Almost 10 hours after leaving Texas I landed in Frankfurt, Germany. Why Frankfurt you ask? Well, it was the cheapest direct flight from Dallas to Europe. However, I chose to spend my time in Germany in Hamburg since I had read good things and it was on the way to Scandinavia. I had about 6 hours to kill in the Frankfurt airport before my train left for Hamburg, and my Priorty Pass Select lounge access came in handy once again. I plopped in a chair for the entire time with minimal movement and frequent naps. Then I started my first train journey in Europe.
Luckily it was an uneventful ride with simple train changes. I arrived in Hamburg in the evening, checked into my hostel and laid down to do nothing. That was when I encountered an awkward male roommate who doesn’t understand what creepy is. I spent the evening sweating in my sleep and got up the next morning to shower in a stall the size of an airplane sink. Despite these annoyances, I had big plans for the day and wasn’t going to let anything hold me back!
My first stop of the day was at the Town Hall where I met my free walking tour led by New Europe, a company I had read great things about. I spent the next 2.5 hours walking around parts of Hamburg with our guide, Alex, learning random historical (and hysterical) facts about the city and getting familiar with the area. The tour exceeded my expectations and took me by a lot of places that I had wanted to see while also giving me the opportunity to hear more about them. We visited several churches, Chilhaus and Town Hall, learned about tripping stones, got random facts on the city’s history and more. We wrapped up with a view of the recently-completed concert hall by the harbor, so I decided to go check it out.
When I turned the corner though, things changed. There was a police barricade set up, people all over and sirens in the distance. I had no idea wtf was going on but people were excited. A caravan of police and vehicles came through and some woman in a blue jaguar waved to us. I asked a local who it was and got the response “Kate Middleton and Prince George.” Well shit… no wonder! As exciting as it was to stand and stare at a car on a beautiful day, I left about 30 minutes later knowing that I wasn’t getting into that building with The Royal Family. Instead I visited 3 places that were high on my list: Elbe Tunnel, St. Pauli’s street art and St. Michaelis Church. And afterwards I dominated a delicious plate of schnitzel.
From the concert hall I walked down the water and checked out the harbor and piers. Originally I had planned to hop on Ferry 62 and see the town from the water, but the queue was insane so I skipped that. I made my way to Elbe Tunnel and started to descend the many steps down to the underground tunnel. This tunnel is 80 ft underground and includes a pedestrian and one-lane vehicle path. It connects central Hamburg with the other side of the Elbe River. It is a beautiful tunnel and you can walk under the river, but more interestingly you can watch the four large lifts on each end of the tunnel as they move vehicles and pedestrians from the ground level to the tunnel and back up! I walked through the tunnel, ascended on the other side of the river (had to get my stairs in and make Rob proud), then went back down and returned to the central part of Hamburg.
St. Pauli street art
After leaving Elbe Tunnel I headed to St. Pauli to grab a burger. Then I got intimidated by the burger place and instead had a cup of coffee next door. The walk around town was well decorated as this area is known for it’s street art, so I spent a lot of time checking out the art, taking photos, wandering aimlessly and fulfilling my graffiti and door obsession (bizarre, I know).
St. Michaelis Church
The final stop of the day before my German dinner was St. Michaelis Church, one of the five main churches in Hamburg and the most famous one in the city. The church also has a tower with an observation deck. I opted to climb the stairs to the top and it was well worth the workout! Along the way I got to see a lot of the interior of the tower and church, including the church bells. I learned that the bells would be ringing again at 6 pm and opted to stick around to witness it up close. It was loud, even with just one bell ringing, but a really neat experience.
I was completely beat after my walkapalooza and opted to down a German dinner and then crawl into my bunk (that I couldn’t sit up straight in) and do absolutely nothing. And that is exactly what I did for the next 20-ish hours.
Once I finally got my lazy butt out of bed the next day I grabbed a tasty Vietnamese meal and headed to the lake for a long walk. I spent the next few hours wandering the trail around the lake and taking it easy!
On my final full day in Hamburg I started early with a 5 am wake up call. It was Sunday and the day of the Fischmarkt. This was quite the experience as it is open from 5 am to 9-ish am and many of the people that visit are finishing off their night with their final beers at the market. It was rainy but I loved every minute of wandering the area – trying pastries, sipping coffee, shopping local goods, browsing the produce, listening to a band and more.
After the Fischmarkt I went back to the concert hall to check out the observation deck, then headed to Miniatur Wunderland to see what the hype was about. This was one thing that everyone says you must do in Hamburg. It’s the largest model railway in the world and is essentially two floors of a large building with tiny shit everywhere. It was really neat and interesting, particularly the tiny airport where you can watch planes taxi, takeoff and land, but I also have a miniature attention span so I only stayed about an hour. I spent the remainder of the day wandering the town, eating a hamburger in Hamburg and chatting with my dorm mates.
The next morning I checked out and started my journey to my next stop… Copenhagen! Jenny had nothing but good things to say about the town, and I was excited to spend some time there and see exactly why the Danish are such happy people.