|Today we are in Hamburg and we are on our own to see the city. No ship trip for us. We spent about €50 for two of us which works out to about $60. For this we got to go on the hippity-hoppity bus and to take a harbor cruise, buy stamps, refreshments and snacks. We had a great time and spent far less than what the ship charges for ½ of the trip.
Hamburg is a beautiful city situated on the river Elbe. At one time part of the city belonged to Copenhagen and Denmark. The city has a lake in the middle and harbors situated on the river Elbe on one side. It has a lot of green space and is quite striking. I thought that Copenhagen was a little dirty, but Hamburg was very nice.
We took a taxi to the main train station to board the hippity-hoppity bus that Steve had found on the Internet. Jim speaks a little German and he negotiated a reduced fare for our group of 10. Rose Marie, Steve, Jim, Valerie, Renee, Alan, Doris, Jerry, Kim and I made up our party of 10. We had a little time before the first coach trip, so I went into the train station.
The train station is very large and had many food vendors and a post office. Buying a stamp at the post office was an adventure. The clerk wanted to sell me 10 stamps. He also spoke little English. The machine would sell me a stamp and so I bought three .45 stamps with a €2 coin. The machine gave me change in stamps. I could not return the stamps for the actual change. I went back to the bus and got the postcard. I put on the .45 stamp and tried to leave it with a different clerk. I then found out that the .45 stamp was only good for mailing within Europe. The correct postage for the US is €1. So I added in some more stamps and mailed the card.
We started the tour on time at 9:30am. The guide was a fluent speaker in both English and German. This sounds like an ideal situation. Wrong, you could not tell easily when she switched from English to German. The other problems with hearing her were that many tourists decided to yaber away. The final problem was that none of the speakers were really working on the bus. I got really frustrated. I finally moved directly behind her and that solved most of the problems.
We saw the water carrying statues. In the middle ages these characters would carry and sell fresh water to the citizens. The statues are located in many parts of town and wildly decorated. Another set of statues are the cows. The cows surf, wear football uniforms, are wildly colored and in one case cross high above the street. This type of advertisement is very interesting and shows a unique taste in art.
We got off the bus at the harbor. We took the first cruise available which was in German only. We were just interested in seeing the sights from the sea. We journeyed down the canals and through two locks. Very interesting going through a lock and being closed in to keep water levels at the appropriate levels.
Our cruise around the harbor went through the canals in town. The canals allowed merchants to move items from the town to the port. We also learned that at different times of day some canals are full and others are empty. We saw one empty and you could see the bottom. As we returned to the ship later in the day, it was full. We also went through the port and saw ships in dry dock being repaired.
It was a very good trip even without commentary. We then went back and boarded the tour bus. We had a different guide with a sound system that worked. This was much better. We also went back to the train station and had a short amount of time (20 minutes) until the next bus. This allowed us to get some snacks and prepare for the rest of our day. Alan, Renee, Jerry, Doris, Steve and Rose Marie decided to go shopping. So our group was split with Jim, Valerie, Kim and I on for more sight seeing.
When we boarded the bus again, we repeated some of the tour from this morning. That helped make it clearer since we heard little of the commentary this morning on the first trip. We heard the guide describe the red light district in Hamburg was now drug free and crime free. We saw from the bus the windows where ladies would show their wares in the windows and the gates where only men could enter. On the opposite corner was a police station. The guide also described that the other side of the street was family friendly. This just does not seem possible.
There was a Burger King Restaurant on the corner. I suppose that families come here to watch what goes on in the red light area. This does not make good sense to me. There was too much of a paradox here for me. This is also in the same area where the Beatles first performed in Hamburg. Another thing that did not make sense was naming the area St. Pauli. Saints have nothing to do with the activities here. That is enough on this subject, but it was just interesting to hear two guides try and describe the paradox found in this part of town.
We got off at Saint Michael's Church. This is one of the oldest churches in the city and has a large sculpture above the door showing St. Michael and the dragon. The church is elaborate and has been restored since the damage done in WWII. There are three pipe organs in the church and they were tuning the largest one.
From St. Michaels, it was a short walk to see the oldest two houses and street in Hamburg. These were built by the craft guilds in the Middle Ages and were alms houses. This is where widows would live after the death of the craftsmen.
We boarded the bus again and completed the tour. We got off the bus and made our way back to the ship on foot to save the cab fare and because we were not far from the ship. The evening was uneventful. We had a good dinner and then went off to the singer/comedian. Before the show, I checked my email and wrote to Carol about the little mermaid.
Tomorrow, we are at sea. We leave Hamburg at 6:00am and sail to Rotterdam. In Rotterdam, we are going to try to go by train to Amsterdam to see the Anne Frank house. It should be interesting.