GERMANY – Hamburg (The Beatles, Grease – das musical, Elbphilharmonie & a Miniature Wonderland!)

Hamburg – Country #6, City #9 (October 2017)

After leaving Sweden and Denmark, we decided to travel south to Germany. We debated trying to add a stop in Berlin, but it would complicate the timing of future visits planned with friends, so took the train over from Malmo to Copenhagen, and then from Copenhagen to Hamburg. As I mentioned at the end of my last post, since we had spent a couple of busy weeks travelling, in and out of AirBnB’s, and staying with my friend, and would now be in a major city, I decided to splurge a bit by booking a hotel with a pool.

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This led to a lazy start on our first morning with breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then a visit to the pool. I then convinced them all to do a bit of exploring with me. I had booked us tickets on one of the red hop on/hop off buses. I figured it seemed the easiest way to see the city! The hotel desk clerk convinced me the easiest way to get to the bus start point was by train… I wasn’t quite as convinced, but took a deep breath and figured I had nothing to lose. Well… nothing to lose except a bit of time as we ended up on the wrong train… but you all know I have a loud voice and as I lamented over not being sure if we were going in the right direction, a nice gentleman at the next seat set us straight and told us when to get off and which train to hop on to get us where we needed to be! Once we arrived we learned we had about 25 minutes to wait for the next bus departure (yes, we watched the one prior pull away because we weren’t sure exactly where we needed to be… oh well – some of the fun of trying to do things in another country when you can’t speak or read the language.) Once on the bus I enjoyed the tour and listened to the earpod recording in English… Alex & Tim mostly watched… and Kaelee enjoyed videos on the iPad! Sometimes 2 out of 3 is pretty good!

We stayed on for most of the ride until they all got hungry and hopped off… to find a restaurant with authentic German fare… I made them try the various dishes, but thankful for steak and fries! LOL (But my pumpkin soup with pretzel croutons was amazing!!!!)

We then hopped back on the bus until they saw us pass the Apple Store… and of course we had to hop off again to go exploring! I managed to get the whole crew back to the hotel…. let Kaelee do a quick swim… ordered them room service and was back out the door in time to get to the ElbPhilharmonie for a concert!

From the time I arrived at the Elbphilharmonie I had to take 2 significantly long escalators up from the ground level, and then 168 steps to get from the main lobby up to my seat…. and I wasn’t even at the top! This theatre stop was definitely a highlight on my travels. I didn’t even really know what it was I had come to see… it was just the only night I had available. It turned out to be a sort of concert/dance… with a gorgeous contralto soloist and flamenco dancers… an odd combination to my mind, but a beautiful performance. But what was most remarkable was even though I was near the very top of this large abstract style theatre, the acoustics were incredible and I could hear every word sung, and every click of the dancers heels.

A bit of fun and culture for the kids…. and a bit for me! A great first day in Hamburg!

OK…. I’ll admit to another day of lazy! Kaelee begged for a “day off”… poor thing actually cried because she didn’t want to “not take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities Mommy had planned” (guessing she’s heard that a few times now)…. I assured her it was ok to take breaks sometimes and we could have a quiet day…. BUT…. I had booked us on a walking tour about the Beatles at 5pm… and could we just do that and I wouldn’t make her do anything else. So… a lazy day it was… until we went walking in John Lennon’s footsteps from the early days of the Beatles start to success in the bars of Hamburg! Alex actually loved this tour and possibly knew more Beatles trivia than I did…. (and yes… I was quite impressed with this!)… Tim & Kaelee were a bit less enthralled, however they also knew a bit of Beatles music as Alex reminded Kaelee she had sung some in her days at Churchill!

After this brief outing, I picked up pizza for the crew… they enjoyed another visit to the pool and I left Alex in charge as I darted off to see Grease Das musical! And I would have been on time if the trains had been running… unfortunately that was not the case, and thus… with no trains, and a full downpour of rain… when I finally got a taxi (which oddly enough was the same taxi & driver who had taken me to ELBphiharmonie the night prior!)…. I ended up 10 minutes late to the show! I wasn’t too stressed as I certainly know the show well enough… plus it was in German, so I figured I’d be ok… except the box office had already closed and refused to sell me a ticket even if I promised to wait in the lobby until intermission so I wouldn’t be walking in late and bothering the other patrons. I decided to hang in the lobby anyway and the girl standing at the doors took pity on me and even though her English was limited, I managed to explain how much it would mean to me to see this show… she radio’d the house manager who agreed to sell me a seat if I had the exact amount due in cash! (I did!!! YAY!!!)… and then walked me in to an outside aisle seat! This show will always hold a special place in my heart as one of my favourites off my resume, but it was oddly bizarre to hear the spoken lines in German and the songs in English! But the fight between Rizzo & Kenickie is definitely more feisty in German! LOL Some of the staging and choreography seemed odd to me too, but maybe that was also because I couldn’t understand the lines that matched it. The costumes were amazing!!! Frenchy and Jan’s dresses particularly…. and the dream dancers in Grease Lightening….. black short-shorts with silver edging…. and silver bikini tops! Looked fabulous!!! Rizzo was great, but nothing compared to my friend Nicole Milne!!! Act 2 costume highlight for me was teen Angel number…. guys were dressed as Angels with wings and white tutus and added a beautiful ballet…. and one guy was en pointe! Also of note…. every show I’ve seen in Europe people take pictures and video…. very strange…. I did not take any during the show, but did get just a bit during the curtain call….and had to sneak one during teen angel to show the “angels”…. Jamie Rice …. kept thinking of you from “Priscilla”…. just as beautiful!

The show was so amazing and I am very thankful I saw it…. afterwards it was still pouring down rain… I pulled out my phone to try to figure out the best way to get back to my hotel…. knowing the trains weren’t running well, and seeing no taxis anywhere I decided to walk… and then my phone died halfway back… but I had already seen the next turn and then I went on instinct…. which worked out for me when I saw a rental car agency landmark that I had remembered from riding in the taxi from the train station (yay for watching the scenery on our taxi ride and not watching my phone!)… using it as reference I continued to walk and found my way back (a 35 minute walk total in pouring rain!)

When I got back to the hotel I went to my room… dried out a bit and then headed to the bar where I ended up chatting with the bartender and the nice manager from my check-in. I was trying to decide on the next part of our travels and they helped with tons of suggestions… including driving tips for the autobahn! So… with a plan for our next few days, and a car reservation I ended another night in Hamburg!

On our last day in Hamburg, there was one other adventure we had considered the day prior, but didn’t do because Kaelee needed the break… but she still wanted to go before we left Hamburg. So we got up.. did one more dip in the pool… got packed… and then made our way out… first stop… train station to pick up the big bags – had the taxi driver wait… then headed to the car rental place to pick up our lovely Mercedes (thanks Dad for teaching me to drive a manual transmission!) Once everything was loaded we made our way to our final stop in Hamburg… Miniatur Wunderland ! Lots of pictures to add (both from the phone and the camera!) But the kids all loved this stop! And I am guessing the pictures won’t do it justice… but it really was very cool! It is technically a model railway attraction, but with over 50,000 feet of track done in miniature version representing many famous cities including the Alps & Austria, Hamburg, Switzerland and Italy… it is so much more than just a model railway! Amazing and highly recommended stop for both kids and adults! And then of course was the gift shop (the bain of my travel existence with kids! LOL)

We finally made it on the road… 4pm… are you kidding??? What was I thinking?? Leaving Hamburg by car at 4pm on a Friday?? Well… it took a while, but the roads finally cleared enough for me to find out what all the fuss was about driving in Germany!58416933-56F7-4E40-9F73-2CA44FF0AD03

So… there are 3 lanes… the right lane is for the trucks and anyone else who wants to do close to the suggested speed… they are all sort of like the parking lot lane… then the middle lane is pretty much a consistent 140 kph to not get run over…. but the inside lane is if you want to pass those in the middle lane like they’re the parking lot folks! I mostly stayed in the middle lane…. LOL…. but I did tap out at 160 a few times just for fun! Now… here is the “bad travel mom” part of my story… and will probably eventually be one of my blog stories… but I will admit… I don’t enjoy being the only one doing all the planning and decisions! So for this part of our trip… I didn’t do much advance planning… I did a lot of research… but no actual hotel or Airbnb bookings. Plus, I wanted to try to visit and tour some castles… but honestly… there are so many, but most closed on Friday before we made it too far, so I decided we’d do the castles on Saturday. Well – it all worked out, since we left so late, around 7 I decided I’d driven far enough…. I pulled over and did a quick search on booking.com and found a small hotel in the next town of Breten. It worked out great… the desk clerk was super friendly with excellent English… got us all settled in our room… I found an online delivery order site and managed to order pizza and pasta for the kids and then got a good nights sleep! The next morning, breakfast was included… and before too long we were on our way to our next Germany adventure…. Cologne.

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