Thursday, February 02, 2006

March 3rd, 1901

Dear Harry,

I have finally arrived in Germany. The boat ride was rather long and uncomfortable, but my spirits are high and I am ready to see the sights. I am on a train going west towards Berlin and while I write this letter I cannot stop thinking about my first taste of German ingenuity. I stopped in Wuppertal yesterday afternoon to see the newly completed elevated electric railway, and truly it is a marvel! When I say elevated Harry, I do not mean that the tracks are merely above ground because the tracks for this railway are above the passenger cars! I have enclosed a postcard of this railway, for my description does not do it justice. Apparently the ground here is too wet and rocky for any sort of underground rail system. A man named Eugen Lange was the one to overcome this obstacle by designing a rail system that he called “Schwebebahn.” He put the steel support towers and the steel tracks all above the coaches! That’s right; it is suspended making one think that they have their head on upside down. This is truly the dawning of a new age when one can sit in a railroad passenger car and feel as if they are flying. I only wish I could have taken this mode of transport the whole way here rather than that outdated and sluggish ship. Well, what is done is done, and now I look forward to reaching Berlin. I still have a ways to go, but this train ride is quite enjoyable. I was lucky enough to obtain a window seat and the scenery is breathtaking, much different than the scenery at home. Despite such beauty, I still have my novel to accompany me. You would really like this book Harry. While waiting for the train to arrive this morning I explored the train station bookshop. The bookseller recommended the novel Buddenbrooks to me. He was quite friendly, and jokingly explained to me that it seems bookshops come “standard” with every station now. I since then have noticed that Germany must be a literarily oriented country, because it seems as if every passenger on the train has got their nose stuck in a book! Although this it is good that the people here value their literature, it makes it hard to start a conversation with anyone. However, I hardly have room to speak, for most of my time has been spent reading as well. This Thomas Mann fellow is quite the author. It seems as if the book was greatly influenced by his life. The book follows a family, the Buddenbrooks, from the pique of their material wealth all the way to the deterioration of their legacy. It’s a tragedy, but it is very well written and so far has really started to capture the essence of what it means to be human, and what it means to try and live life…well that is at least what my translation has led me to interpret so far. Well, perhaps I should get back to practicing my German reading; it is a rather perishable skill. I will write again upon my arrival in Berlin. Very sincerely, Joshua


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