Monday, April 30, 2012


We are in the middle of a 4-day weekend (Tuesday, May 1, is Labour Day in Germany, so we have a bridge holiday on Monday as well), so Geoff and I decided to take a weekend trip away. Originally we were planning to go to Rotenburg Ob Der Tauber, which is a walled medieval city in Bavaria, but because of some last-minute logistical issues, we changed our plan and took the train instead to Hamburg for two days.

The city of Hamburg is elegant and lovely; if you go, I highly recommend taking a free daily walking tour that starts at 11am in front of the Starbucks in the Rathausmarkt. (Since this tour is publicized by Starbucks, you can get flyers from any Starbucks in the city, that includes a city walking map.) The tour runs on tips only, but the tour guide we had was fabulous and weaved together all of the architecture of Hamburg with fascinating historical details for about 2-3 hours.

In Hamburg there is the former headquarters of the factory that produced Zyklon B, which was used by the Nazis to kill millions of Jews during WWII. The tour stops here for a bit as the tour guide points out the fact that the German government had to win a lawsuit against the current building owners in order to put up a plaque at its entrance to help people remember the crimes that took place.
Also, there is the St. Nikolai Church ruins that are a testimony to the 8 days of 24-hour nonstop bombing campaign that the Allies bought upon the city in 1943. The raids were ominously named Operation Gemorrah, which in itself is a name to make me shudder. At least 40,000 people died in the air raids on Hamburg, and the fire storms in the city grew to be three times the height of the St. Nikolai Church, displacing over a million Hamburg residents. Today, the scorched church ruins are left as a memorial to the damages done by war. (It's hard to gather unbiased information about this, but I think that Germans consider the raids an act of war crime from the Allies.)
The St. Michael's Church in Hamburg is also where Johann Bezenberg made his experiment to help prove that the earth rotates about its axis, using the observation that the object dropped from the top of the church does not land directly underneath but lands slightly "ahead" of the rotation.
Besides that, there is a very lively and touristy red light district to check out in Hamburg (prostitution is legal in Germany), where the Beatles had frequented/performed during the time that they had lived in Hamburg. There is also a Miniatur Wunderland, which boasts to have the largest model trains in the world, which Geoff loved. (I am not very interested in model train cars, as it turns out. The place was far too crowded for my liking; I did like their airport models, however, with planes taking off and landing on schedule, and I liked that they altered the amount of daylight periodically to show dusk, dawn, morning, and evening views of the various models.)

The city itself is surrounded by canals and waterways, and it is lovely to walk around, especially in this fresh spring temperature. We didn't eventually have time to do this, but there is also a water ferry #62 that is covered by your all-day metro tickets that you could ride around the city. I plan to return at some point to Hamburg to see their famous Sunday fish market, to try their famous local Hamburg fish dishes, and obviously to ride the ferries! So, till next time, Hamburg! :)
PS. We noticed that Hamburg -- or at least the parts where we were -- had few people drinking on the streets as compared with Berlin, even though technically it is still legal to drink in open air. Our tour guide told us that the city has been making a concerted effort to drive what it perceives as "bad" behavior out to the fringes of the city, by playing classical music on the intercoms near the financial center of the city. Hilarious. We did hear classical music being played everywhere from the intercom speakers; it is amusing that it is viewed as a deterrent for drinkers to linger around. Of course, our tour guide also thinks Berlin is "bombastic!" :) :)

PPS. Much to my disappointment, hamburgers (the delicious things they sell at In and Out) didn't come from Hamburg!

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