Sunday, June 22, 2014

[HAMBURG] The Afternoon Stadtrundfahrt

Congratulations, you have reached the part where I bore you with the mundane details of our walking tour. Worry not, my friend, you can still back out! Or just look at the pictures, maybe? Or just watch the video. In any case, this is a boring blog written by a boring person for an equally boring person who is none other than himself. Okay fine, let’s start!

I met Hamburger friend at the same spot in front of the police station at Hauptbahnof. It was still cold but at least the cardigan and sweater combo they lent me were effective somehow. From the Hauptbahnof, we headed west. Wait, let me warn you that this narrative is worth four hours of walking. We started at around 1 PM and called it a day by 5 PM. Is Hamburg a walkable city? Hell yes, there is a lot to see so get your cameras ready.

We first passed by some shops, which were mostly closed because it was a Sunday. Now if you are coming from Southeast Asia and you are used to weekend shopping, then this might come off as a disappointment for you. If not, then you might find it a bit weird. I mean, come on. People only have the weekends to shop and embrace capitalism. Not here, they don’t! I am not sure if it is also mandated by law as it is in Vienna, but that is just the way it is.

After passing by the Thalia Theater we finally reached a body of water, and this is the part where Hamburger friend tells me that Hamburg actually has more bridges that Venice, which I did find surprising, but nothing life-changing. I am not that well-versed in German history but I think I’ve read somewhere that Hamburg was a significant power before it joined the federation, and it could very well be because of its access to the sea.

It was by the Kleine Alster, within the vicinity of the Rathaus, where we found a strange display of performance art. I’ve heard you can find them all over Europe and they are indeed amusing. There were three of them, two guys and a girl, with silver painted hats and levitating in front of an obelisk by the quay. You can easily find videos on the internet explaining how they do it, but trying to figure it all out on your own right there is quite a challenge.

I think I consider this area as the main tourist attraction of the city. Come to think of it, tourists love plazas, and with access to a canal like that, nothing could be more stress relieving. Here you can just take a stroll or sit down at the dock and watch the geese wading on the water. But then again, perhaps you can do it on a sunny day with less wind chill.

The Rathaus would then be the next logical choice and there are areas you can access for free. The interior is just as cool as the exterior. There is that strange Harry Potter feeling when you stare at the ceiling or maybe it’s just me equating everything old with Harry Potter. The wall also offers an extensive collection of photos of each government official in higher positions, classified by political party. I remember finding it sad how one independent politician’s picture was alone on one corner of the wall, as if the tribal council voted him off the island.

The area of the Rathaus which you can freely access is quite limited, which is why it would not take you an hour or so to finish whatever business you have there. In terms of photos, perhaps you will  be taking around 10, depending on how much you love the roof and the many statues and sculptures around you. And yes, there is a fountain too. Free shower?

Heading further west, okay fine I lost track and I do not even know if we were still heading west. All I remember is that we saw what was once a church. Hamburger friend told me that there are many places like that in Germany; old churches or structures bombed during the war but not restored so as to serve as a historic marker of sorts.

The next stop was Hafen City where we were greeted by brick buildings lined up along a canal. Crossing one canal led to more canals, and it was fun like that. There is even a fancy residential area along another canal and the area just seems so peaceful, although it could probably be louder depending on the extent of the tourist infestation on any particular day.

What came next was a combination of more bodies of water, a Ferris Wheel, and a cruise ship docked at the bay. It appears that Hamburg is a popular stop for such cruise ships. Walking along an area called Marco Polo Terraces led us to more ships of different shapes and sizes. I think we even saw a US warship of sorts, but I couldn't remember the details clearly. Overall, this is the peaceful but rather boring side of Hafen City. Yes, there is a more exciting side!

Exciting is  a relevant term but if you want something more bustling and full of tourists, then you have to head back north. I think this is the only stop in my European itinerary which bombarded us with beggars playing the accordion. I think there were half a dozen in that area alone, which made me a bit concerned whether each one was profiting enough when there was just too much competition present!

Anyway, this is also the area where you can hop on a ferry for a quick cruise. If you are hungry, there is a variety of restaurants to choose from. If you want souvenirs, you can get them from one of the many shops you will find here. The German version of The Lion King musical was across that body of water but the ticket did not seem cheap at all.

We then ended up walking away from the canals and up a hill to see the monument of Otto Von Bismarck which seems to be a point of debate among the locals, according to Hamburger friend. In any case, those who do not like him really made their opinions matter by vandalizing the vicinity with colorful graffiti. And here I thought that graffiti was synonymous to Berlin.

We then passed by Hamburg Museum before taking a leisurely walk at Planten un Blomen, a big park harboring a big secret. Okay, well it is not really a secret but you will find it amusing anyway. There is a prison beside the park. It sounds really weird, but I don’t think security is a big issue in Deutschland anyway. Just imagine playing with your kids at the park after a busy day and then witnessing a prison break. Now that would be an exciting way to end the day.

Don’t worry, the area seems tightly secured so I guess you won't be brushing elbows with a criminal anytime soon. What you can do instead is bring your roller blades and take advantage of the big rink or maybe just pay the Hamburg University Botanical Garden a visit. Because plants are exciting! Plants! Yey. By the way, if you are looking for the university itself, you might find it hard to do so. As with most other universities in Europe, faculty buildings are usually spread out all over the city.

The afternoon tour ended in an area called Schanze where, according to a comment posted by a certain Toni Schumacher on my YouTube Hamburg video (thanks for the info, dude), a lot of people living alternative lifestyles reside. The centerpiece of the place is this hip building called the Rote Flora which is another building full of graffiti and which I imagine to be a creative way of saying Fuck You by the non-conformist emo types to the bourgeoisie.

[HAMBURG] The Afternoon Stadtrundfahrt

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