Monday, March 9, 2009

Hanseatische Reise

My fabulous wife runs a travel agency, does cruises mostly. So sometimes we go on the cruises, too. As long as one of us can speak the language, we run our own affairs in the ports. We're doing a Baltic cruise in June; we'll spend a day in the old Hansa city of Rostock. Here's what we have planned for our group:

We take a local ferry from the big cruiseship wharf at Warnemunde right on the Baltic (Ostsee) to Rostock, about 10 miles inland (too shallow for big ships). The name of the ferry is the Rostock 7, which refers to the following old rhyme, dating back at least to 1596. It's called Die Rostocker Kennewohrn, the Rostock Landmarks.

In English it says:

Seven Towers of St. Mary's Church
Seven Streets at the Great Market
Seven Gates lead to the Land (countryside)
Seven Merchant Bridges by the Strand
Seven Towers upon City Hall stand
Seven Bells who together strike
Seven Linden-trees in the Rosegarden
These are the Rostock Landmarks

Using the rhyme as our guide, on our walking tour we'll see St. Mary's church, the Great Market, a couple of the remaining gates & bridges, City Hall, the Rosegarden, stroll along the harbor, and maybe hear some bells, so we'll see & hear what Rostock says we should. I made a map from Google Earth, we'll have a good time, won't get lost. It's all in the old city, so there'll be opportunities for, you know, German refreshments when we need a break. This should take us 'til early afternoon, when we take the ferry back to Warnemunde, and visit that town, which is nowadays a beach resort.

Back to the rhyme, the Niederdeutsch (Low German) version is the original, which resembles modern Dutch as much as it resembles the modern Hochdeutsch version.

Niederdeutsch version:

Söben Toern to Sint Marien Kark,
Söben Straten bi den groten Mark,
Söben Doern, so da gaen to Lande,
Söben Kopmannsbrüggen bi dem Strande,
Söben Toern, so up dat Rathus stan,
Söben Klocken, so dakliken slan,
Söben Linnenböm up den Rosengoern:
Dat syn de Rostocker Kennewohrn.

Hochdeutsch version:
Sieben Türme der St. Marien Kirche,
Sieben Straßen bei dem großen Markt,
Sieben Tore, die in das Land führen,
Sieben Kaufmannsbrücken bei dem Strand,
Sieben Türme, die auf dem Rathaus stehen,
Sieben Glocken die zugleich schlagen,
Sieben Lindenbäume im Rosengarten:
Das sind die Rostocker Wahrzeichen.

The Low German reminded me of some Grimm's fairy tales I'd read in college. They had little Low German rhymes such as: "Manntje, Manntje, Tempe Te, Buttje, Buttje, in der See..."

Turns out that some of Grimm's tales were originally in Low German.... like this:

"Dar wöör maal eens en Fischer un syne Fru, de waanden tosamen in'n Pißputt.."

My modern trans: Das war einmal ein Fischer und seine Frau, die wohnten zusammen in einen Pißputt

My English: That was onetime a fisher(man) and his spouse, they lived together in a pisspot (a chamber pot, a filthy hovel).
Charming. Grimm's fairytales can be quite blunt.

Part of the fun in cruising is that there is every chance to learn something new and unexpected; in this case, some language history, and I haven't even left home yet.