Hanging out in Hamburg
After reuniting with my friend Carly in Amsterdam, I continued my planned travels back into Germany. Next up on my somewhat clockwise path of Germany and the Netherlands was Hamburg. Here I would have the opportunity to see Armin and Carolin, a German couple who were on the overland trip with me. In addition to seeing all of the traditional sights in Hamburg, I was excited to spend time in the city where the Beatles first became famous.
Armin and Carolin were gracious enough to let me stay with them for a few nights. I arrived in Hamburg around dinnertime and spent the evening catching up with them about my travels since I last saw them in January.
The next morning I woke up to a rainy day. I think there might have been more rainy days this past month in Europe than in my entire travels thus far. Not one to be deterred by a bit of rain, I donned my rain jacked and umbrella and headed into the city. First on my agenda was to participate in the “free” walking tour, which helped to give me a good background on the city. Surprisingly, a good amount of the other people on the tour were cruise ship passengers who only had about 8 hours to spend exploring the city. I can’t imagine having such little time to see everything! Another reason why I don’t think I would ever enjoy a cruise ship vacation.
Since the rain didn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, I elected to do an indoor activity and visit the Miniatur Wunderland, which has exhibits with tiny models of a variety of places, including Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the good ole’ USA. The Miniatur Wunderland is the largest model exhibition in the world. It is also an extremely popular attraction, receiving over a million visitors each year! Workers there keep meticulous records of the country where each visitor is from, and the totals are displayed and updated in real time.
I have to admit that I was extremely impressed by all of the exhibits. I couldn’t believe the meticulous detail that went in to every exhibit, right down to the miniature people, often no bigger than a fingernail! This truly was a toy maker’s dream! It was even possible to observer the designers hard at work on creating the next exhibits. I could never have the patience that they have, spending hours on perfecting the tiny details that help to complete the model.
Perhaps my favorite part of the exhibit was the airport, where planes actually landed and took off every few minutes. The arrivals and departures board would update according to the type of aircraft and the planes would arrive and take off through holes in the wall. After a few hours of wandering through the exhibits, I had my fill of the Miniatur Wunderland and it was time to move on.
I had plans to meet up with Carolin and Armin after they got off work at a Portuguese restaurant. Here we saw a couple wearing Africa-themed t-shirts, similar to one that Carolin had purchased back in Africa. We chatted with them and found out that they had recently done a similar overland trip in Africa the year before and were wearing their shirts to the Lion King musical, where they were headed after that. What a small world!
After we had our fill and it had gotten dark, Carolin was eager to show me around the Reeperbahn to see my reactions. For those unaware, the Reeperbahn, is similar to the “Red Light District” in Amsterdam, where a lot of bars, clubs, and risque stores are located. As we arrived to the beginning of the area, Carolin bid farewell with a gleam in her eye and crossed the street in order to distance herself. As soon as she did, Armin and I were soon approached by several women. Dressed in boots, warm jackets, and wearing a lot of makeup, it was obvious that they were prostitutes. They started by asking questions like “Where are you from? What’s your name?” They were very persistent and very handsy as well. After refusing their offers, Armin and I would continue walking only to be met by another one minute or so later. These girls also seemed to know that I was American and what my name was….strange! Carolin later told me how they all work together in order to try to pull a trick and call ahead to inform later girls or any information they were able to glean from their conversations. Even though it is much less famous than its Amsterdam counterpart, I have to say that The Red Light District paled in comparison. There seemed to be a lot more sex shows, strip clubs, and bright flashing lights here, all trying to lure customers in. Hamburg is a popular place for bachelor and bachelorette parties (“stag” or “hen do’s” in British slang”), due to the wide array of entertainment options.
The next day was a beautiful sunny day. After heading back into town, Carolin and I decided to rent bikes and cycle around the Alster River. We had an excellent time getting some exercise and enjoying the fresh air. We even stopped at small shop by the river and enjoyed soft pretzels along the riverbank, careful not to get too close to the aggressive swans.
We met up with Armin for Happy Hour drinks near the Port of Hamburg and came across a huge crowd. People had congregated to see the famous cruise ship, “The Queen Mary,” docked up for repairs. I never knew that any cruise ship other than the Titanic could be famous! That evening we returned to the Reeperbahn to check out more of the nightlife and spent some time in a Thailand karaoke bar-nothing like I had experienced when I was in Thailand for almost 2 months haha.
The next day Armin and Carolin had to take care of a few errands, so I ventured into the city by myself. I decided to board the ferry that serves as public transportation past the ports on the Elbe River as entertainment. The ferry provided excellent views of the skyline as well as the ships that were moored at the docks.
After the ferry ride, I went on a self-guided tour of the famous Beatles landmarks. While there were a few independent companies offering tours, either the time of the tour didn’t align with my schedule, or they were charging ridiculous prices.
“I might have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg.”
I was able to find a couple of their former haunts, including the Indra Musikclub, the former Star Club (the only remnant being a sign on the wall), as well as a cool sculpture. The hardest spot to find was the doorway where John Lennon posed for the cover of his album, “Rock ‘n Roll.” In order to get to it, I had to make my way through a residential part of the city, as I looked for the address (Wohlwillstrasse 22 in case anyone wants to make a visit). When I finally found it, I had to wait for a few minutes until a resident was arriving home so I could ask her to take my picture (one of the downsides of solo travel). I then did my best John Lennon pose, determined to keep a straight face.
The rest of the day was uneventful. I spent time with Armin and Carolin, as I was due to catch a Flixbus to Berlin the next day. While often overlooked in favor of Munich and Berlin, I definitely recommend giving Hamburg a visit!