When Kate mentioned a quick weekend trip to Hamburg over Columbus Day weekend, I joined in wholeheartedly. I didn’t know much about Hamburg. I knew that it was a port city and that the Beatles had performed there a lot before they were famous. I also knew that the pictures I had seen online where beautiful and I wanted to go.
Ryan and I where traveling in different places. He was in Brussels and I was in Philadelphia. Kate was itching to plan (I LOVE that she is a planner since Ryan has a moratorium on planning) so thankfully she booked the train and room for us too.
We met at the train station in Frankfurt and set off for a lovely, chilly little weekend in Germany’s second largest city. The train took about five hours to northern Germany and it was a little colder there. We spent the first day roaming around looking at the architecture while looking for a cafe to grab a snack and much needed coffee… Irish Coffee!
That night, after calling every decent restaurant we could find in Hamburg, we made our way two Bahn stops over to a place called Jellyfish. More on that awesome, gluten-free meal later! Let’s just say we were all very happy that every other place was booked.
The next day we planned out our day at a long relaxing breakfast with the Berg’s at Hotel Boston, which had a surprisingly good breakfast with mimosas. We all agreed to head to BallinStadt, the emigration museum. This was the highlight of the trip for us!
These buildings where once used to process people before they boarded ships to move to America and Canada. Now it houses exhibits that demonstrate what life was like for people emigrating.
There were English translations on almost everything, which makes sense because most people emigrating through Hamburg were going to America or Canada. In the picture below, you can see that listening to the story of the man leaving Germany for America has inspired Ryan. He pulled out his phone and went to Ancestry.com to go to our family tree. We have been researching both sides of our family tree since we moved to Germany and Ryan has traced his paternal grandmother and grandfather back to Germany.
Knowing that his ancestors may have gone through this port made the exhibits of the museum come alive. If not this port, another just like it. One display, pictured below showed the space in which most people traveled. Seeing it was very different than reading about it in a book.
I spent hours working on my family tree after this trip.
Our next stop was the marina for a boat tour around the harbor. We walked along the promenade checking out all the different types of boats offering tours. We definitely made the right choice with a larger boat. They served drinks and coffee and on the larger boats, we were at a much better vantage point to see around the harbor.
The tour was worth it if only to get out of the rain. We motored through several pretty heavy rain clouds, which drove people in from the balconies each time while we sat cozy and warm sipping our drinks.
After the educational harbor tour, we were ready for something more fun so we walked along the water to an old Russian U-boat or submarine, now museum.
I think Kate was the only one of us who didn’t have to duck throughout most of the tour. Space was tight. I don’t know what the height requirement or restrictions were for Russian subs but they had to be some pretty short sailors!
This is a good time to point out a cultural difference. This submarine was open to children and the elderly, yet I don’t recall seeing one warning about how dangerous it could be. Granted the worst of it for us was a couple of bumps on the head but you also have to be pretty limber to get trough some of the hatches. I’m not complaining. Going through the sub was fun and I would recommend it for kids but the contrast to how Americans would approach something like this always strikes us. I imagine a safety video, signing waivers, caution signs, bright yellow tape highlighting steps and low hanging wires and pipes. Just another little cultural difference to make life interesting
Next up, the fish market and red light district. Both turned out to be slightly disappointing, though we knew we were going at the worse possible time to get a feel for what they were really like.
The fish market was in a grand hall that had been converted for Oktoberfest festivities and would have been closed at that late hour anyway. We would have had to have been up at 7am to see the action and to be honest, sleeping was much more interesting at 7 am for all of us.
From the fish market, we walked through a park to the “red light district.” It was about 5 pm, still daylight and much too early for any of the restaurants or bars to be open so it was less interesting than it must be at night. The most interesting thing for me was that this was the area where the Beatles played. They came to Hamburg often before they were famous. This is where they picked up Ringo in 1960.
I’m glad we made the trip to Hamburg and we always have a great time with Kate and Brian. We had some great conversations and cocktails. We learned a few things and enjoyed some amazing meals. You really can’t ask for more than that.