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Cirque in Hamburg
Written January 24-27
Dear Friends and Families,
Hamburg is one of our favorite cities and Cirque du Soleil is one of our favorite attractions, so we decided the combination was too inviting to pass up. To make it even better, we convinced four of our Erlangen friends to join us. While they each had reasons for visiting Hamburg, we hoped they would share our enthusiasm for Cirque.
We traveled by train rather than drive, since winter-driving is not our favorite. I also did the calculation and concluded that paying for gas for our guzzling all-wheel-drive Audi was about equal to two on-sale first class train tickets.
When we left on Wednesday, I was having doubts about the choice of train travel. First, our train out of Nuremberg had been replaced by an older version, one without seat reservations. Equipment failures on trains are not as serious as airplane or auto failures, but unsettling, nonetheless. Then, before our first stop, the replacement train broke down as well, at least that's what we think the announcer said. In any event, we sat in a field for a half hour before limping into Würzburg, where we transferred to an hour-later train. Again, no seat reservations and now no first-class seats. This really isn't such a big deal, since second class seats are just fine and we were lucky enough to get two together. Other passengers were left standing!
We arrived in Hamburg, Altona station, the last stop for our particular train. It is actually a nice place to get off, because it is much smaller and less hectic than the two earlier main Hamburg train stations. And our Best Western Hotel was literally just next door. Like the other Best Western hotels we have used in Europe, it was not much to look at from the outside, but inside the facilities, amenities, and staff were first class. In the last two years, we have spent enough time in German Best Western hotels that it felt like home.
After our very tasty Turkish lunch at Koz Urfa, Marilyn and Dieter met us for "Kaffe und Kuchen", coffee and cake, an old world tradition that we strongly endorse. By now we were completely stuffed and ready for the subway ride out to Corteo, our Cirque du Soleil choice for the evening. The confusing subway ride reminded us that we were in a big city.
Corteo's circus tent is as grand as others in the series and there we met Dale, Peter, and his cousin and wife. We had a mandatory glass of wine before settling into our seats. I was chided about taking this seat-settling picture by a nice but insistent Cirque enforcer of the no-photos policy.
And, all our friends were properly surprised by the circus. Whew.
Thursday, we rejoined the group for some Hamburg shopping and walking around. Despite the cold, we did a fair amount of walking. My step-counter ended the day showing 11,465 steps! Much of the time my hands were too cold to get out the camera, but then again, how many pictures of shoppers might one need? Nonetheless, the walk did remind us that Hamburg is one of the most interesting and beautiful cities we have been to. We need to come back when it is not quite so cold.
After that, it was early to bed, exhausted by our walking.
Friday was a busy day, so much so, that I could not keep up. By Sunday morning, I had sorted pictures and done a very rough outline. Writing these diaries is really like a school writing assignment, with a photography class assignment thrown in.
Now, on Sunday, I am catching up, courtesy of the Deutsche Bahn train ride. We left on time at 11:47, but were delayed by something or other at 11:50. There was a detailed announcement, but in train-speak German, a language we obviously can't handle. Of well, back to Friday's diary.
Back on Friday, we started our day with a trip to the art museum Hamburg Kunsthalle and the new show by Alberto Giacometti. He's the artist famous for skinny bronze figures with big feet. The only photo I was allowed was from an upstairs window, but this also let me just look around. Not bad. I'll admit that I actually liked the show, both Giacometti's part and the rest of the contemporary art.
We also enjoyed "Golden Friday" at the Kunsthalle, a special senior citizens' ticket that included coffee and cake. I think we were the youngest art fans (or cake fans?) in the crowd.
By the time we had finished coffee, the sun had started to show, so we took the subway back to th hotel and picked up the bigger camera. No missing photo ops when the rare German sun starts to shine! We walked around the Altona district, past a wedding at city hall, and over to the waterfront vista.
From there, it was down a long, sloping walk to the harbor level, some of the 13,000 steps I would rack up on the day. Unfortunately, Marianne's leg decided it did not like the cold, long, walk and she was suffering by the time we reached a lunch stop at the fish market area.
After we ate, while it remained a cold day, I just could not stop taking pictures along the icy river. The water-level ferry dock gave a great vantage point. Too many pictures, I know, but the evening light kept getting better and better. And Marianne could stay back at the lunch restaurant, chatting with the waiter and staying warm.
After our ferry to the subway, we needed to climb a few steps and I needed to apologize to Marianne for all the extra wear and tear on her aching leg. Part of the apology was a sweet from the subway station baker. Germany does have some advantages, bakeries among them.
Saturday was more of the same. We started with a subway ride down to the Hamburg Rathaus (City Hall), where there was a tour of the ornate old building. The tour is only offered on Saturdays, because the building is still used by the local government. The rich and detailed assembly rooms reflect the centuries when Hamburg was it's own independent state and the Rathaus served as a country capital, not just a city hall.
Our second tourist destination was the International Maritime Museum. I suppose this was a "John stop" to balance Friday's Kunsthalle, that would have been a "Marianne stop". In fact, the Maritime Museum turned out to be nine floors of so much marine stories and artifacts, that even I wore out after about half the floors. We started out on the top floor, which was filled with so many miniatures that I was immediately reminded of the other over-the-top Hamburg attraction, the Model Train Museum.
So, that was Saturday, another long but early-to-bed day. More than 11,000 cold steps had worn us out.
Sunday was very simple: long breakfast, long train ride, short drive home. This is the type of travel we enjoy. I wonder when we can do it again.
John and Marianne
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