Hanging with Hamburgers in Hamburg (10/30/03)

Last updated 11/17/03                                                                                                                                

In all honesty, our stop in Hamburg (Germany) was entirely out of necessity and not out of any desire to see the city. You see our next destination after Bergen (Norway) via Oslo was Amsterdam, but that would involve too much travelling (we already had one overnight train and still didn't arrive in Hamburg until well into the night), so we decided to stop at the most "convenient", large destination, which happened to be Hamburg. Probably one of the the coolest things about Hamburg was the actual train journey there which involv ed two first-time experiences for yours truly, so I'll start out with that and then mention the sights and sounds of Hamburg itself.

One first-time experience for me was an overnight train, which involved a double-bunk compartment for me and Daria on our return trip from Bergen. The compartment was nice (if somewhat cramped) and even had a sink with water (not potable) in the compartment itself. I think I read somewhere that they have super nice trains in Europe where you can get "luxury" compartments that run well over $150 bucks, that offer things like a shower and a toilet, but no such options on our train. Being the gentleman I offered to take the top-bunk which offered a fun experience of climbing to the bunk monkey-style using a ladder that came out of the wall (I'm an only child so I never had the whole bunk bed experience as a kid). When you're on the top bunk you're pretty worried about falling off, especially given the way that the train lists and has a tendency to stop suddenly -- and quite hard as well. So they got these little harness thingies that are about a foot high and are connected to the ceiling with a seatbelt -- that way there's a little barrier that extends from the bottom of the bunk and *should* prevent you from falling about 6 feet during your sleep. It seemed to work for me though I got much less sleep than I would've liked on the train due to odd train noises and the motion of the train. That and I was constantly worried that I would end up being a statistic -- one of the only 2% or so of people who die in train accidents in Europe each year (made up figure, but you get the point). That thought combined with periodic, loud train whistles made for a long night. The other experience was actually pretty neat for a techie like me. During the leg of our journey from Sweden (name of town in Sweden is forgotten) to Copenhagen we got an incredible treat -- Internet access during the train journey for about $10 for the duration of the trip (about 4 hours or so). This was in addition to a pretty nice, hot meal served with wine and all that -- probably the only time that I felt that the first-class "supplement" that they charge you (in addition to the ticket itself) was probably justified. So here we are on this really nice train going at about 180km/hr and I get to surf the whole while at about 60-80kbps (my connection was 802.11 for interested parties, though they had some sort of D-Link box that would connect to your laptop via a serial connection if you didn't have a WiFi card). To compare the experience to our current trains in France is like comparing a rickshaw to a ride in a BMW (most of the French trains don't allow you to use the restroom at the station because they simply jettison stuff to the tracks, so you can imagine the differences...).

On arrival to Hamburg, we didn't have any idea how to actually get to the B&B where we were staying for the night. Fortunately, on our trip from Copenhagen to Hamburg we met a nice travel companion, John (I hope I got the name right, still waiting for an e-mail response), an American who had studied at a university in Hamburg, who along with his German host actually drove us to the B&B and performed introductions for us. We are still grateful for this random act of senseless kindness. As it turns out, our B&B host, Stephanie, was actually out of town for a Robbie Williams (never heard anything by him, or even of him before this incident) concert and instead we met one of her roommates, a guy named Andrei, who actually turned out to be Russian (at least born and raised in Russia) IT professional, thus making conversation (and conversation topics) much easier. Stephanie turned out to be very well travelled and had wonderful and interesting African decor throughout the apartment (see pics below) -- it was kinda like walking through Pier 1 back in the States, but here you knew that most things were probably coming directly from Africa (or they could actually *be* from Peir 1, what do I know?).

The main sight that we saw in Hamburg was the City Hall, which turned out to be very impressive! I mean it looked more like a royal palace than a city hall, and  much foreign royalty had been received in this building. Most of the doors had inlaid bronze and were highly decorative, while the wallpaper was engraved leather and the columns were Italian marble (only the finest stuff for these civil servants). They don't make buildings like this anymore -- and for good reason too, if I heard that my tax dollars were going toward Italian marble and bronze door fixtures, I'd do my part to make sure those officials didn't make it back into office!



               Some images from the B&B that we stayed at in Hamburg. Though we did not get to meet the owner (Stefanie) who was gone to a Robbie Williams concert, we got to appreciate her fine sense of interior decor (tons of cool African items -- she seems to have travelled that part of the world) and the crazy cat (Katinka) who lived in the house.



Some of the sights of Hamburg's City Hall. We took a 45 minute guided tour of the building which is fairly lavish on the inside as shown above -- everything from brass fixtures to wallpaper made of engraved leather, this was one impressive building.


Some additional sights from Hamburg. The statue shown above was just one of several like it all throughout the downtown area -- they all looked the same in size and shape, but each was painted differently much like the Buddy Bears in Berlin. And what European page would be complete without a picture of some pretty church that we stumbled across?