Checking out Hamburg

Trip Start May 22, 2010
Trip End Oct 31, 2010

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Where I stayed
Peter and Brigette´s home

Flag of Germany  , Bremen,
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Peter booked the train tickets on line and we all went via Bremen to Hamburg. The trains were comfortable and reasonably quick – Bremen to Hamburg in about 70 minutes.

Our tickets gave us subway use so we used this to go to the Rathaus (Town Hall). Outside they were setting up for a wine festival. This is also the site for the Christmas markets and we gathered now there is almost always a market or festival of some kind to use the site.

The Rathaus in Hamburg was newer than the one in Bremen as it had been rebuilt only 150 years ago. It is also bigger than in Bremen because this is a city of 2 million and because it is the centre for both the council and government. The main door had very ornate wrought iron and inside there were small stained glass windows of the planets. As we left I noticed a Bremen key in on place on the front of the building and when I checked, the manhole covers had a building (the city symbol) on them.

We then walked to the river and took the subway again to the harbour. We did a harbour cruise on one of the smaller boats that can go into more of the harbour than the bigger ones. There were a number of paddle boats here as part of the big mix of tour boats.

We had prepared for Hamburg by having a range of clothing but it was hard to be ready for the heat on the water. It was OK for me but John found it hard when we were sitting at the start. We first sailed past a large number of old ware houses. These looked unusual because they seemed to go straight into the water but the commentary said they were built on wood. Peter and Brigitte told us the most interesting things from the commentary (which was in German) as we went. The nearby warehouses hold more carpets than in Tehran.

We knew there were a lot of bridges but there are more bridges in Hamburg than in Venice and Amsterdam combined. We certainly went under a number of them. We went past the new Performance Centre which is already over budget. We saw where 'the Lion King; has played for many years – on an island with special boats for access.

In the harbour was a U boat, a fireboat, a container ship, a coastguard boat and a newly built boat. This was for a Russian millionaire and has its' own U boat and helicopter. The cost was between 400 and 800 million euro. We also saw the huge floating dock and the dock where the QE2 was refitted.

You also got a great view of the city buildings. There were many interestingly shaped modern buildings. We also liked a couple of ordinary shaped ones with interesting colours. The church spires and also the cranes often poked above the rooflines. The bell tower of the main church is a symbol of the city.

We met Peter and Brigitte's daughter, Julia, after the trip. She was waiting for us by the entrance to a 99 year old tunnel. Peter had mentioned it but I hadn’t realised that it was a road tunnel under the river that finished with an elevator. At the moment only 1 lane is open in the morning and one in the afternoon as it is being renovated for the centenary. We went down in the passenger lift and admired the tiles that are in the tunnel. Then we waited for a car and went up in the car lift with the car, 2 bicycles, a dog and 3 other people.

Julia then took us to a restaurant in the Portuguese area for a meal. They had specials for a week in the front and as it included sole and calamari John and I had easy decisions. We did get confused when asked about soup but it turned out the meal came with free soup or salad. We were there for long enough to cool down a lot – the beers helped the men. Beer became a topic of conversation because Julia had worked in a bar in Australia and had to get used to pouring beer without a head. In Germany such a beer would be rejected. Peter had given John a beer previously that should exactly fill a tall glass if it has the correct size head.

We tried some of the local drinks during the day.  2 locals had stared making cola and had extended the range to a lemon drink that John particularly liked. The local beer was tried in the form of a shandy. Julia said we should have some although it wasn't nice. The firm had nearly gone broke and had had a big campaign to get locals to drink it to keep it in production. It sounded to me as though it should close anyway.

We took the subway again to the red light district where Julia had been a student as it is also the theatre district. We started at the police station because it is famous for its façade. The area is controversial because parts were bought up and renovated making it too expensive for the locals. The credit crunch has stopped change and many of the new buildings are empty. There was a new copper building that I didn’t mind except it was in the wrong pace. I was a minority of one as everyone else hated it.

I had seen a couple of statues of a man with buckets over his shoulders but no one was sure about its significance. Later google told me that there was a water carrier in the past (Johann Bentz) who was known as Hans 'Hummel' after the bumble bee. He was often teased by the local children who he would swear at and say 'arse arse'. 100 statues were put in the town as a fund raiser for homeless children and I had seen a couple of them.

Julia said that at night the streets are full of young call girls who will even approach her boyfriend when they are walking together. The original street with the brothels was there but ‘blocked of’ with clear signs that only men are welcome and only if they are customers.

We also went down the gay street which was seedy. Julia said it was much less pleasant than it had been. At one stage there were a group present that it paid not to observe too closely. Next we were in a perfectly fine residential area.

We finished with a drink near the previous meat market which is shown by a statue of a bull. Behind it we could see an old bunker from the rear which is now the site of parties. We caught the subway to the main station and ended up doing a tiki tour. A part between 2 stations was closed for reconstruction so we had to make a change and hence making our final train connection to Bremen was always going to be tight. I suggested we could walk and was told it would take 2 hours!! Then we went only 1 station and were told to get off and catch a train opposite. We did and it took us straight back to where we started! So we caught another and this time checked with the staff and waited for the right one. We had to make a change and missed our final train by 10 minutes. We walked around the station then caught the next one (an hour later) and were home at 10pm for tea. We had a good chat on the train and over tea about travel, children and the difference between countries.
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