We spent this past weekend in Hamburg. I am not really sure why it took us so long to pay Germany’s second largest city a visit. We have, of course, driven through many times. Stuck on the A7 for several hours around the Elbe tunnel is the normal start of our summer vacation.
You see there are no other alternatives when driving between Norway and France. So our view of this city has been the towers of containers stacked along the highway, forming a city wall. I thought this pretty much summed up what the city had to offer, but apparently my ignorance knows no bounds.
Inside this modern city wall there are fake lakes, walking trails, and urban indulgences like Starbucks, Chanel boutiques and a strip, where all the cool cars cruise.
We stayed at the Radission Blu, which is a short hike to the old city or Alstadt. While checking in, do say yes to the Business Class upgrade and get the drop dead gorgeous view from the upper levels. Friday night, we wandered around the Alstadt until my feet ached and had a substantial dinner in town before turning in.
Saturday, we wandered more and found some cute shops. Feet still throbbing from Friday’s walkabout, the hotel spa was sounding more and more interesting. Before we headed back to the hotel we were looking for a spot for dinner. Hubby wanted a nice juicy hamburger. I remembered passing a restaurant called Hamburger something. So, I dragged him back to read the menu.
A cute little place not so far from our hotel, half a flight of stairs down from the walking street, with lace curtains and a cosy decor. But something was not right, a restaurant called Hamburger with only fish dishes. Hubby got the joke and waited until the light came on in my fairly empty head. The sign said Hamburger Fischerstubben. Yes, “Hamburger” is possessive. So this was “Hamburg’s Fish dining room”. Oh.
I need to go back to German class.
After a long breakfast on Sunday we headed out to take the red sightseeing bus, which stopped conveniently in front of our hotel. I like to do this the first time in any city to get a general impression. We had ambitions of wandering around the Planten und blomen garden, which is right next to our hotel, but when we got back the 1, 5 hours of prattle had left us listless. Next time, we will wander the garden, check out the automobile museum and the oriental carpet shops in the warehouse district, and find a burger joint.
10 things you need to know about Hamburg!
- Lake Alster is a cool place to hang out. Take a jaunt on the 7 km walking trail and look for fancy houses on the west side and shops and restaurants on the south end.
- Stop in at Europa Passage shopping center on the south-east corner of the Binnenalster and reward yourself with gelato from L’ITALIANA. Best in the city!
- Do take a tour of the City Hall / Rathaus. They have hourly tours in English, from Monday to Saturday, the whole year.
- Hamburgers are very fashion conscientious. So be sure to don your best duds for a trip around town.
- Do some shopping. The fancy shops are clumped on the south end of the Alster on the Jungfernstieg. Get lost in the side streets and find your favorites.
- Even though the Reeperbahn or sex trade district is one of the city hallmarks, Hamburg is really not that slutty. They have a functioning Opera house, Ballet and art galleries. So there!
- HafenCity is the Dubai of Hamburg. Crazy huge buildings, at crazy high prices, making this one of the most expensive places to live outside of Dubai.
- Tours: The hop-on/off bus tours from Stadtrundtfahrt would be boring if they didn’t hire comedians to give the tours. Listen closely because he might not be saying what you think. We had a bilingual tour so we only understood half of the prattle. If you want to take a guided harbor cruise wait until after May to find one in English.
- Don’t underestimate the grudge some countries can carry after being plundered by the Vikings. Introduce yourself as Norwegian with great care. Hubby got a 10 minute lecture about the atrocities of the blood thirsty Vikings.
- Whenever a Viking obsessed German starts talking about eighth century crimes, just mention that your grandmother used to tell you stories about the German occupation of Norway and the strict rations she was given. The silence will give you time to escape those with selective memories.