Gunter Seutter walked out of the Hyatt Hotel yesterday and up the gangway of an old German dream.
There, on the other side of Light Street, beckoned the Gorch Fock.
He had yearned to walk the decks of such a vessel since he was a kid back in the Fatherland.
"I was flabbergasted," said Mr. Seutter, who emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1953. "My lifetime dream was to see a square-rigger."
Funny, how dreams come true.
In town with his Hagerstown-born wife, Rose, for last night's New Orleans Saints-Miami Dolphins football game at Memorial Stadium, Mr. Seutter was looking out of his Hyatt hotel window and thought he glimpsed the German flag flying over the harbor.
"I thought I saw the flag but I wasn't too sure," said Mr. Seutter, who has a picture of the three-masted ship on the wall of his dTC Bourbon Street pub in New Orleans. "This is very touching for me."
So touching that he tried to talk a few sailors on the German naval training ship out of T-shirts bearing the vessel's name.
He had to settle for a brochure, as did the hundreds of other tourists and locals who lined up to tour the steel-hulled bark named for a German writer of sea stories.
Among those who showed up were members of the Dembeck family, German-Americans from East Baltimore who brought grandchildren, nieces and nephews to tour the white-and-green
ship with a golden eagle on its bow.
"It's a nice clean ship," said Bernard B. Dembeck, 71, a retired cabinetmaker. "They mostly only let you see the outside stuff on deck, the ropes and rigging and all."
"Yeah," said his brother, Clarence "Teddy" Dembeck. "They won't let you go below decks, but you can smell what they're cooking. Smells like sauerkraut."
Much of the crew was ashore yesterday, enjoying a fortnight in Baltimore. When the Gorch Fock is under sail, its galley puts out enough food for 172 men, but the ship's captain, Immo von Schnurbein, had plans to take supper on land.
His last visit to the Patapsco River was 16 years ago during America's Bicentennial summer, when the Gorch Fock docked at an Inner Harbor devoid of all commercial attractions and he served as chief mate.
"There was just a nice pier and a pavement then," he said. "All the rest was empty space."
Captain von Schnurbein, 54, said he grew up on a German farm that was protected from bandits and troublemakers after World War II by a pair of young American GIs named Ralph and Rudy.
"They would show us LIFE magazine and I thought that the U.S. must be a wonderland," he said. "It was just after the war and Germany was miserable and I saw all those glamorous photographs. I first came to America in 1959 on a small frigate and I found out that not everything is shining. The United States has problems also." As he talked, bells kept going off around the ship.
Curious tourists were pushing buttons, not knowing what they were for.
On a bench in front of Harborplace, Frank Siliater, 70, sat in humid 96-degree weather admiring the white hull and green trim of the Gorch Fock. It had taken him 40 minutes to come from Dundalk Avenue on the No. 10 bus to see it.
a beautiful ship" said the retired welder,"And I was tired of sitting around the house".
The Gorch Fock, docked at the Inner Harbor west wall until Sept. 15, is open to the public on the following schedule:
Today, 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Tomorrow, Sunday, 1:30 p.m.-5p.m.
Sept. 5-6, 12-13, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
Admission is free. For more information, call 837-4636 or (800) 282-6632.