were allowed to practice their faith in the district. 
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