I tried what many would consider crazy…traveling standby out of Abu Dhabi on the Eid al Adha weekend. I wasn’t able to get on the 02:00am direct flight to Berlin so I ran down to the staff travel desk. It was mobbed. I managed to make a booking to Düsseldorf and luckily got a seat in economy. I ran to the gates and arrived as boarding was finishing. I was off to Germany.
I arrived in Düsseldorf around 7:00am on Thursday, August 31st. Bec had listed me on the first flight to Berlin, but all of the flights were full until the evening. I made the mistake of checking my bag in for the flight. In hindsight, I should have just headed straight for the train. It took a while for my bag to be offloaded and arrive in the baggage claim, but I eventually grabbed the SkyTrain to the airport train station and caught the 11:00am to Berlin. It was a 4.5 hour ride, but quiet and comfortable. I caught the S-bahn from Hauptbahnhof to Friedrichstrasse Station and braved the pouring rain from there to Bec’s apartment.
Bec’s mom, Bev, was there to greet me and we visited while we waited for Bec to get home from work. Bec arrived with some steaks and we prepared a home cooked meal that evening. We also finalized our plans for the weekend.
The next morning, Bec headed off to work and Bev and I just relaxed and got packed up. At 11:00am, I walked down to Liepziger Strasse and picked up our rental car, a brand new Volkswagen Golf with only 8 km on it. I drove back to the apartment and picked up Bev. We made our way up to Saatwinklerdamm and Bec hopped in. We were soon out of the city and heading NW on Bundesautobahn 24 to Hamburg. About 2 hours in, we ducked off the autobahn and headed north to the city of Schwerin, the capital of the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Our main purpose there was to visit the Schwerin Palace built between 1845 and 1857. The “Neuschwanstein of the North” is set on an island on the Schwerin See (lake) and is very picturesque.
We made our way back to the autobahn and continued to Hamburg. We found our hotel in the neighbourhood of St. Georg. That night, we walked down the road to try to find somewhere to eat. All of the restaurants were packed and we could not get in any of the restaurants serving German fare. In the end, we settled for Italian and had the pasta with the “in-season” chanterelle mushrooms or pfifferling as the Germans call them. We did, however, make a reservation at Das Dorf for the following evening.
On Saturday, I ran down to the nearby bakery and picked up some Franzbrötchen, a local specialty which is a croissant-like pastry with cinnamon and sugar filling, to go with our coffees. We set out on a walking tour of Hamburg passing the Hauptbahnhof and strolling down the shopping street of Mönckebergstraße. That led us to the beautiful Rathaus (city hall) where we sat down for a quick break. From there, we could see some kind of festival going on along the Binnenalster (Inner Alster Lake). We walked over and found that food and drink stalls were set up all the way around the lake. We checked out the festival along Jungfernsteig before stopping to have a coffee on the patio of ALEX Hamburg. It was 11:00am and I was getting hungry so I grabbed a matjes (soused herring) sandwich.
We then walked down to St. Nickolai Memorial, a former Lutheran church left in ruins from WWII. We went up the tower which was once the world’s tallest building from 1874 to 1876 and had a good aerial view of Hamburg from 75 m. We also visited the museum and learned of the effects caused by the extensive allied bombing during Operation Gomorrah during the last week of July 1943. We then caught the U-bahn over to St. Pauli Landungsbrücken and had a nice seafood lunch at Captain’s Dinner on the wharf along the Elbe River. We all went for some sort of fish and then split an apfel strudel with ice cream. After lunch, we decided to get on the ferry running out to the upscale neighbourhood of Blankenese. Some highlights included the Airbus plant, the huge port, and the new Elbphilharmonie. Back on shore, we walked up to the notorious nightlife/red light district Reeperbahn. It was a bit early, but there were definitely some people having a good time. We jumped on the S-bahn and headed back to Hotel Wedina.
We relaxed for a bit before our 8:00pm dinner reservation at Das Dorf. Our meal was fantastic. Bev had the German veal meatball, Bec had the duck, and I went for the ox cheeks.
Every Sunday since 1703, the Fischmarkt opens from 5:00am to 9:30am. A meeting place for night owls still going from their night in Reeperbahn and early birds who come to do the weekly shopping. The old fish auction hall turns into a dance hall with various bands playing jazz and rock on the stages. So, we packed up the car and drove over to see what it was all about. We watched the flower auction, listened to the band play a few numbers, and strolled along the stands buying some strawberries and corn-on-the-cob. I couldn’t resist another fish sandwich and the ladies went for some waffles. We capped off our breakfast with the original “Hamburger”. I think Bev’s only regret was not getting out on the dance floor. We grabbed some coffee and hit the road back to Berlin.
I dropped the ladies at the apartment and drove down to drop off the car. Arriving back at the flat, Bec informed me that my flight to AD had been canceled. We mulled over our options while having some lunch. We decided the best course of action would be to travel to Frankfurt the following morning and fly back to AD on Monday. Bev was planning to fly back to Calgary through Frankfurt on Wednesday anyways so Bec booked train tickets for all 3 of us.
That afternoon, Bev and I had tickets for the Boros Collection, a modern art exhibition in The Bunker. The art was very unique and I finally got to go inside the WWII bunker that I had walked past so many times. Bec met us at the door when our guided tour finished and we walked over to the Reichstag. We did an audio guided tour of the dome and roof terrace. We walked home in the rain and had a nice dinner including our corn from the market.
We rode the S-bahn to Hauptbahnof and caught the 09:34am to Frankfurt. It was a scenic ride and we had a drink in the dining car where a bit of a party was going on. We found our hotel near the train station and checked in. I then led the ladies on a whirlwind walking tour of the city. Highlights included the Old Opera House, an unplanned wine festival along Grosse Bockenheimer Strasse, the shopping street known as Zeil, the squares of Hauptwache and Konstablerwache, Frankfurt Cathedral, and a “Frankfurter” snack in the historical market square of Römerberg. We snacked on gelato as we walked along the Main River. We got back to the hotel, grabbed my bags, and I set out for the airport. There were 2 last minute gate changes, but I had a seat on the red-eye to AD. The ladies spent the night in Frankfurt and were off to the airport the next morning. Bev got a seat back to Calgary direct and, after a sprint through the airport, Bec got on a flight to Berlin. It was a hectic weekend but I am glad I made it. We were both really happy Bev got the opportunity to come and visit Bec in Germany!