On Saturday, I headed out for a weekend in Hamburg. The second largest city in Germany (1.7 million) is only a little over two hours away by train, and I was invited to meet some Fulbright friends there for the weekend to see Christmas Markets and explore a new place. Carson was included but decided not to go, as finding a place for four people was easier than one for five, and because it would save a little money. I got a little girl time out of it, which was nice, and he got to focus on a project he's been hoping to really sit down and work on.
Carson walked me to the train station. I convinced him to see a city on his semester ticket and so he took a train to Bonn about ten minutes after mine left. His trip ended up being a bit of a fiasco because apparently he got on a train that wasn't included on his semester ticket (there are limitations to the trains one can take, but we thought there was only one exclusion... turns out we were wrong and that the mistake was pricey! Bonn was great though, I think!). He purposely looked away when I took this picture.
When I arrived in Hamburg, the train station was all decked out for Christmas. My train was the first to arrive, so I waited for thirty minutes for Arielle and Julianne, who were coming from Berlin, and about 15 more minutes for Sidney, who came in from Bremen.
We navigated to the S-Bahn out toward our hotel. We'd considered leaving our bags in lockers at the train station, but thought that it would save us some money to just kindly ask the hotel to hold them until our room was ready to check in. They agreed, and since we couldn't check in for another four hours, we sat in the hotel's breakfast room and planned our day.
Instead of having lunch around the hotel and wasting precious daylight, we decided that we might as well head the 40 minutes back into Hamburg to have lunch and explore, and then head back to check in sometime after 3.
We got off in the Jungfernstieg area and headed into the Neuer Wall, which is basically a place you can't afford. We looked at Prada and Gucci from afar, pretty certain that if we entered we'd get kicked out or accidentally break something that's worth more than our own lives.
We moseyed around, and saw the beautiful Rathaus (town hall). It's probably the prettiest one I've seen! There were lots of birds around and they were flying so close that I was afraid we'd get pooped on, but we all survived unscathed.
We found lunch at Dean&David. Everyone had salads, and this was one of the first salads I've had in Germany that actually had decent salad dressing. There are many things that are great about this country, but in my opinion, it could stand to improve in its condiments.
The first Christmas market we stopped to see was this one with white tents. It was right next to the harbor and in the picture above, I'm facing it, for a mental picture.
I thought this painted ceiling was so pretty, and the bookstore right under it was adorable. Whenever I see cute bookstores here I get excited, and then I remember that all the books are in German so it's window shopping only!
Next, we went into the beautiful Rathaus. It reminded me of Grand Central Station with the arched ceilings, and decorated for Christmas, it was extra beautiful.
We walked back out through the Christmas market because the S-Bahn stop was on the other side of it. It had gotten so crowded, with a sea of people that made it nearly impossible to go anywhere fast. I put my head down and folded my arms around my chest and barreled through the crowd. Since I'm shorter than armpit height for most people, this was a successful maneuver and my friends followed right behind me and we made it through with no casualties.
After the sun set (at a little before 4pm) we went to check in to our hotel. I think because of the Christmas markets, most places in the middle of the city were booked already, so we ended up staying in an area about a 40 minute ride away with public transportation. We got a room for four people and when we walked in, we were confused by the one bed, until we noticed the ladder on one wall. There was a loft with two beds up there! Sidney and I got to stay in the loft!
After a successful round of Googling to figure out where to have dinner, we located Otto's Burgers. They have restaurants all over the city, and we found one that was the perfect distance between where we were staying and Andrew, who's one of our language school friends and lives in Hamburg.
After dinner, we went to meet up with Sydney, another Hamburg Fulbrighter Andrew knows who didn't do the language course. Here's Sidney and I before we found a table. Hamburg is a pretty big place, and I guess it gets particularly crowded on weekends, so we got used to having lots of people around.