Tuesday, 23 December 2008

trip to hamburg

Reante and Torsten had invited us to come to Hamburg for a mediæval banquet, so on Saturday morning Danny, Marion, Janneke and I set off at an ungodly hour in Janneke's car to drive to Germany.

We took the Autobahn (motorway) to Osnabrück and then the A1 to Hamburg.

autobahn, germany

Renate had found us a pension in Buxtehude, a small town about 30 km from Hamburg. Another friend, Ute, lives here and picked us up around 15:45 to drive us to the banquet.

pension meyer, buxtehude

The banquet didn't start until 19:00, so before we sat and talked. The food was excellent; the chef, Michi, had started out as a hobby cook, but has gone professional in the last two years as a caterer for re-enactment and LARP events. He cooked us a mountain of food… Marion was very happy that the vegetarian section wasn't 'just a normal meal without the meat' but a special treat for her: a soft goat's cheese from the oven, topped with shaved almonds in a honey sauce. I had a bite and it was delicious!

mediæval banquet

After the banquet Ute drove us back to the pension and we were in bed around midnight.

We got up late on Sunday and, after a good breakfast, took the S-bahn to Hamburg. This metro train takes about 40 minutes to get from Buxtehude to the Hamburg Central Station.

s-bahn #3 to hamburg, danny on the right

The station was lit up with christmas decorations.

hauptbahnhof hamburg, janneke on the left

Marion spied a pink T-mobile pay phone and had to check if the colours matched her pink scull beanie.

pink phone, marion in the middle

Walking out of the station we hit the Weihnachtsmarkt, the Christmas Market. This is a big thing in Germany; every city, town and village has a Christmas market where people try to sell the most horrible looking kitsch and other people jump at the chance to buy it.

christmas market

Unfortunately, the weather was bad. Saturday was sunny and dry, Sunday it was raining the whole day. Not nice if you're walking through town. It was raining so hard the city's Christmas tree stood on an island…

christmas tree on the 'binnenalster'

The Christmas markets were all over the 'altstad', the old town. In front of the City Hall, the 'Rathaus' was one that specialised in food.

city hall ('rathaus')

A Cossack Choir from Rostov was singing on the bridge leading to the Rathaus square.

cossack choir

At one of the food stalls we bought a big bag of roasted chestnuts. I had never eaten these before; the taste was not bad, but I think it is a bit overdone to eat them every year. Once or twice in a lifetime would suit me fine.

eating hot chestnuts

After walking around the food and bling stalls for a while, Janneke —who was getting mightily bored— suggested going to Speicherstadt. This is a part of the old town that was built between 1883 and 1914 as a dedicated warehouse area. In spite of the 'old' looks of the buildings they were far ahead of their time with innovations such as electric light and electric hoisting installations long before the rest of Hamburg had electricity.

speicherstadt (storage town)

The area is home to a number of museums and exhibitions. Janneke went to the Spice Museum; this is an exhibition of what was stored in the warehouses at the turn of last century: spices. The museum has information on all the different spices, their horticulture, transport, sale and use as well as their place in the history of Hamburg.

Marion and Danny went to the world's largest H0 model railway. This railway takes up the top floors of two warehouses, all 1,150 m² of it. At this moment the total length of track is 12 km, but an extension is planned to bring the length to 20 km on 2,300 m². The different sections of the railway depict Southern Germany, Hamburg and the coast, America, Scandinavia and Switzerland. Danny and Marion loved the railway and said they could easily have spent a few more hours looking around.

The Speicherstadt is also great for photographers, as every corner yields 'gothic' industrial looks.

block g

While the ladies were soaking up culture and roofed-over warmth, I was walking through the area, looking left, right, up and down.


I was sorry I had only brought my dinky little pocket camera instead of my DSLR with lenses and tripod. One of these days I'd like to back and spend a day (and evening) there.

harbour sunset

After the sun had set the lights were coming on in Speicherstadt and the whole area turned into a gothic 'cité noir' set.

brookfleet after sunset

Sunset in Hamburg in this time of year is around 16:30. We met each other again at the café near the Model Railway at 17:00 and made our way back to the Central Station. Here we took the S3 back to Buxtehude in search of an evening meal. Buxtehude, since Hamburg only had Glühwein and Bratwurst stalls. All the restaurants we saw were closed!

In Buxtehude we walked from the station to the shopping area in the 'Altstadt'. We were pleasantly surprised with the number of restaurants that were open and finally decided on a place on one of Buxtehude's canals, the Labyrinth on Westfleth. It was very quiet inside, but its redeeming quality was that their vegetarian menu was fairly large, which made Marion emit little shrieking sounds like a happy hamster :-)

westfleth, buxtehude

After the dinner (which tasted good) we went back to the pension and hit the sack. The next morning (Monday) we packed our gear in the car and drove to near the 'Altstadt'.

westfleth, buxtehude by daylight

The ladies had seen a yarn shop near the restaurant and wanted to check it out in daylight. More happy hamster sounds… I walked around a bit and made some photos.


After stocking up on enough wool to knit jumpers for a whole herd of sheep we walked around the old town some more. The night before we hadn't really explored, but there were lots more little restaurants than we had originally thought.

flethenkieker, sculpture by carsten eggers

The scenery of the old town was nice, too.


Hamburg, of course, was bombed during WW2 and thus has a 1950s look to it. Buxtehude on the other hand still has buildings from its rich period as a Hanze town in the 14th to 16th century.

fuhrmannshaus, fisherstraße

One of the buildings that was built only as late as 1911 is the 'Heimat' museum, the Museum for Regional History and Art. The whole building is built in what in Germany is called 'Lebkuchen' style. The whole façade of the building looks like it is made out of 'Lebkuchen, German pepper cakes. To a 21st century computer nerd it looks as if it is pixelated…

heimatmuseum, pixel perfect…

We had a quick lunch of coffee, 'käsekuchen' (cheese cake) and 'mohnkuchen' (poppy seed cake). By the way, this was a recurring theme in the weekend: hot chocolate with Baileys for the ladies, coffee for me and cake for all. Yummy, but not conductive to a weight loss regime.

autobahn sunset

After lunch we drove off towards Amsterdam. We made a stop in the Weser shopping mall in Bremen where Renate had pointed us to a textile shop. Janneke found a couple of meters of woollen cloth there, while Marion and Danny found more knitting wool. I found a bratwurst in the snack bar around the corner.

We were back in Amsterdam around 19:00. A good weekend.


Vincent said...

Great photos of the city!

Anonymous said...

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