The maiden flight of Airbus A 380 last week was perfectly timed to the arrival of spring which here means acres of fruit trees in bloom along the Elbe, where walks on the dikes offer splendid views of old farm houses as well as glimpses of ships making their way into Hamburg's port. The way out to one of Europe's largest fruit growing regions means crossing the Elbe, crawling through traffic in one of Hamburg's oldest parts, technically an island, called Finkenwerder, and passing Airbus industries into pristine countryside. All within Hamburg's borders, but not necessarily residing together in perfect harmony. Late last October peaceful co-existence came to a standstill when a court decided the city government had no right to force private owners to hand over their property for the extension of the runway Airbus claimed was necessary for its latest project. The public was riveted by this saga, the atmosphere charged. It was more than a classic NIMBY - not in my back yard - a true desire to preserve a way of life and a village with a beautiful church versus those desperately seeking good employment.
The media here provided extensive coverage of the A 380's flight. Trying to get my facts straight on the latest news on the runway, I came upon an interesting website in German and in English by the organist of the St Pankratius Church in Neuenfelde. This parish church plays a leading role in opposing any extension of the runway. The organist provides complete details of their arguments including photos and maps at www.schnitgerorgel.de/index.html
Last Sunday we decided to go out to Neuenfelde and have a look at the church and the area first hand as well as trying out a new digital camera. Were I a member of that parish I suppose I would be opposed to the idea of Airbus drawing even closer to its center. Of course, that would depend on my source of employment - Airbus or fruit trees. It is particularly haunting this month to read about the last days of WW II which one Hamburg newspaper has been documenting daily with photos and excerpts from diaries. This makes it even more painful to think of yet another old relic of the past being infringed upon. On the other hand, much like the church and the orchards evolved over a long period of time, so has the port and even the airplane industry. Paradoxes abound. For example, much is made in arguments contra Airbus that it would ruin a natural environment, the mudwater flats on the Elbe called Muehlenberger Loch. These flats, however, were not a product of the Ice Age or naturally formed, but were man-made in 1935. They also sit opposite one of the wealthiest areas of Hamburg along the Elbe. It is difficult to say what role the environment plays here and how much is another NIMBY. Airbus was placed there on the Elbe because back in the 1930s that same area was being used as an airport for developing water planes. Finkenwerder, choking on traffic, has been waiting for years for a bypass which some fruit growers are resisting because they are unwilling to give up parts of their land for it. Yet, right outside the immediate area, there are marshlands which could be used as replacements for lost orchards. In short it's an old never-ending saga.