Alexander M Gross

Literature | Language | Culture


Brief details on the fascinating cities and regions in which I have lived and worked...

München / Munich

My birthplace is Munich, the capital of the state of Bavaria and, in terms of population, the third-largest city in Germany after Berlin and Hamburg. The city's coat of arms (left) depicts a monk, which indicates the Benedictine monastery that was founded by the river Isar and which led to the establishment of Munich in the twelfth century. The city's colours are black and gold - the colours of the Holy Roman Empire - originating from the early fourteenth century when Louis IV (Ludwig IV) of Bavaria was Holy Roman Emperor, with Munich as his imperial residence. The city is now most famous internationally as the home of BMW motor cars, FC Bayern München, and the Oktoberfest, which attracts over six million people a year.


My early childhood was spent in Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany and also one of its 16 federal states. The city was an influential member of the Hanseatic league (Hansa) and a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire, while today it boasts the second-busiest port in Europe after Rotterdam. It is also a modern hub for creative industries.


The city I call home requires little introduction, as it has grown into one of the most popular global tourist destinations and is now ranked as an alpha++ city, alongside New York, in terms of its significance within the world economy. The first major settlement on the site was founded by the Romans, and London was the largest town in England by the time of the Norman conquest. In Shakespeare's time the population stood at ca. 200,000 - albeit with major fluctuations due to plague outbreaks. The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed the medieval city, with its subsequent architectural resurgence led by Christopher Wren. Although badly damaged in the Blitz of 1940-41, London stands today as a captivating mixture of history and modernity, a truly cosmopolitan world city that inhabits the spaces of the former centre of a global empire.

Lancaster University

I graduated from Lancaster University in 2007, with a BA (Hons) in English Literature. Established in 1964, Lancaster is now consistently ranked in the top 10 UK universities. It is also one of the few collegiate universities in the UK, with each of the eight undergraduate colleges named after Lancashire places and regions. The university is situated on a purpose-built campus outside Lancaster city centre, with the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks nearby.


In 2007-09 I lived in Salzburg, Austria's fourth-largest city and the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The city lies on the Salzach river, where tolls were levied on salt barges, and its name Salzburg, meaning 'salt castle', was first recorded in the eighth century. The Altstadt town centre is now a World Heritage Site, with the medieval Hohensalzburg fortress overlooking the seventeenth-century cathedral, and Alpine peaks forming the backdrop. A major arts festival known as the Salzburger Festspiele attracts visitors from around the world each August.


Floripa is the capital of the Brazilian federal state of Santa Catarina, about an hour's flight due south of São Paulo. As an island city with over 40 beautiful beaches, it has become a favoured destination of Brazilian holidaymakers, particularly from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but also among Argentinians. Founded in 1673 as the island of Santa Catarina, Florianópolis was first populated with the arrival of the bandeirante Francisco Dias Velho (the figure to the left of the city's coat of arms, shown here), and consecrated to Nossa Senhora do Desterro. It was formally established as a settlement in 1726. By 1823, Floripa was elevated to city status and designated the capital of Santa Catarina. Today Florianópolis has a population of around half a million. The Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) was established in the city in 1960, and is one of the leading universities in Latin America, with a student body of over 45,000.


The birthplace of William Shakespeare is a small market town in the county of Warwickshire, just south of England's second city, Birmingham. Stratford is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, on the banks of the river Avon. The population of Stratford numbers just under 30,000 - but the Shakespeare industry attracts well over two million visitors a year. The town's Holy Trinity Church is the site of Shakespeare's baptism and burial. The epitaph above his grave reads:

Good friend for Jesus' sake forbeare

To dig the dust enclosed here.

Blessed be the man that spares these stones,

And cursed be he that moves my bones.

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