The start of my 3 week vacation, city of Hamburg May 11 - 15, 2006
24.09.2006 16 °C
After a ten hour flight from Vancouver, BC, Canada on May 11, 2006, I was so happy to land in Frankfurt, Germany. Instead of transfering to another plane to continue on to Hamburg, I chose to complete my journey via rail. I was going to take an ICE train, a journey that would take about three and a half hours. Not only did I want to see the countryside and but I wanted room to stretch my legs. Since it was a sunny day, I was not disappointed. I had purchased a first class EuroRail pass which was good for 7 days of travel. It was such a nice change to sit in a roomy compartment after being in economy class. I was able to see the subtle changes of the countryside as we travelled north-east across the country. I was also able to find out what these strange tall white structures that were scattered across the countryside that I saw from the window of my plane. Wind turbines, and some were absolutely huge. We don't have these in Vancouver.
I saw a lot of charming small villages, farms, fields, pockets of forests, etc. The train only made about seven stops on the way to Hamburg and since it was in the early afternoon and middle of the week, the train was less than half full. I finally arrived in Hamburg by about 5 p.m. Even after drinking two strong cups of coffee on the train (served by very attentive train personnel to my seat) I was still feeling very tired. My father was born in Hamburg and had immigrated to Canada in his twenties so his family is still here. I would be staying at my cousin's house in the suburbs. My mother, brother and his girlfriend had all arrived here earlier, mainly because they were not limited to only 3 weeks of holidays. I had only been with my present employer, Global BC, a local television station, for about 2 years.
The following day, we began our first exploration of Hamburg. Most of the local attractions are downtown. World Cup fever is everywhere. Billboards, posters, shop windows, etc. all advertising this major event. Hamburg built a brand new stadium just for that. This city has some major shopping districts, especially Monkebergstrasse near the city hall and main trainstation. We noticed these colourful fibreglass figures on street corners or armies of them in the middle of streets and plazas. They were created to raise money for charity. They were based on a local legend, Hans Hummel, a watercarrier who had lived here about a hundred years ago.
I love the pedestrian streets where you have cafes and restaurants with seating outdoors. They serve some wonderful cakes and coffee, and what I noticed was the icecream sundaes seem to be very popular here. We had lunch one day at the Alsterpavillion which is in the downtown area, right by the Inner Alster lake. We had some great tasting fish and chips, with some local beer. I was starting to get used to have beer with both my lunch and dinner everyday.
Hamburg is a large port city. The main harbour is linked to lots of cannals and side channels. We decided to take a one hour boat tour of the harbour one day. It was a lot of fun, the captain had a great sense of humour, and laughed about his own jokes. He took the boat right up close to some of the cargoships, and went down some cannals in the Warehouse district.
The Warehouse district or Speicherstadt (Warehouse City) is one of the major tourist attractions in Hamburg. It is characterized by its red brick, copper roofs which have turned green over time, and small towers.
This district opened up in 1888 afer replacing residental working class buildings, and at that time was one of the world's largest warehouse complex. All warehouses were accessible via the canals and streets, and contained cargo items such as coffee, spices, tea, cocoa, rubber, silk, etc. Today a lot of these spaces are used for museums like the German Customs Museum, Minature Wonderland, and the Hamburg Dungeon.
One great place to visit is Hamburg's Rathaus or City Hall. They have guided english tours there and we were lucky to arrive just in time one Monday morning. The outside North German neo-Renaissance facade is quite elaborate and resembles a Venetian building. It was originally blown up in 1842 to contain the Great Fire, and rebuilt in 1897. Two main governing bodies work from here, the City Parliament and the Senate. We were able to view the assembly room, banquet halls, etc. It was incredibly elaborate inside, with marble columns and stairways, ceiling murals, rich wood decor, etc. The City Hall contains about 647 rooms but we were only allowed to view about 10 of them.
Behind Hamburg's City Hall is an enclosed courtyard where you can find the impressive waterfountain, Well of Hygieia. And, in front of the City Hall is a spacious plaza called Rathausmarkt which was re-created to look like the famous St Mark's Square in Venice.