I had experienced a small slice of Bavaria while in Munich, and it didn’t disappoint. But Northern Germany – most of what I knew of this part of the country dealt with one city, Berlin. When the weekend arrived that the girls I had been traveling with while studying abroad in Utrecht, Netherlands planned a long weekend to Berlin, I didn’t have enough time to go. But I still wanted to experience Northern Germany. So another friend and I planned a short 24-hour trip to the city of Hamburg in early December.
I actually knew a little bit about the city as one of the exchange students I befriended my senior year of high school was from Hamburg. Peer, the exchange student, wrote to me about his life in Hamburg throughout my freshman year of college. Most of his stories involved the Außenalster, one of the two lakes in central Hamburg, his high school and environs, and Mojo Club on the Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli district, which I was always jealous to hear about as I was under 21 and there was no local venue that sounded even remotely as awesome.
Because our time was limited and having arrived in the late afternoon, my friend and I made haste as we had just a couple hours to get our bearings before the sun set. The fastest way to get from our hostel to the Reeperbahn, our first stop, was through the Hamburger Dom, a funfair with carnival rides and a roller coaster in the Heiligengeistfeld. We made a mental note to walk home this way to see if the fair was going on that night.
As it was just late afternoon, the Mojo Club hadn’t opened yet but I snapped photos of the coveted night spot. Next we headed towards the Hamburger Rathaus. The Hamburger Weihnachtsmarkt was just opening up for the evening on the Rathausmarkt in front of the Rathaus. All the stalls with gifts, food, and warm beverages, and the lights felt quintessentially German. And why not? These markets were started by German speakers.
Then we walked along the Binnenalster, the smaller of the two lakes. If the city didn’t seem Christmas-y enough, there was a Christmas tree on a float in the middle of the lake. As darkness set in, we headed back to more familiar parts of town. We spent our evening out of the cold at the Bayern Festhalle at the Hamburger Dom enjoying some polka and bier.
The next morning we took the long route on our way to the train station to see a fraction of the port, being that Hamburg is a large shipping city. On the way there we walked through Alter Elbpark where there’s a statue of Otto von Bismarck, whom I studied in my Germany History class the semester prior. I never tire of making those history/reality connections. We were on our way back to Utrecht on the noon train as our short trip came to an end.
The nostalgia and romanticism Germany produces for me has yet to be really challenged. If Munich was lederhosen and bier, Hamburg was O Tannenbaum and Christmas. I look forward to my next trip to Germany to get to know another part of the country.