Hamburg is a city of countless bridges. In November of 2010 I was fortunate to take part in crossing yet another – a bridge of friendship – between Chicago and Hamburg – sister cities since 1994.
For the past two years, in my capacity as an International program manager, I have worked with Chicago Sister Cities International and the Hamburg committee managing cultural, educational, business, sports and humanitarian programs. The Hamburg committee is chaired by Honorary Representative of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg professor Rolf Achilles and co-chaired by Honorary Representative of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg Christoph Lichtenfeld and works under auspices of the CSCI office and the City of Chicago. The committee is a group of active volunteers, leaders in the business and the local communities, who devote their time and resources in supporting exchange programs with Hamburg and strengthening a long standing relationship between both cities.
Over the years the Hamburg committee has been instrumental in initiating and maintaining a strong educational exchange program between Chicago and Hamburg high schools; hosting Hamburg’s HSV youth soccer team in Chicago, supporting and promoting annual Marathon in both cities, hosting high level government delegations and promoting sustainability efforts on both sides – just to name a few. The success of these programs also depends on the strong partnerships with other organizations in Chicago, such as the Goethe Institut, German American Chamber of Commerce, Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany and Dank House among others. The Goethe Institute, one of our long-term partners, presented me, as a Sister Cities staff person, with an exceptional opportunity to take part in the 2-week intensive German language course in Hamburg. That not only gave me a chance to quickly improve my by now rusty German skills, but also visit Hamburg for the first time and meet with our project partners as well as new organizations in Hamburg.
My networking program began with a warm welcome from Manfred Strack, director of the Amerikazentrum. During our meeting at the center’s facilities in the HafenCity, we had a chance to discuss several ideas in the areas of film, performing and visual arts, culinary exchanges and education. We were joined by Julia Dautel from Hamburg’s Ministry of Culture and Gerd Dammann, a retired school teacher with many years of experience in transatlantic exchanges.
While in Hamburg, it was great to reconnect with Jennifer Wesche, Deputy Director of ‘Hamburg – Green Capital of Europe, 2011.’ I had a chance to learn about the year’s programs, such as the official opening of the Green Capital year, the “Train of Ideas” exhibition, the “Environment has its history” exhibition, and the International City Conference, 2011. Following up on the “Memorandum of Understanding for Close Cooperation in the Area of Green Building”, signed by then Senator Anja Hajduk and the Commissioner of Environment of the City of Chicago, Suzanne Malec-McKenna, in 2009. We agreed to further share information on the exchange opportunities between our two cities and highlight Hamburg’s Green Capital title in Chicago through collaborative programs.
My next meeting was with Mr. David Zeller, President of The American Club of Hamburg. We’ve exchanged information about our programs and I had a chance to hear about the ‘America Days’ in Hamburg, a series of cultural and business events that the Club and others organized in the previous year. ‘America Days’ will also take place in 2011.
I was also invited to a meeting with Mr. Stefan Martens to discuss the work of Harmonie Club of Hamburg and the planned visit to Chicago in May 2011.
And last but not least, I have reconnected with my colleague and official sister city counterpart Lisa Kuehl, International relations officer for North America, China and Japan and met with Mr. Uwe Ram, Executive Director of International Co-operation for the City of Hamburg. We have shared updates on the upcoming events and changes in the government, World Art Chicago program for schools and other exchange opportunities.
Regardless of the busy meeting schedule, classes and homework, I had a chance to explore the city as well. An impromptu ferry ride through the impressive Hamburg Harbor, the site of the of new Elbe Philharmonic, Ballinstadt Emigration Museum, and an amazing Marc Chagall retrospective at the Bucerius Kunst Forum were the absolute cultural highlights of my trip.
I would like to extend my many thanks to Goethe Institut Director Mr. Werner Ott, Program Manager Eugene Sampson and all the dedicated staff of the Goethe Institut of Chicago for making this trip possible and for their continuing support of the Hamburg – Chicago sister city relationship. Vielen Dank!
Manager of International Programs
Chicago Sister Cities International