Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hamburg Germany (Part 2)

This is part two of my visit to Hamburg. To read part one, go here.

On Saturday morning, everyone slept in a little bit and then we ate a nice breakfast that our hosts had prepared. They had the Euro-required Nutella, some fresh bread and pastries that are typical of the region, and great coffee. What else could you want?

Our first stop of the day was at Saint Michaelis church, which is the most famous and important in the city. It's a protestant church that was rebuilt after World War II and features a tall, copper bell/clock tower:

The highlight of the church, other than the Martin Luther and Saint Michael statues, is the view from the tower. I didn't count the number of steps (yes, there's an elevator too) but it's a lot. Looking at the pictures now, I'd guess that viewing platform is about 15-20 stories high. The trip up the stairs is worth it just to check out the construction, large bells, and people regretting their decision to use the stairs. This is the view towards the Rathaus and lakes:

One highly surprising thing at the church was that they appear to run a nightclub in the church tower just below the viewing platform. Having a party up there'd be fun but I wouldn't want to try the stairs after a few rounds!

From the church we took the metro to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) to change lines. It's a CLASSIC European train station just like I had imagined before ever coming over to Europe. The steel structure with windows, a bunch of different tracks running through, and a ton of people with luggage. If you look carefully along the left side of the photo, you'll see three advertising banners for Ritter Sport chocolate. I saw these ads featured at the museum when I was at the Ritter Sport factory and museum last month.

Our next stop was a walk through the Sternschanze neighborhood of the city. I felt much more "at home" there as it was more artsy and interesting than other places I've seen so far in Germany. There were all kinds of different small shops, independent-style bakeries and restaurants, and lots of people walking around. It's tough to make out but the yellow building on the left side of this photo is an old abandoned building that's been taken over by squatters. Overall, an interesting city scape.

Cobblestone streets, shops, and restaurants of the Sternschanze neighborhood:

Our lovely hosts took us to a seafood restaurant in the Sternschanze that reminded me of the Paradeta in Barcelona. It's call La Sepia and I believe it's owned by people from Portugal. The food was fresh, delicious, and cheap! Highly recommended! Thanks Vivian and Steffen!

After having thoroughly gorged ourselves, we walked off our food by going to the Saint Nicolas church ruins in the center of the city. It was (partially) destroyed in 1943 and has been left in its current condition as a memorial to the victims of war and persecution. I was surprisingly moved by being in the hallowed (punny or what?) out church. There aren't too many things that I've seen in Germany that show "battle scars" like this building does.

After a break back at the apartment, we went to check out the Saint Pauli neighborhood. I didn't know that I knew the place until after I got there. It turns out that this is the area where The Beatles lived during the time they spent living in Germany. They played at a local bar for about a month during the early 60s. The streets were packed, which may have been more crowded than usual due it being Saturday night of a three-day weekend.

I really liked Hamburg and this area and where we had lunch sealed the deal for me. I could see myself living there long-term if I needed to. This is a shot of a plaza in the center of the neighborhood.

The way that every storefront is a bar with loud music and drunk folks pouring in and out of them reminded me a little of Bourbon Street in New Orleans (sorry - no link - pre-whereisdarrennow days). The difference is that they speak English here :-) and they also have an official red-light district. Behind the rusty barrier is some NSFW (not safe for work) material. If you zoom in and read the white writing on the gate, it says no kids or women (!!!). Oh, and by the way, I have no idea what's up with the dude's outfit on the right. I'm hoping that he's part of a bachelor party or something.

Like I said, Hamburg was a blast. It's funny but as I write this I realize how much of the good time that I had was because of who we were with. I also think back to the times when Diana and I have had the chance to stay together with some other amazing couples like (and this isn't an exhaustive list) Cynthia and Stefan in Frankfurt, Gemma and Bernar in the Canary IslandsJen and Dave in San Diego, and especially Alicia and Paco near Madrid (who are currently subdividing and will soon be three!). Thanks to another great couple that just got added to the list!

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