Since being stuck in my thesis cave for days at a time, I craved my first free day to explore the city like I did when I first arrived in October.
Packing my U-bahn ticket, wallet, and camera, I went out around 11 AM with no appointments or reasons to return back to the dorm before I had seen my fill.
What I discovered is that Hamburg is even more beautiful than my first impression of the city, zero expectations always mean exceeded expectations, and tourists have to be fairly fit.
I started by getting out at Landungsbruecken.
This used to be the old docking site (as one hears in the name) and now it’s the site where all the ferries pick up the tourists and citizens to bring them up and down the Elbe, or across. The neat thing about the public ferries is that one can use them using the standard HVV Hamburg city transportation pass. Basically, it’s a free site-seeing tour.
I didn’t realize how much water means to my feeling at home until I came to Hamburg. Even if I am partial to ocean water, seeing ships, cranes, and water comforts me.
It helps that it was such a sunny day (absolutely gorgeous weather… anyone who says Hamburg is cold and wet must be here on only those few days in the year), but I was struck by the beauty of all the architecture along the river. Even basic office buildings and cruise docking sites (that interesting side-pyramid thing) saturated my aural senses.
Back on land (back at the Landungbruecken), I went over to the entrance to the “Alte Elbtunnel”
The reliefs on the sides of the walls to the staircases that took one down into the tunnel belied the age of the tunnel. I was also excited when I stepped into the old vehicle elevators. They were huge and open as the top, reminding me of the elevators at Universal Studios or Disney, but without the authentic atmosphere of 1920s automobiles.
I was the fastest person to walk from one of the tunnel, look out across the river to Landungsbruecken and the nice view of the Elbphilharmonie (still not finished), before walking across again. It was super cool and something I had on my list of things I had wanted to do while in Hamburg, so that experience alone made me happy. Add the thrill of a boat ride on a sunny, crisp day, and you can begin to imagine the high I was moving off.
The high carried me to St. Michel:
I figured out after sitting in the church for about 45 minutes that it was Lutheran, after I saw his statue outside on my way back to central Hamburg.
One of the best experiences while in the Church was that there was a symphony practicing for an Easter performance that was to occur the following day. They played their music, the singers sang their arias, and I could only sit there and let the sounds and beauty of the interior of the church wash over me. I took as long as I wanted to let go of the stress I had carried with me for months, release the worries, and sit and be thankful for everything I was helped with and had been gifted to experience over the past year. Sitting in the pews, I was transported in a way I find difficult to describe.
It was weird to walk through down-town Hamburg, since all the stores were closed because of Good Friday- another reason to like Germany better than the US is that they have days where capitalism really shuts down and allows people to spend time outside of stores with their friends, family, or introspection.
I came across the ruins of the St. Nikolas Church that the city had long decided to leave as a monument to World War II. The entire skeleton of the church was left, with the altar at the front ready for service, and I had the spooky feeling that congregations of the past were gathered there, listening to the spirit of a priest as I walked by. The bell power is being renovated, so maybe I’ll take a trip up before I leave the city.
By the time I made it to the Ratshaus, I was ready to go home. To draw it out a little more, however, I made the decision to visit one random place on the U-Bahn map. I picked Hagenbeck Tierpark, because depending on the cost, I would visit it to complete my tourist experience for the day.
However, when I got there and saw the 20 Euro price tag, I figured I would save it for a day where I had the whole day.
So I went home, but not before remembering my promise to show an example of the signs available at each U-Bahn or S-Bahn stop to help orient oneself. Looking at this sign one can tell that one is at Osterstrasse (interesting coincidence to be on this street so shortly before Easter) on the side of the track where trains come in going towards Meummelmannsberg, and that it will take 11 minutes to get to the main train station.
All in all, it was a great day. I was tired at the end of it, as one can expect following at least five miles of walking around the city, but it was well worth it. Especially since the trek was filled with surprises like the symphony concert, or the image below, reminding one of Hamburg’s bid to host the Olympics