Hamburg

Last semester my friend Alex mentioned going to Hamburg in May for Germany’s biggest Eurovision viewing party, so I penciled it into my travel plans and found myself in Hamburg for Eurovision weekend.

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We went for three days and two nights and I fell in love with Hamburg. As soon as we got off the train I liked the vibe, and we had such a fun weekend exploring the city.

When we first arrived, we went for lunch in a restaurant called ALEX. Weirdly, its menu reminded us of Wetherspoons, but it was lovely; I had a sweet potato curry.

The first thing we saw was the Hamburg Rathaus. By this point I’ve seen many a Rathaus but Hamburg’s has got to be my favourite. It’s so pretty and I adored the mint roof. We also saw the Chilehaus, an office building famous for its unusual architecture.

Something else that caught our eye was the Hamburg Church of Scientology and we couldn’t resist a visit, which turned out to be a truly bizarre experience. We looked around and watched some odd Scientology propaganda videos about drugs and raising children. We were also given free Scientology handbooks, proudly based on “common sense” and featuring nuggets of wisdom such as “the way to happiness does not include murdering”. It was amazing.

With his little Germany guidebook Reuben led us to a street called Deichstraße, which is the oldest street in Hamburg. It was so cute and gave a beautiful view of the water and some of Hamburg’s buildings.

We also saw the Elbphilharmonie building, a concert hall atop an old warehouse in HafenCity. You don’t even have to pay to go up to the viewing platform, so we went up at sunset and got an interesting view of the city. It wasn’t the prettiest view I’ve ever had, but it was cool in a very industrial way.

Day two in Hamburg was so bright and sunny and we got a prettier view of the city from the Hauptkirche St. Michaelis, a really interesting church which reminded me of the Cologne Cathedral. It cost 3€ to go up with our student ID and was definitely an improvement on the view the Elbphilharmonie. 

Derek’s friend had recommended a café called Kaffeerösterei so we went there for a drink. The coffee is all sourced ethically and the profits go towards projects that protect orangutans. As a lover of both coffee and orangutans, I was a big fan.   

We also trekked across the city to get to Planten un Blomen, a sprawling park in the centre of the city which looked so lovely in the sunshine. The Japanese garden was particularly pretty.

For dinner Aimee, Eeva, and I wanted to go to a vegan restaurant, but the boys wanted to try some local delicacies, so we decided to split up. Luckily, we found a vegan place and a fish place almost right next door to each other which was perfect. The vegan restaurant was called HappenPappen and it served amazing seitan burgers and had a lovely selection of desserts. I also loved its aesthetic, there were lots of flowers and inside there was artwork by Laura Klinke, a German artist I love.

Saturday night was the Eurovision viewing party. Alex donned his German football shirt and Eeva and I donned our Finnish and Welsh flags and we met up with Mark, Alex’s and my mutual friend who’s doing his year abroad in Hamburg.

At first the viewing party was really crowded but once Germany had been and gone people started to leave so we got really good spots at the front. We’d done a sweepstake and cheered especially hard for our countries. I had Spain who did abysmally, despite a total bop of a song. Eeva came out top in the end with Switzerland.

The German results were announced live from the stage but unfortunately none of us made it onto TV. Disappointingly, neither did some drunken Germans who had spent hours making a tower out of beer cups (German engineering at its finest, amirite?). At least my group appreciated their efforts.

On the third day we got up quite early to get out of the Airbnb in time, then dropped our bags off at Mark’s flat, before squeezing in a bit more sightseeing before our train back to Mannheim.

At the top of our list was a ferry trip, the price of which was included in the Hamburg travel card we’d bought. The ferry was a lot nicer than I expected given it was public transport, and we stood on the deck, so we got a lovely view of the water and the port.

We visited a submarine museum which involved going inside an old Soviet submarine. It was quite cramped but really interesting and swinging through the little hole doors was so fun.

We wanted to get some food before we got our train back to Mannheim, so we stopped by a food hall which had loads of options including an amazing vegan outlet called Vincent Vegan. I had vegan currywurst (I haven’t got long left in Germany, so I feel obliged to choose the most German option available) and Eeva had a Beyond Meat burger. It was all great.

I was so sad to say goodbye to Hamburg. Out of all the places I’ve been in Germany, it’s one of my new favourites. It’s a such a beautiful and interesting city and I’d love to return one day.

A special thank you to the lovely Mark for being such a great tour guide on Sunday and for letting us use his room as a bag storage facility.

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