Recently I counted through and discovered that I have been to at least a hundred and fifty Adult Education Centers in Germany, either to lead workshops or do presentations or to speak with their IT people and have a look at the database system they were using.
A hundred and fifty might sound like a lot, but it’s less than a fifth of the 899 adult education centers that are operating in Germany as of 2019.
The German word for a municipal or regional adult education center is Volkshochschule, abbreviated VHS. The one I work for, in Frankfurt, is over 125 years old, but most were started right after the First World War, in 1919, so they are celebrating their centenary in 2019.
As the website of the Hamburg VHS explains: “Democracy needs education: Hamburger Volkshochschule was founded in 1919 under this motto, and it’s a motto that is as topical today as it was a century ago. Being able to continue learning, regardless of income or personal life situation, means being able to take part in society.”
Once I did a presentation for the English teachers at the Hamburg VHS. (And discovered that a former Frankfurt colleague of mine was working there.)
In addition to their main building on the Schanzenstraße, the VHS Hamburg holds courses in fifteen other buildings in various districts of the city.
At last count, the VHS Hamburg conducted over eight thousand courses per year with over a hundred thousand participants. The courses are divided into eight subject areas: Languages; German as a Foreign Language; Culture and Creativity; Health and the Environment; IT and Careers; Society and Politics; Basic Education; Multimedia and Photography.
In the Schanzenstraße near the Adult Education Center there is a neighborhood of wall-to-wall restaurants and pubs that spill out onto the sidewalk whenever the weather halfway permits.
I’m afraid I never paid much attention to which restaurant we were in, so I can’t give any specific recommendations, but they all seem to be cheap, friendly and unpretentious. And perhaps a bit grotty but hey, this is Hamburg.
(The Beatles used the word grotty in the film A Hard Day’s Night, but that was when they were already famous and no longer living in Hamburg. It was George Harrison who said: “I wouldn’t be caught dead in them, they’re dead grotty.”)
My photos in this post are from 2011. I revised the text in 2019.