So much has been written and said about travel . Bitten by the travel bug, offering education, new experiences, exploring and exciting adventures. In fact I would have dedicated half of my free weekends and evening time in thinking and penning about down about my trips and journeys. But have you ever noticed, we do not get bored of this travel conundrum. We long for more each time we settle down at a place and our mind begins to wander in search of a new adventure, since we are not roots or trees meant to be in one place. Our legs were meant to cover all that we could with the little paws, not to conquer and rule, but to gain wisdom and enrichment through the people we meet, through what we see and feel. Because man evolves after seeing and knowing about a new place however it be. At the end of every year, you should feel that you did something new and different otherwise the purpose of life would be defeated.
Hamburg was a 2nd Edition this time. I had made a visit to Hamburg back in 2010 on my first international journey alone to Europe, with my Pasch Group, and Hamburg was a part of our itinerary. That time it was a mixed feeling, not that I did not like the city or the people or surroundings but we got lost, and that feeling at a time when my German was not very fluent, is one hell of a experience abroad that is etched strongly in not only mine but the whole group´s memory. That does not make Hamburg a very bad place at all. In fact it is vivacious and lively. Such relaxing, free and laid back souls live here. They do not give a shit about what you are doing or anything happening around you, but are concerned about what they have planned during the day, how they can make the most of the free time they have and yes it is a splendid and lavish city too. The purchasing power is high, lots of upbeat restaurants and relaxing places including gardens and spots besides the lake where sailing a yacht, kayaking, canoeing, and even sailing a boat are everyday activities. What surprised me the most was that kids were so apt and well trained at fishing and even kayaking. Perfect synchronisation, practice and lots of hard work put in. Even these hobby activities will be done with dedication in Hamburg.
I had planned this trip to Hamburg almost a month back with my friend Uddhav who is a resident of Hamburg and helped me plan everything. So it was not at all a spontaneous adventure, but something that I was looking forward to. Yes, the events that unfolded in the next three days came in as a surprise but otherwise the attractions to be seen were planned, mainly thanks to Uddhav. I took the night bus alone to Hamburg, listening to music and having lots of apples on the way. Early in the morning as I reached Hamburg and sipped my cappuccino, I made a call to Uddhav and after about 10 minutes we both met as if we knew each other since ages. What an enthralling meet it was. He explained and showed me everything about Hamburg even the places that I had got lost in. So we started our first day exploration in the main city with Parthi and Tara, and lo and behold!… I saw Roland, a handsome, young man in his twenties, with a charismatic charm and pleasing manners. Loved the positivity instantly. Everyone was so warm and cool.
We made our way through the city and the Alsterhaus a famous walk way in Hamburg. Hamburg is famous for shopping, and the elegant Alster Arcade is one of the fanciest shopping areas around. The historic arcade is inspired by Venetian architecture and lit by wrought-iron lamps at night. Most of the shops here are high-end retailers, but the setting is pretty, even if the prices aren’t. Next we headed to Alster Lake. Alster Lake sits in the middle of Hamburg and is where boat tours through the city’s canals begin. Most tours last a few hours and take you around the lake and along the canals that criss-cross the city. I found the tours informative. Next we headed to the Rathaus, the architecture here is spectacular and very minutely made. God knows how everyone worked their ass off in those days and made such masterpieces. This city also suffered the wrath of the World War but the buildings have been pretty well maintained. With over 700 years of European art history inside, there is also an impressive art museum. It has pieces from medieval altars to modern paintings, and highlights include masterpieces by Rembrandt, Caspar David Friedrich, and Edvard Munch. Well I am not much into art, but while visiting a new place it always helps to know the history because then you can engulf the city culture in a better way.
The most famous monument here that the city is proud of is the St. Michaelis church. This baroque church is the signature landmark of Hamburg. The church was originally built between 1648 and 1661, but has been destroyed several times since and was rebuilt after being bombed during WWII. The interior was redone in the original elegant baroque style. I would highly advise climbing the tower for good views of the city. Skip the vaults though, as they aren’t worth the entrance fee. Simply read the church’s history before the ticket gate. Hamburg’s most famous street is the Reeperbahn, which is home to Hamburg’s red light district. The eclectic mix of bars and restaurants along with strip clubs and erotic museums means you’ll be seeing a diverse group of people here. This makes people watching at night on Reeperbahn interesting, to say the least. Most of the pub tours include this area. At the Alster Lake I had the best time of the day sipping some beer which we purchased from Rewe and enjoying the lake view with little yachts and tiny ships on the harbour. Boat sailing is a very serious affair in Hamburg. People from all walks of life take interest in learning how sail a yacht or a boat.
The next day it was the turn to go kayaking and canoeing. Tara was such a sweetheart to accompany us all and take us to the Allermöhe Badesee for this wonderful sports activity. On this canal I tried both kayaking and canoeing for the first time. Must admit that robust arms and shoulder strength is needed to practice this sport with lots of endurance and stamina. After about two hours I was tired and hungry, thanks to Uddhav who was helping me in the boat, I did not go and bash on the banks of the river, hahaha… it is something that comes with practice. Synchronisation is a must after all. We had lunch at an Indian Restaurant that served thali. I have begun to miss Indian food to such an extent in Europe now that any Indian restaurant found while travelling seems like heaven. Later in the day we also cooked some Pav Bhaji and took it to the beach or Harbour in Hamburg. Hamburg is a harbour city and the third largest port in the world. Not surprisingly, Hamburg’s history and growth has been tied to its shipping and transportation industry. This place is the best way to see the huge shipyards, stroll along the waterfront, and have an excellent seafood dinner. You can also take boat trips along the Elbe River. If you take the water taxi, you can travel the same route the private tours take, but at a fraction of the price. Well I did not have sea food but lots of ice cream and then chilled beer on the beach with my friends.
I made a brief visit to the Elbe tunnel which is the oldest tunnel in Germany built from under the river Elbe in 1911. According to me it is a civil engineering masterpiece.So much thought and planning must have gone into the making from structural engineers´side, the architects´side, and also the workers, to keep moisture intact, to keep temperature control, to dig such a tunnel below the river and also make it simple for mankind to walk through the river. Now this tunnel is used for everyday activities such as cycling, jogging and going for walks. It is very pleasant inside.
On the last day of the trip I visited Planten und Blomen Park next to the museum that is beautiful to walk through, with lots of little gardens, a stream, fields to relax in, and pretty flowers. It’s actually part of Hamburg’s largest park, called “Plants and Flowers,” that goes from St. Pauli Street all the way up through the center of the city. It’s a large park, and walking from one end to the other can take up a good part of an afternoon. It’s easy to get away from the hustle of the city here and relax for a bit. There’s also a world-class Japanese garden. People come here to chillax with beer.
So my day ended and the flight to Stuttgart was scheduled. Uddhav was such a wonderful company and explained the city culture meticulously. Going around with friends, new and old, like minded too, is always a pleasure. The last night was spending with wine and good camaraderie, and of course Roland, the cute crush.
For a next trip to somewhere. Until then.
Rucha Sudhir Khot