I am settling in for my second night in Hamburg and trying to get the internet to function! Hopefully this entire post comes through.
I am couch surfing here in Hamburg with a woman named Hannah. I haven’t actually met her yet (maybe I won’t since I leave in the morning) but her three kids are here and they have been quite hospitable. I have a spare room once again so there is a bit of privacy. I have definitely been lucking out with these couch surfing hosts. They’re all wonderful and generous and very hospitable. It’s going to be tough going back to the hostel setting tomorrow night and sharing a room with 6 other people. :-\
Yesterday’s adventure from Ribe to Hamburg was a success! I made it to the bakery in the morning and was able to spend all but 5 kroner (about $1) on two pastries and I still have some Danish currency to keep as a souvenir. I ate them at the train station waiting for the train that would take me into Germany. I arrived at the station on time and had half and hour between trains so I sat and journaled for a bit and froze. The weather yesterday was off and on rain mixed with a lot of wind. I was super layered up but it still cut through on occasion.
The second train ride from the connection town (Niebull) into Hamburg was a longer train (a little over two hours) so I was able to read, sleep, and journal there as well. I was so proud of myself for finding a seat (there are no assignments) and being in the right area! I didn’t have to move and the conductor didn’t have to help me at all! J There was a couple sitting across the aisle from me who kept making out which was more surprising than anything else and there were two little kids of thought it was the coolest thing to run and up down the aisles gleefully. It was very funny and cute.
In Hamburg I had a few objectives, to find a map, to withdraw money, to get a sim card for my phone, and to confirm that I had a place to stay for the night. Well I started by heading to the tourist center in the train station (usually a good place to pick up a good free map). I got one of those and asked where a good place to get money and a sim card were and she directed me to a street just outside of the train station. Great! The only problem was that I still had both packs and didn’t have any change to use to put my larger pack into a locker while I walked around the city. I didn’t particularly like the idea of marching around with it in the rain all day – besides it’s heavy!
Fortunately I found an ATM inside the train station (not quite sure why the lady didn’t tell me about it in the first place) and was able to withdraw some money. The money I had was in paper bills though and I needed change. Ok, no problem. I had decided that I was going to purchase a Hamburg Card (it gets you free transportation and discounts to some museums, restaurants, sights, etc.) if it allowed me access to the S-Bahn which was what I would be using to come to and from my couchsurfing host’s home each day. I confirmed that it did allow me free transport so I purchased a one day card (good starting at 6pm the day it was good for – so really 18 hours of use).
I paid for the card with cash and asked the lady at the booth what kind of change I would need for the lockers, she told me and I assumed she had given me appropriate change. I guess it’s not a good idea to assume as she did not. I had 1.50 euros and I needed 3. Boo! No one would exchange money for me and there were no machines. I didn’t want to wait in line at the tourist office for a third time so I found a small little bakery and purchased a pastry for 1 euro. I put my pack in a locker and headed out into the city, finally!
The first place I went to did not sell sim cards and they directed me to find some other street where they believed there was a store that did. Well on my way to the other street I came across a T-Mobile store and so I just went there. J Easy enough, right? Well yes, but the strange thing about it was that I had to give them my passport so that they could activate the card. Weird. When I checked out at the store the lady rang me up and started this whole conversation with me because my last name is German but I didn’t speak German, etc. It was fun and she was very nice. Thanks T-Mobile lady for welcoming me to the city.
Now that I had my things, I set off to find a place to sit and eat something and figure out my game plan. I found my way to a park bench and proceeded to read my map amongst the wind and rain. It was quite a challenge, but I managed to figure out a few places that I could go that I didn’t need to use my Hamburg card for and I also marked down the places I planned to visit today that I would use the discount card for.
I visited three churches yesterday, St. Jacobi, St. Petri, and St Michaelis. St. Jacobi is known for it’s Arp Schnifger Organ and was founded in the 13th Century. It was fun to be in this church at the time I was there because the choir was rehearsing so it just sounded beautiful. I climbed the tower at this church and was able to get some fun shots of the city from above.
At St. Petri Church I arrived at 4:25 and they only allow entrances to their tower until 4:30, so I was just in the nick of time! I set off to climb the 544 steps (132 meters) with great ambition because I didn’t want to keep the nice lady working in the gift shop around too long after 4:30 just to make sure I came down from the tower. Well, 544 stairs is a lot, plus I was wearing 3 layers of clothing (because of the rain and wind) and I was carrying my daypack still – which had my full Nalgene, computer, several books, a few apples, and various other things. I thought my legs were going to fall off and I was sweating – a lot.
I did make it to the top (it only took about 12 minutes) and once I reached it there were three guys crammed up in this tiny little space with one chair – not at all what I have experienced in any other tower climb. The guy sitting in the chair immediately got up when he saw me pop my head through the doorway. Obviously I looked like I needed to sit down. I took him up on it, drank my water, and took a few deep breaths. I think the guys were Italian but they said to me in broken English, “oxygen!” Yes, I needed oxygen! I was so thankful that it wasn’t a really hot day, the climb would have been even more impossible! It made me feel a lot better when I was descending that there were two fit looking Irish guys climbing up who had death grips on the railing. They were definitely struggling as well – at least I wasn’t the only one – but at least they didn’t have any bags!
The third church, St. Michaelis is the icon of Hamburg. It’s a baroque church built from 1751 to 1762 and is quoted as being “the most important baroque church in northern Germany.” I climbed the tower here as well. After the last tower it didn’t seem as difficult as the walkways were wider and there were more people around, but my legs still felt he burn. The top of this tower was also much clearer and I was able to get some good pictures.
After my tower adventures I walked around the city for a little bit and then was headed back to the train station when it began to rain hard. I decided to try the S-Bahn and see what kind of adventure I could go on. Well, I found my way back to the train station, found the locker with my backpack, and found my way back to the platform for the S-Bahn to take me to my couch surfing location! Yea! I’m such a successful navigator when I’m not rushed for time.
It is about a 10-15 minute walk from the S-Bahn stop to where I am staying but it was not too bad of a walk – even with my pack. I found the house alright, just before dark thankfully and was welcomed in by the children of my host. They gave me water and some butter and jam for my bread and we chatted for awhile. They asked about my trip and I learned about their recent endeavors and future plans.
This morning I got a late start, which was very nice. I was able to talk to my mom and Eddie for awhile online and on the phone. I left for town a little after 11 and found the English speaking church (that I had looked up online) just as it started at 12:30. Several people introduced themselves to me. If I was living in Hamburg it would be a nice place to call home. The service was pretty good, nothing too spectacular, but it was nice to be in a place where I didn’t have to wonder if anyone would understand me and I could hear people speaking English and was able to sing and talk freely. It was great!
After church I walked through Rahaus (the parliament building). I didn’t actually go through the building, I just walked around the exterior and through the lobby. I wasn’t that interested in learning about the politics of Germany or seeing the interior of the building, so the few pictures I took were just fine with me. After that I went to Kunsthalle (the Art Museum). They had quite a bit of pieces and it took awhile to go through the building. It’s always amazing to me to be able to see works by Matisse, Monet, VanGough, Picasso, Renior, Degas, etc.
I decided after visiting the museum that I needed to eat something. I had noticed that all the grocery stores I had seen were closed because it was Sunday so I decided to treat myself to a bratwurst and a beer. I consulted my map and found a restaurant called Edelcurry that was supposed to be cheap and serve a good traditional German brat. I was so proud of myself for locating the restaurant (it was not marked on the map, just an address was given) but was highly disappointed when the waitress informed me that the restaurant was closing. So lame and it was only 6 o’clock!
I headed back to the Rathaus plaza where there was a bratwurst cart sort of thing but bigger – kind of like a German version of Dick’s. I ordered a currywurst brat and a .5 liter beer – all for only 4.10 euros! I sat in the square and enjoyed the view of the building and people watched for a bit. I read my book, and finished my beer and then jumped back on the S-Bahn to my host’s home, which is where I am now!
I’m all showered and ready for bed. I am aiming to catch the noon train from Hamburg to Berlin, which means I do not need to rush around too much in the morning. I’ll arrive in town just in time to check in to my hostel and should be able to see a few sights before things start to close down. I’m excited for Berlin. I have heard lots of things about it and had many sites recommended to me. I will try to post an update tomorrow so that you don’t get another massively long post, but we’ll see. I can’t remember if there is free wi-fi at the hostel or not, so that could affect how much I’m able to update you all.
Oh, and there are more pictures up on facebook. I took some more today as well but those may not get uploaded until tomorrow. Enjoy!