After the hilarious mistake - and later great adventure – that was accidentally going to the city of Paderborn a few weeks ago, my friends and I were determined to make another weekend trip with our Semestertickets. This time the plan was an impromptu trip to Hamburg using our student ID’s that allows us free travel on the regionalbahn trains all over the Bundesland of Niedersachsen.
Impromptu it was, since we were planning a big night out… essentially making the trip one big 24 hour rendezvous and sleeping on the train back.
The group of 10 of us, ranging from Italy to Spain, Hungary, Korea and the US, all woke up early on Saturday to catch our train to our destination near the port cities of northern Germany. It was actually pretty exciting, since even though I didn’t know what to expect in Hamburg, I knew that it boasted some pretty impressive superlatives in Germany and the rest of Europe.
Hamburg is the second largest city within Germany, after Berlin, and the metropolitan area is a city-state and actually one of the 16 Bundesländer in the nation. The port of Hamburg is also the second largest in Europe after Rotterdam, and the city is the 6th most populated in the EU.
With these facts, regardless of what I was going to see, I knew that it was going to be big. In fact, Hamburg had many more surprises than I was expecting.
Out of the train station we immediately began weaving through the streets of the sprawling city finding great sights to see at every corner. We found classy streets with the top names in high fashion, as well as great churches as well. We also entered the city Rathaus, one of the most famous old city halls in Germany, and sat along the harbor docks.
I loved the docks - the cloudy weather, seagulls crying, boats buoying in the water, all while you stare at the reflection of your dangling feet in the rippling water from the wooden docks - I was reliving Finland and it was great. On top of this, we found a huge flock of beautiful swans - I have never seen so many in my life - and spent some time watching people feed the birds and enjoying the scene.
Aside from the great parks, beautiful buildings and history we were learning, there was also some surprises in the city that I had no idea about. There is one section of Hamburg that is apparently famous across the entirety of Europe - St. Pauli district. Just a few turns from the classy, expensive shopping streets and you end up in Europe's largest red-light district. I was totally shocked. First, because I didn't know that even existed and next thing I know and I walking down a street with sex toy shops and peepshows. Second was that fact that it didn't seem out of place at all - it felt like a very normal part of the city. On top of this, at night around 9 o'clock, complete families with little kids were strolling the streets and there were also large tour groups of senior citizens led by extremely tall drag queens checking out the erotic clothing stores! I was completely amazed.
[ I think this is as PG as I can make the images of the St. Pauli district... ]
The 24 hour trip continued with a lot of fun around the town, laughing at the sights down this sex capitol of Europe, and a great - but exhausting - night filled with hours of dancing at the many clubs.
I was not aware that Hamburg was also the city where the Beatles launched their career in Hamburg playing many concecutive concerts at the music club Kaiserkeller. We checked out Beatlesplatz where there was a set up of the band members silhouettes where we could all strike a few poses.
The entire day was a huge adventure - from great sites to see - also excentric and suprising sites to see - and many great laughs with my friends [ Martina tried to convince us that Hamburger - the name of a person from Hamburg - doesn't share any relation to the name of the food... "but Burger is an American word... thus HAM burger" ... Martina.... Hamburgers are made with beef...]
[ Warming up with some Glüwein at a great outdoor Christmas themed lodge/cafe, right in the middle of the mix of St. Pauli's crazy erotic themed streets ]
[ "Santa Pauli" - Hamburg's horniest Christmas Market - go figure... ]
Falling asleep on my friend's shoulders on the train, we were all exhausted and had the 4 hours before arriving back home to catch some much needed sleep and rest our legs from so much walking [and dancing].