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Hamburg, Trains and Scenes

December 11-14, 2008

Written December 17

Dear Friends and Families,


When we had decided on a trip to Hamburg, everyone we mentioned it to said that the city was a great destination. They were right. Hamburg has about a million and a half residents and the great area over four million. So, it's big, but well behind Berlin at 10+ million residents. Besides, Hamburg is made up of lots of neighborhoods since it, like many old European cities, became a city by having a collection of villages grow into one another.


We went by train, since Hamburg is a pretty long hike from Pommersfelden. Even by high-speed ICE train, the trip was four hours, but train travel is far more relaxing than autobahn driving, especially in Winter. Hamburg has four ICE train stops and, by luck, we did NOT have to use the Hauptbahnhof, the huge main station. In our walks, we did wander through and decided our smaller station, called Dammtor, was definitely a better reception.

We stayed at the Alster-Hoff Hotel, a nice-enough three-star hotel. Perhaps because they had lost our reservation (luckily we had printed their email), we got a 7th floor room that was pretty small. However, if you want more space, ask for 702 or 705. Those suites looked quite large when we peecked in while the cleaning crew was working. ( http://www.alster-hof.de )

The best part of the Alster-Hof was the location. It was a short walk to everything we needed. This part of the city is "downtown" but there are two lakes, the inner Alster (Binnenalster) and the outer Alster (Außenalster), that provide wonderful open views. Off the inner side of the Binnenalster are two districts called Neustadt and Altstadt, each with more shops and shopping centers than we have seen in years.

We looked at a few other neighborhoods for shopping too, but none matched the Altstadt and Neustadt for variety. On Reeperbahn street in the St. Pauli neighborhood, Marianne did find a shop selling the tallest shoes I'd ever seen. I'd show more pictures of the windows in this neighborhood, but this is a family diary after all.

Our goal was to see the Christmas markets that Hamburg is famous for, but just wandering the streets was interesting enough. They were almost as crowded as any Weinachtsmarkt. While walking we were treated to street musicians. The guy with the plastic pipe "digereedoo" was quite talented, as was his partner drumming out a mean cardboard box.

Of course there was food too, both from kiosks and, if you had kids with you, from special Christmas cooking classes.

But this was not all. We explored from Thursday afternoon until our train left early Sunday morning. We sampled museums and monuments, bus and boat tours, and all the Christmas Markets we could handle. But those will all be separate diaries.

Early Sunday morning, wearing my new Stetson from the Hamburg Christmas Market, we headed out of Dammtor station. The train filled up but everyone seemed in a holiday spirit. So were we.

Enjoy our other diaries, if you wish, and consider Hamburg for your next Big City visit, if you have a chance.


John and Marianne


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