Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Our Second Time in Hamburg

Back on the bus after Muenster, things were starting to take on a familiar feel. The bus driver selling drinks for a Euro out of his fridge and beverage machine, random whistling, the loud guy, the guy who looks like Mark Sandman, everyone referring to each other by their nationalities rather than their names. These all became hallmarks of the whole trip.

We arrived in Hamburg later than planned due to the delays earlier in the day, so we went straight to dinner at an Italian restaurant near our hotel. The service was ridiculously bad. The Spaniards we shared our table with started to get genuinely pissed! We all ordered off a very limited menu well in advance, but they didn't seem to know what we had ordered and weren't prepared for us at all. It was over two hours before we got our food, and then, there were half-hour differences in when people at the same table got their food! I think it was called Siciliana (but it might have been something else starting with S and ending with a), north of Planten un Blomen. The food was okay but if you are in a hurry, don't go there!

After dinner the guide recommended we check out the "water organ" in the Planten un Blomen park, across from our hotel. It's a fountain which is played to music in a short show each night. We caught most of the show. I honestly thought it was a little cheesy, like something a second-rate city would put up to try to attract people and prove that it's not a second-rate city. Hamburg isn't a second-rate city and doesn't need this sort of thing! But most people seemed to really enjoy it, so maybe I'm just a scrooge.

Hamburg Aug 2007

Our second day in Hamburg started with a field trip to DESY, the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron, a short bus ride away. On the way the guide thought we should all stop at the Michaeliskirche since she didn't think we'd get a chance to visit it otherwise since it's slightly out of the way. We have actually seen it before and I have to say I didn't care for their photo policy and the bombardment of tourist items for sale right inside the door, so instead we went across the street to see the little preserved alley of what Hamburg used to look like, which we didn't catch last time we were there. (It's a little hard to find!) It was cute, but there isn't anything there but restaurants and tourist shops so it wasn't terribly interesting.

DESY was a pretty cool tour, and you can see several photos on the photo site. It was hard to hear a lot of the tour and I wandered a lot taking photos. I can't help myself, the stuff is so cool-looking. Afterward we were supposed to have the whole afternoon free, but everything was running late because of our stop at the danged Michaeliskirche. We had lunch at the DESY canteen and then the guide took us all on a ferry in the port. We didn't really have another option than to do it, even though we have already toured the port in the past and the ferry was actually not that interesting and didn't get close to the big boats like our tour did. We were a little annoyed to have our precious free time cut short, but, na ja. What can you do?

We used our free time to check out some things we didn't get to see our first time in Hamburg. We felt lucky we had been there before so we could skip the first-tier stuff and head straight for the second-tier stuff, since we had so little time. We walked through Planten un Blomen in the daylight and were really impressed. The park is full of really interesting plants, little ponds with lounge chairs set around them, and some water games.

Afterward we rode the U-Bahn (always fun to try different ones) to the Nikolaikirche and rode to the top. On our last trip we only saw this ruin while running by to the train station to catch our train back to Heidelberg, but I'd really wanted to get the nice view over Hamburg. It was really beautiful despite sort of cruddy weather. The top of the tower also has a lot of information about the WWII destruction of Hamburg. While up there we ran into the Japanese couple from our group who said they were going to go for sushi since it's all bad in Frankfurt. I realized how long it's been since I had any sushi!

Next we wanted to see the Reeperbahn so we walked over there. We read that in addition to all the sex shops and strip clubs that it had a high concentration of restaurants so it sounded like a good bet for dinner. But, nothing really looked good and overall the street was probably the most touristy and lame part of Hamburg that we've seen. We did find a sushi place on a side street - the Japanese planted the idea in our minds and we couldn't let go! We weren't sure whether to go in because as we walked past it, we saw the sushi maker in there putting on his shirt. Not sure why it had been off. We went in anyway because we wanted to avoid getting any hungrier/crankier. The place was tiny. It could fit maybe 6-8 people, but we were the only ones there. The waiter was nervous as hell. We really thought he would crack right in front of us. After bringing us our food he turned away and let out an enormous, impossible-to-miss sigh of relief. The sushi tasted good but was a little messy (looks are half of it, right?). In all it was rather awkward so we were glad to leave.

Afterward, we walked north from the Reeperbahn toward our hotel. By now we had already eaten and it was late enough for stores to be closing. What a bummer, then, that it was at that point that we found a really cool neighborhood full of interesting stores and restaurants!! If only we'd known about it earlier we would have definitely skipped the Reeperbahn altogether. Next time we'll go there first! I hope there is a next time. Of the three really huge German cities, I think I would choose Hamburg to live in, hands-down. Good size, good atmosphere, not as touristy as the others - more real.


  1. I can't believe you've been to DESY! My physics career has been (almost) all synchrotron experiments. I know people who've done experiments there!

  2. Most people between the ages of about nine and 65 feel the way you do about the Planten un Blumen light show. It's kind of an institution, though.

    If you'd only dropped me a line, I'd have given you a few Hamburg tips! Like: don't go to the Reeperbahn unless it's past midnight on a Saturday night. Then it's fun. Still a sleazefest, but at least it's packed for people-watching and partying if you're into it.

    Our daughter spent a day at DESY last year learning all about physics. They have a special classroom set up for schoolkids and it's booked up months in advance.

  3. Next time you visit Hamburg, drop me a line and I'll send you some suggestions of what to see. This is a great city, but it is more fun off of the tourist paths.

  4. Thanks for the street sign-I actually collect pictures of streets w/my name-this is close-SusannenstraBe.

  5. Mary: Some of the people on our tour had affiliations with DESY too. As of this summer they're not doing experiments there anymore until their next big thing is built.

    Ian: I thought of contacting you but never got around to it...then regretted it once I got there! Next time I definitely will!

    John G: you too!

    Suzanne: I didn't know you collected them; cool! You'll just have to use photoshop to put yourself in the picture with the sign :)


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