"In the footsteps of . . . Schnabelewopski?!" Hamburg by Nemorino
Hamburg Travel Guide: 1,496 reviews and 3,537 photos
If I had put my mind to it, I’m sure I could have found some distinguished and worthy historical personage to tour Hamburg “in the footsteps” of.
But the fact of the matter is that when I am in Hamburg I tend to loiter around (or loiter about, as our British friends would say) in the manner of an undistinguished, impoverished young Polish aristocrat called Schnabelewopski – or “von Schnabelewopski”, as he called himself in Germany, though that is actually a tautology since the –ski at the end of his name already means “von”.
In English that would be “from”, which is logical since on the first page of his memoirs he lets on that he was born on the first of April (note the date) of the year 1795 in a town in Poland called Schnabelewops, which as you might have guessed is not in the VirtualTourist database.
Actually Schnabelewopski wasn’t even a real person, just a fictional character invented by the German author Heinrich Heine (1797-1856). The reason this fictional Schnabelewopski left his fictional home town of Schnabelewops was that his fictional parents wanted him to go to Leiden, in the Netherlands, to study theology.
Unfortunately to get from Poland to the Netherlands he had to go through Germany (no cheap flights in those days), and when Schnabelewopski got to Hamburg he liked it so much that he stayed for half a year. “I must confess that during that semester I occupied myself more with worldly things than with divine things.”
Hamburg at that time had 80,000 inhabitants, according to Schnabelewopski, or “maybe closer to 100,000; I don’t know exactly, even though I spent entire days walking along the streets observing the people. But I’m sure I overlooked some of the men, considering that the women absorbed most of my attention.”
He said the women in Hamburg were not thin, but rather somewhat corpulent, “some of them adorably beautiful and often with a certain affluent sensuality which by no means displeased me. Although in matters of romantic love they are not notably enthusiastic, and although they have little knowledge of the great passions of the heart, this is not their fault, but the fault of the little god Amor, who sometimes spans the sharpest arrows of love in his bow but then out of wickedness or clumsiness shoots them much too low and instead of hitting the hearts of the Hamburg ladies only hits their stomachs.” (My translation.)
Now, nearly two centuries later, Hamburg has over 1.8 million inhabitants and two bicycle sharing systems, StadtRAD and NextBike.
Because Schnabelewopski lived (well, he didn’t, but never mind) several decades before the invention of the bicycle, it’s no wonder the women were rather corpulent in his day, at least the well-off ones. Today the ladies tend to stay in shape by cycling, jogging, swimming, rowing, playing volleyball and table tennis, going to the gym or at least going a bit easy on the Labskaus.
I’m not at all sure Schnabelewopski would approve of the way they look today. Rubens wouldn’t, that’s for sure.
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