Altona Born and Raised

Authored by:
Marli W.

Marli W.

It’s my favorite time of year here in Germany… fall! I lived in Illinois before moving to Florida, and I really missed the autumn weather and changing leaves.

It’s currently the second week of Herbstferien (literally “fall vacation”) and I go back to school on Monday. Here in Germany, the summer isn’t as long because there are shorter breaks like this throughout the year. I’ve gone with my Italian exchange student friend to Bremen, biked around my town with my host parents, taken lots of photos, und einfach entspannt: just relaxed.

Luckily for me, my 18th birthday happens to fall during the Herbstferien... It’s tomorrow! My host mom and host sister are taking me to visit the city of Hamburg, which is less than 2 hours away. Before we do anything else, though, we’re going to the borough of Altona on the right bank of the Elbe river.

Sounds like a weirdly specific place to want to go for your birthday.

Before I applied for CBYX, my mom and I thought we were mostly Danish. Her mom’s grandma, Elna, was born in Stoholm, Denmark and immigrated to Florida in the 1920s with her husband, so we figured they were, well, Danish. Turns out that Elna’s parents were born in Altona, Germany, less than 2 hours from where I would be placed, also making me more German than previously thought. My mom, being a genealogy nerd, freaked out and told me that if I do nothing else in Germany, I have to visit Altona. Last week she sent me some copies of their birth certificates and my host mom and her dad helped me to decipher the writing, and we found a few street names! I’m not really sure what the plan is for tomorrow, but either way, I just think it’s pretty cool that I get to visit the place where my German ancestors lived, and that of all the places I could’ve been placed, Altona is close enough to visit!

1948 - My great-great grandma Elna with my grandma, Linda


Left: my great-great grandma Elna
Center: her mother Alvina, who was born in Altona in 1875, with Linda on her lap
Right: Birgit, my grandma Linda's mother

My mom has always called this resemblance between the females of this side of our family "the Nama Face," Alvina being 'Nama'. My mom jokes that I'm going to Altona "in search of the Nama Face."

Bis zum nächsten Mal,


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