01/05/2011 at 9:48 pm Leave a comment

Following my stay in Hamburg I can now say that I have visited Europe’s three largest port cities (Rotterdam and Antwerp being the other two). I’m not sure this was the intention when we set out on the European tour, but it seems like a cool thing you could drop casually into a conversation.

The train journey from Amsterdam was not as smooth as expected. I was expecting the German railway network to be ultra efficient, sadly though it did not conform to the stereotype. Chris and I had to get a connecting train at Hanover and from there continue our journey to Hamburg Altona. However the train was delayed by 30 minutes. We’re still not totally sure why because the announcement over the loudspeaker kept changing the reason for the delay. “The train to Hamburg has been delayed by 30 minutes due to engineering works”, or “The train to Hamburg has been delayed because we are waiting for a connecting train”, or “The train to Hamburg has been delayed due inherently poor infrastructure”. The last one is made up but you get the idea.

Eventually the train got to Hamburg Hbf (the central station), but decided that it would not continue to it’s scheduled final destination, Hamburg Altona. Had it not been for a couple of English speaking German commuters who had explained this we would probably still be waiting at the station.

To cut a long story short we got on another train and eventually checked into the Meininger Hotel after an epic 8 hour journey. We had however managed to miss the Royal Wedding which provided us with some relief.

It was now dinner time and we had not eaten since breakfast so we took a stroll down what I imagine is Altona’s main high street. We walked into a restaurant that looked to be the German equivalent of a Harvester pub, and using our very best German we ordered a “Super Burger” and a “Giant Super Burger” along with a couple of large beers. As the name suggests the food was on a fairly epic scale. What with all the travelling that day the two of us were fairly tired and so opted for an early night.

The next day we headed into the centre of Hamburg. We had to take the Subway which proved more difficult than it should have been. Due to our chronic Englishness and immediate dislike for anything “different” we struggled to buy the correct ticket even though the ticket machine displayed everything in English.

Hamburg's Central Plaza

We got there in the end though and after a short walk found ourselves in Hamburg’s central plaza. It is a very attractive looking city with a mix of old and stylish new architecture.

As it was a nice day we decided to take a walk around Hamburg’s two lakes, Binnenalster and Außenalster. The latter mentioned is massive and it took us a good two hours to walk around. Had we realised it’s vast size we probably would have sat down at a bar and drunk some beer instead. The Germans would appear to be totally fitness mad. Everyone was either out on their bike or jogging around the lake. Not exactly my cup of tea, but then my idea of exercise is having to walk downstairs in the morning.

Following some much deserved lunch we met up with our contact from the internet Jamie Dassoulas. From there we went to a bar and sat down with some excellent Franziskaner beer. It’s probably the best beer I’ve had so far on the trip. Later we were joined by Jamie’s friend Chris (also from the internet) and we enjoyed some more German beers before being given a tour of the cities harbour area.

Big boat is big.

As well as the docks themselves there are lots of expensive looking apartment blocks which look to be in converted factories and warehouses.

Following the completion of the tour Chris and I headed back to our hostel in Altona. Upon arriving at Altona station we were greeted with the sight of literally hundreds of police in full riot gear. It was like a scene out a film set in a dystopian future where the country has become a fascist police state. This vision was quickly put to rest when we were allowed to pass through the police cordon without being thrown in the back of a van and shipped away to a nearby detention centre for “processing”.

I’m still not totally sure why there were so many police out that night. There had been a football match earlier in the day which seemed the only likely explanation given that Hamburg had not suffered a terrorist attack or been subjected to a zombie outbreak.

Although Chris and I didn’t do a huge amount in Hamburg we still had a great time. It was fun to meet some new people, have some good chats and sample some excellent beers. The City is simply too large to see it all properly in the short time that we had there. Given the chance it is certainly somewhere that I would go back to.


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