I left Mainz on September 4th to travel east to Magdeburg and see my good friend Maria. I have kept in fairly good contact with Maria since studying with her in Sweden, and it seemed so surreal to be going to this town I had heard so much about. Maria found me on the platform and we walked to her apartment to drop off my bag. We then headed towards “Die Grüne Zitadelle” to try and make it to the viewing tower before it closed. Along the way, however, we discovered the Dragon of Magdeburg.
As it would turn out, Magdeburg was hosting a renaissance festival, known as Kaiser Otto Fest. There were all sorts of fun folks walking around in medieval garb, practicing archery, and camping out near a section of what used to be the city’s fortress wall. I was pretty pumped about the festival in general, but the “life-sized” animatronic dragon stole the show. A woman would later ride the dragon, getting children to chant “No taxes if they are used for war!” and then recruited kids to capture the evil magician, who had bewitched the dragon earlier in the show. Seeing random and entirely unplanned stuff like this is why I love to travel.
After the dragon show (which we would re-visit later on the trip), we headed to Die Grüne Zitadelle, or the Green Citadel. Oddly enough, the building is actually pink, but because the roof is green, it is called green. As we climbed the tower and looked out at Magdeburg, Maria explained some of the city’s history to me, including how King Otto I lived there for most of his reign as the First Holy Roman Emperor, how the soccer team won a European Championship in the 1980s, and that the massive park in the distance contained the Jahrtausendturm, or the Millennium Tower, which is the largest wooden tower in Germany. Magdeburg is also the capitol of its Bundesländer, or Federal State, of Saxony-Anhalt. Despite its historical prominence, Magdeburg’s reputation, economic strength, and soccer team have decline steadily over the past two decades compared to the rest of Germany.
All of a sudden, I had a cultural interaction. A man, speaking in what sounded like polite German, said a few things to Maria and I, and I figured he was simply asking us politely to leave since the tower was closing. As we walked down the stairs, Maria told me he was actually quite rude about asking us to leave and had asked us why we hadn’t left since the tower was obviously closed. The day before, in Mainz, Julia and I had been playing on a musical sidewalk, when a lady had run up to us speaking very loudly and quickly in German. I thought she was yelling at us for playing on it and that it was only for kids, but Julia said she had a walking tour behind her and wanted the musical instrument to be a surprise, so the lady politely asked us to take a break and could come back later. I guess I should learn German so I actually know what people are saying, and stop trying to infer it from such experiences.
From Die Grüne Zitadelle, we headed to a backyard electronic concert hosted by a youth center, where I found a slackline. We also met up with Johannes, who worked in the tourist shop in Die Grüne Zitadelle. He had told me that he had to deal with stupid people all day. Since I bought a postcard from him, I figured I was one of those stupid people. Luckily, he said that if I am stupid, I was the best stupid person he had to deal with. I would later sign the book in his shop with those words, which has since garnered some attention from other tourists according to Maria and Johannes.
After a super late night that involved more concerts, burgers, beer,
feffe pfeffi, and a long walk in a very dark park to a beach party on the River Elbe, we met up with Maria’s boyfriend Elias the next day to tour the Cathedral of Saints Catherine and Maurice. Elias is working on his Master’s degree in history, so this would prove to be invaluable for my endless questions about what I was seeing.
Saint Maurice was an Egyptian, and the statue they have of him in the Cathedral is the first that actually represents an African man with black skin. Unfortunately, the statue was on tour in another town, so I did not get to see it during this visit.
From the cathedral, we headed over to the Jahrtausendturm, which looked like a gigantic, crooked teepee. Inside, however, was a mostly child-oriented science museum. Maria and I tried to tour the museum in Karlstad when we lived there, but we got too distracted playing with toys and experiments in the kid’s science/play area, and the museum closed before we could see the rest of it. Needless to say, we had a blast inside the Jahrtausendturm, which was seven floors of fun.
That evening, we attempted to eat homemade pasta in a field by Elias’ apartment. This is where I learned that German mosquitos are very hungry for American blood.
The next day, Maria worked on her school work while I applied for jobs, and later we explored the massive island park that we had originally walked through in the dark on the first day. When I traveled to Berlin and stayed with some friends of Maria, several people looked at me oddly when I had told them I had just come from Magdeburg, similar to the looks I got from citizens of Stockholm when I told them that I studied in Karlstad, or a similar look that I might have given a German who studied in Pueblo. But Magdeburg was awesome in a unique way, and I very happy I went.
I am also eternally grateful to Maria for putting me up and putting up with me for four days, all the
feffe pfeffi shots, getting me to Berlin for ten Euros, and getting me free accommodations there as well. I hope I can one day return the favor to her and all my European friends in the USA sometime soon.