Hamburg Christmas markets
There’s no secret that the Germans are known for, amongst other things, their punctuality and efficiency, so when a bus is running late, you tend to become anxious that you and your travelling party are somehow in the wrong.
Three coaches to various destinations passed by as Will, Katrina and I waited at Bremen HBF for one that was bound for Hamburg, which is about one and a half hours away on the autobahn. With the little German language we knew between us, we tried to work out the location of the bus stop and when it would arrive.
The bus station itself was a little step up from a stop along Sydney’s Parramatta Road, and far less fanciful than the old Chatswood interchange adding to the suspicion that we were not in the right place. After being reassured from one of the earlier bus drivers that ours was held up, our phones buzzed with a text message advising the bus would arrive 25 minutes later than scheduled. Sometimes it pays to give correct information when booking! I was also a bit on edge as we had arranged to meet a friend of ours from France who was coming along on the trip and strangely without free roaming you can obtain on Three or the ability to send texts off my phone, I had little way of telling him we’d be a bit late.
I wish I could tell you more about what I saw on this bus ride, but my exhaustion had definitely kicked in and I was fast asleep as we took off.
While Will had been charged with transportation, I organised accommodation. Generator Hostel is located opposite Hamburg HBF, so close you can see it from the station making it suitably convenient for train links and access to the city (I’m not being paid for this endorsement). We hadn’t booked under the same name and much to the confusion of the receptionist who, in her most direct German tone queried, “you’re travelling together, but you did not book together – why would you do that?” before she sorted out our request that we’d be put in to room 203 as a group with our French friend, Gabriel.
nothing says German family fun like alcohol, the red light district and a Ferris wheel
This is perhaps where a series of coincidences happened that saw our travelling party increase by one then two.
An American, who we shall call Sam (because he looks like a Sam) wondered into the 8 person dorm to check his emails, rest his feet, and nervously look on as Will and I began berating each other with a string of insults. But perhaps what actually pricked Sam’s attention was Will’s best effort to unlock himself out of the ensuite bathroom, which in my sleep-deprived state I found hilarious.
Despite a collective sense of tiredness, the time was approaching 5pm and if we were to nap, we would have slept until the morning – and besides, there was gluhwein to be drunk and bratwurst to be eaten.
So Sam and his friend Peter joined us as we headed to the biggest Christmas markets in town, right on the fringe of the Red Light District, because nothing says German family fun like alcohol, strippers and a Ferris wheel.
Our carnie experience was only completed after a quick spin around the bumper (or dodgem) cars.
Over a number of beers, gluhwein, blackberry spirits, hot chocolates with baileys, a German version of eggnog and Sam’s rum and hot water, we learnt about our new travelling companions. Peter was from Egypt and was heading back to Berlin where he was studying, while Sam – whose name is actually Max – was from Minnesota and had a strange love-hate, admire-despise relationship with Canada. He also had an affection for escalators, having never really encountered them in his small 8,000 person town. We thought he was taking the piss, but the excitement on his face suggested otherwise. Max was only a couple of weeks into his extended trip around Europe with no commitments other than Christmas plans and a flight home. Unsurprisingly, we weren’t the first Australians he had met, having already gone through London and Amsterdam. Equipped with a laptop and Eurail pass his adventure sounded like one I had done myself back in 2010.
For those playing at home, he’s recording where he’s going at help-am-lost.blogspot.com for anyone that wants to stalk him.
Hamburg is the second biggest city in Germany in size and population after Berlin. The city was ravaged by World War 2 and there are a number of reminders of that period. Bridges, roads and the ports capture the history, and the old cathedral remains a fragment of its former design.
But there is also the new and the now. Despite temperatures dropping and being a weeknight, Christmas markets are well attended by residents – a social event after work. There is a great vibe about the city with the Christmas lights turned on, buskers singing carols, and the lone white supremacist being completely ignored. Santa also made an appearance on a sled attached to a tight rope. Unbeknownst to our group how he managed to stay on the four metre high loosely held contraption.
There is a great vibe about the city with the Christmas lights turned on, buskers singing carols, and the lone white supremacist being completely ignored.
After experiencing a distinct lack of quality “schnitties” and “parmies” in London, Germany was my chance to stuff my face with the chicken delicacies and the sides of potatoes and sauerkraut. There was also roast pork with crackling and port knuckle.
I’ll leave you with those savoury delights for now, and pick up at a tourist attraction in my next post – it’s definitely one for the model train enthusiasts!