If one day our children will remember spring 2020, they won’t be the first to think of faces with breathing masks. Not even the serious eyes of Angela Merkel, to the tousled hair of Christian Drosten or to the greatly enlarged representation of the white balls with red nupsis, which have rocked it all in for us. Instead, our children will think of fluttering tapes.
At least you get this impression when you use the bicycle drives through Hamburg to all places that would normally be important at this time of year. The seesaws in Planten un Blomen, near the ice rink: cordoned off with a ribbon. The brand new super slide in Lohsepark in HafenCity: cordoned off with a flutter tape. Even the small playgrounds in the backyards of Altona, often little more than a swing and a sandpit: cordoned off with a ribbon. “Spring makes his blue ribbon flutter through the air again,” Eduard Mörike wrote about 200 years ago. In principle, that is still correct. Only this year the ribbon is not blue, but red and white stripes.
The weather is getting better, but Hamburg’s playgrounds (official definition: “The term refers to any place where there is at least one permanently installed play device that is intended for children to play with”). “This is a huge challenge for city children,” said social senator Melanie Leonhard after announcing the rules: “But it applies.”
No social distancing without social cramping
If you have a swing or a trampoline in your garden, you can continue to use it. Play equipment on the property of schools and daycare centers may also be used as part of the emergency care. Otherwise there are no exceptions. Even playgrounds in courtyards that can only be reached by neighboring children are taboo. “I told our caretakers to shut everything down,” says Monika Böhm of the 1904 housing cooperative. The situation is similar with the other Hamburg cooperatives, which together own every fifth apartment in this city – and some of the best hidden playgrounds.
Where little children play together, bottles and bar latches are shared, shovels and plastic excavators are passed around, there is shoving, pushing and – if things go badly – biting. From an epidemiological point of view, the closures are certainly correct. The imperative of the hour is social distancing. But for families the following applies: No social distancing without social cramping. If many people should see each other less now, this is only possible because few people see each other much more. Around the clock, in city apartments that often feel too cramped on good days and that now house not only home offices but also homekitas – with a personal key that is not enough for both.
In the coming weeks it will become clear what role the educators have for the economic functioning of this city. And for the maintenance of social peace. Because children with excess energy and limited exercise are not only a stress test for their parents, but also for their neighbors. This is already evident when the little ones can no longer go to the soccer field and move their football training to the garage door. Or in the children’s room. Now that the streets and squares empty, the narrowness of the city is felt as never before.
Incidentally, there are no own controls on the playgrounds, according to the environmental authority, in whose area of responsibility Hamburg’s green spaces and sandboxes fall. Instead, the police and the health departments of the districts, which are already out and about in the city, take over. Anyone who slips under the fluttering tape with their children faces fines, but the willingness of Hamburg’s parents to cooperate is “very high”: “Immediately after the playground has been made available, the police intervened in the case of individual violations, first of all through direct contact and admonitions According to the police and the interior authority, the rules in Hamburg have been complied with so extensively, carefully and sensibly that the imposition of fines is not necessary and – if at all – an absolute exception. ”
The aim is to rediscover the ugly
And where should parents go now, with their children and with their urge to move? “Going for a walk in the family or in pairs is still possible in public parks, nature reserves or forests,” says the environmental agency: “With the distance recommended by experts to others.” That sounds educationally valuable, but only practicable to a limited extent if you don’t have forests and nature reserves right on your doorstep, but rather arterial roads, brick blocks and S-Bahn lines.
So let’s make it a challenge: not looking for the beautiful as in normal times, but rediscovering the ugly. Now is the time to explore the outskirts of the districts, ideally by bike or bicycle (advantage: the children’s hands remain on the handlebars, which reduces the risk of smear infections). Finally where we never wanted to go! In the Altonaer Volkspark, for example. Located behind the highway, next to the waste incineration plant, without a city park lake, planetarium or other sights, but with enough space for joggers, children, walkers. Similarly good: walks through musty allotment garden colonies, where you can guess with the children the flags that fly over the hedges (Germany! Germany! HSV!). Or a family trip to the cemeteries. This is morbid for parents in Corona times, while preschool children are happy to decipher numbers and letters on tombstones.
Why not cycle through Hammerbrook, through City Nord or which commercial area is currently nearby? It is still as desolate as ever, but at least the traffic is no longer quite as murderous. Where the office towers are, whose occupants have long since been banished to the home office, there is now space on parking decks (take chalk with you!). You could introduce the youngsters to skating (or rather not, the emergency rooms have to do). And what you can do almost everywhere with power: races and obstacle courses. If the children are to get rid of their energy, the parents must now also learn to romp shamelessly.
Perhaps it will also be what our children will remember one day: 2020 was the year when the whole city became our playground. With the safety distance recommended by experts, of course.