Hamburg

So far, all the posts in my 30 German towns before 30 series have been about towns in the South of Germany (in fact, most of them have even been in baden-Württemberg), so I thought it was time to vary things a little bit. Today’s post shall be about Hamburg. While Hamburg isn’t the northernmost town in Germany (that would be Westerland), it is a lot further North than anything else I’ve told you about so far!

Hamburg Town Hall
Hamburg Town Hall

I went to Hamburg in July 2008 to visit a friend, Claire, who I had previously done an internship with. I actually wrote a little about my trip at the time, but I didn’t include any pictures (and it’s not exactly my most coherent piece of writing) so it doesn’t get to count for the series.

We managed to visit Hamburg on a weekend with perfect weather, which I’m told is unusual in Hamburg. Apparantly the town is known for being constantly rainy, but we got gorgeous blue skies and sunshine (at 31°C – around 87°F – it was actually almost too hot for me!)

Hamburg

There are two lakes within Hamburg city – the Binnenalster (Inner Alster lake) and the Außenalster (Outer Alster lake), the Alster being the river that was dammed to form the lakes. Here’s the Binnenalster:

Binnenalster
Binnenalster

Because we were visiting friends (as well as Claire, we met up with a friend of Jan’s) and didn’t have a lot of time, we didn’t actually see much of Hamburg. We arrived on Friday evening (having flown up there straight from work) and left again on Sunday. However, on Saturday morning we did go with Claire to see the Nikolai Kirche (St. Nicholas’ Church), which was mostly destroyed due to bombing in the Second World War and is now preserved as a memorial to everyone who died in the war.

The spire of the Nikolai church
The spire of the Nikolai church

There is a lift inside to take you up the spire. You get some great views from the top!

Inside the spire
Inside the spire
View from the top
View from the top

After we’d been up the tower, Claire had to leave us to go to work and Jan and I went underground to look at an exhibition showing photos showing Hamburg after the bombing of the Second World War. They also had a special section with photos from Coventry, showing the damage caused there by German bombs.

After the exhibition, we walked down to the river and the “Speicherstadt” (Warehouse District) of Hamburg – Wikipedia says it’s the “largest timber-pile founded warehouse district in the world” (whatever that means!). Here are some photos:

The River Elbe
The River Elbe
The Elbe and the start of the Speicherstadt
The Elbe and the start of the Speicherstadt

Speicherstadt

After walking around the Speicherstadt for a while, it was time to meet up with Jan’s friend, N. He took us on a ferry to a beach bar. On the way there, we saw the Lion King boat, taking people across the river to see the Lion King musical!

Lion King boat!
Lion King boat!

This is the view from the beach bar. I don’t remember what it was called, but I do know we drank Astra beer because that’s just what you do in Hamburg.

Sand

In the evening, we headed to the Sternschanze area of town, which N told us was the studenty part of town. We ate at an Italian/Greek restaurant then headed down to the Reeperbahn (when in Hamburg…) for some drinks and to meet Claire, once she had finished work. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to take a single photo of the Reeperbahn!

The next morning we got up late then Claire and I went back to Sternschanze for a delicious brunch. Jan stayed in bed nursing a hangover, finally coming to meet us just as Claire had to leave for work (the advantage of this was that he then brought the luggage so there was no need to have it with me at the cafe). Jan and I sat in the park for a while until it was time to head for the train station and back to Karlsruhe.

I absolutely LOVED Hamburg, or what I saw of it anyway. Our trip was definitely too short! With a population of more than 1.8 million (it’s the second largest city in Germany) I wasn’t sure I would like it, but it’s so pretty and didn’t feel as horribly overcrowded as some big cities (London, I’m looking at you!!) If I get the chance to go again, I’ll definitely do some more touristy stuff (they have 2 museum ships and I wasn’t on either!) and take more photos.

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Luxembourg and Metz

First impression of Luxembourg (or Lëtzebuerg in Luxembourgish), it has a very nice train station:

Luxembourg train station
Luxembourg train station

This photo was taken while waiting for a bus to my friend’s house to drop our stuff off. Afterwards we came back into town, found the Christmas market (which was still on for some reason) and had some Glühwein. Then we went for a walk and attempted to take photos of Luxembourg by night, such as this one:

Hmm...
Hmm…

As you can see, my camera is not made for taking photos in the dark!

The next day, we took a trip to Metz, which sounds German but is actually in France. It probably was German at one point though. Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region of France and home to the University of Lorraine.

The sun was shining when we arrived, and I was actually able to get some photos of the Cathedral with blue sky behind it:

The name of the cathedral, Saint Étienne de Metz, means Saint Stephen of Metz. Who knew? I would certainly never have guessed that Étienne is French for Stephen!

Inside the cathedral were many stained glass windows, as Catholic churches tend to have:

A stained glass window inside Saint Étienne de Metz Cathedral
A stained glass window inside Saint Étienne de Metz Cathedral

Here is the St Marcel bridge. This would have made a much prettier picture in summer!

St Marcel bridge, Metz
St Marcel bridge, Metz

Metz is 49° North, as this tower so kindly informed me:

Metz - 49°N
Metz – 49°N

There is a bridge castle in Metz called the German’s gate (Porte des Allemands) and being there with two Germans I obviously wanted to find it. Here it is:

Porte des Allemands, Metz
Porte des Allemands, Metz

The street you can see through the gate is the Rue des Allemands. Naturally – because what else would you call a road leading to the gate of Allemands?

The next day, New Year’s Eve, we headed up to the Kirchberg area of Luxembourg, which is where many of the EU buildings are located. From there, you can look down on Luxembourg City:

Luxembourg viewed from the Kirchberg
Luxembourg viewed from the Kirchberg

No, I don’t have a clue what any of the stuff down there is…
On the Kirchberg, there is also a reconstructed fort: Fort Thüngen. There’s a museum inside, which is pretty interesting. We got in for free, but we’re not sure whether that was because it was New Year’s Eve and half an hour before closing time or it’s always free. Interesting nonetheless, and there are old maps of Luxembourg in there. We spent a while checking each one to see whether we could find the area of Luxembourg that my friend lives in.

Fort Thüngen
Fort Thüngen

At midnight we obviously wanted to see the New Year’s fireworks, so we went and stood on a bridge.

FireworksFrom there we could see the fireworks going off all over the place, some more professional than others. These ones seemed slightly more professional (although there was no “official” fireworks display from the town – apparantly they did one when the prince got married earlier in the year and one official fireworks display is enough!).

Luxembourg fireworks
Luxembourg fireworks

On New Year’s Day we slept late, had a long drawn out breakfast (or “brunch”) then spent the rest of the day watching TV and playing board games.

We weren’t leaving ’til around 4pm on the 2 January, so we dropped our luggage off at the train station and went to take a look at Luxembourg in daylight – or what passes for daylight in the middle of winter. The sky was rather grey…

“Daylight” in Luxembourg

We decided to go for a walk in the giant gorge that basically splits Luxembourg city in two. It’s incredibly quiet down there, away from all the traffic that thunders along the bridges that span the gorge, and you get to walk along pretty paths and down steps that look like this:

In the Luxembourg gorge
In the Luxembourg gorge

The walls of the gorge are made up of sandstone cliffs, like this:

Sandstone cliff
Sandstone cliff

And there is also a really cool church/chapel thing built into the cliff:

Church in a cliff, Luxembourg
Church in a cliff, Luxembourg

We then walked into the aptly-named Grund quarter of Luxembourg, which is located down in the valley below the main centre of Luxembourg city on the banks of the Alzette River.

River Alzette, Grund, Luxembourg City
River Alzette, Grund, Luxembourg City

I found this yellow cow outside a museum and couldn’t resist taking a photo of it:

Moo!
Moo!

After our walk around Grund (very pretty by the way – but go in summer when you might have a chance of blue skies!), we took the lift up through the cliffs back to the main part of town where we went for a late lunch before heading back to the train station.

A spot of lunch at Cafe Konrad
A spot of lunch at Cafe Konrad

And that was how I started 2013. I hope the new year began just as well for you!

The land of blue and white porcelain

Last week we finally made it to Delft to visit a friend of mine. She’s been living there for 2 and a half years already and is planning on moving back to America (where she’s from) in the summer, so this really was our last possible chance! It was lovely to see her again, and I thoroughly enjoyed our few days there. Delft is a gorgeous town. I do like the Dutch style buildings, and of course there were canals everywhere. All this water brought with it a tonne of wildlife. Ducks, of course, but also coots, swans and even a heron that likes to hang around outside a house down my friend’s street waiting to be fed bits of fish and things. How cool is that? Other people have stray cats popping along to be fed, this house got a heron!

Heron, standing on a car waiting for his dinner

We also went to the Hague – had to be done seeing as it’s so close to Delft. The Escher museum there is fantastic and worth every single cent of the 7 Euro entry fee. For those who don’t know, Escher was a dutch graphic artist who did strange but interesting drawings, using strange perspectives and tesselation, among other things. A famous one is Air and Water, in which fish turn into birds. Fascinating stuff!

Our final trip of the visit was to Leiden, where we ate the most amazing pancakes! Huuuge things they were, with an interesting range of toppings. Jan and I had one with bacon and ginger and one with bacon, cheese and apple, which we ate half of each before swapping. Delicious! Having stuffed ourselves with pancakes, we went to work off all the calories at the windmill museum “De Valk”, meaning The Falcon. The windmill was actually working on the day we went, which my friend said she had never seen before, so that was something new for all of us (she has been in the museum several times – she used to live in Leiden – but in 2 years had never seen the blades actually turning).

De Valk windmill – now a windmill museum

We ended our visit on Friday evening by making sushi with our hosts, which Jan and I had never done before. It came out pretty well and tasted absolutely delicious! A great end to a lovely few days away.

Back to reality

After a lovely weekend away it was back to work this morning for the last week of my internship. I’m only there til Thursday, then I have Friday to myself and start my new internship at 8:30 on Monday morning. That means I’ll have to catch a tram at 8am! Bye bye good night’s sleep…

Hamburg was really nice. The weather was gorgeous – almost too hot in fact. On Saturday it was 31 degrees! Normally Hamburg is foggy, rainy, cold or a combination of the three so we picked the perfect weekend for our trip. It was lovely to see our friends again. Despite the fact that we were there for such a short time we managed to fit quite a bit in. We saw the old burnt out Nicolai church, which now serves as a memorial for all those who have been killed in wars. The tower is still standing and now has a panorama lift in it, so we went up there to take a look at Hamburg from above before heading back down under the ground to look at an exhibition of photos from after Hamburg was bombed during the second world war.

We also took a walk down to the Speicherstadt part of town (down by the River Elbe) and later, when we met up with N, we took a ferry to a beach bar. For dinner N took us to a studenty part of town called Sternschanze. We ate at an Italian and Greek restaurant and I had an absolutely gorgeous Mussaka. Afterwards we headed down to the Reeperbahn for some drinks and Claire came down to meet us after she had finished work. We went to a few bars, including an Irish one with live music on, and finally made it home at about 6 o’clock in the morning!

Not surprisingly we didn’t mange to get up particularly early on Sunday. Once we did manage to get out of bed, Claire and I headed to Sternschanze again for some brunch while Jan (who was hungover!) went back to bed for 45 minutes. He came to meet us after we’d eaten then Claire had to go to work and, after relaxing in a little park for a while, Jan and I had to head for the train station. We almost didn’t make it on time when the underground train we were on broke down half way there, but luckily we managed to find a taxi rank almost straight away and arrived at the train station with about a minute to spare. The train then ended up being delayed and it was 10:30pm when we arrived back in Karlsruhe. A long weekend and a late night last night left me feeling very tired all day today but it was definitely worth it.

So, to sum up, go to Hamburg people. You won’t regret it!