Monday, November 20, 2023

Hamburg, Germany

My goal for moving to Europe was to explore during the weekends and this latest I went to Hamburg, Germany. My friends Jess & Tobias live there and I felt as if I was on an organized tour. Not only did they host me in their lovely home but showed me their city and shared so much history. It was amazing. 

Friday night we talked non-stop catching up and consuming a few bottles of wine. Saturday we took the train into the city. They are life-long residents and are so proud and knowledgeable about Hamburg. The city is beautiful, consisting of natural canals forming one of the largest port cities in Europe.

Of course the city has a difficult history to recall but it was interesting to hear how Germany has changed their governmental checks-and-balances following World War II. Saint Nicholas church was bombed and they left it standing as a memorial. There is something oddly beautiful about the burnt structure. 

It was easy getting in our steps as we transversed through the city. We stopped at City Hall where Tobi was once sworn in as a police officer and then for some wine. 

After a couple glasses we walked out to a beautiful view and made our way to the Red Light District where we consumed the holiday mulled wine, Gluhwein, and took in all the interesting sights. 

After pizza we made our way back home and I crashed. Sunday morning I woke to yet another lovely meal and we took the car to the beach. 

Next we visited the Elbe Tunnel which is amazing! It was built in 1907 to connect central Hamburg with the stockyards on the south. It was a technical sensation at the time with lifts to transport cars and people. It is beautifully maintained.

The weekend ended with me making my way back home. Jess & Tobias are only five hours away by car so I hope to see them soon! 

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Copenhagen, Denmark

I had a three day weekend thanks to a company Wellness Day. My idea of wellness is riding a train for 24 hours, visiting a new city, and adding a country to my tally. When I plan trips I start with a goal. Is it to see something specific? Get away to relax? Learn about the region? This trip was about riding the train. 

My travels within Europe in the 90’s began riding the train. We did not fly as the prices seemed to high. Thirty years later I am not sure if it is because I was broke or they were more expensive. I love the calm rhythm of a train, doing something enjoyable, and watching the world go by. That is all I did on the first day of my trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. For twelve hours.

I caught up on life stuff. Paid bills, updated my blog, and dug into whether or not I was signed up for my utilities correctly. I am still not confident. 

I landed in Copenhagen around 17:00, navigated my way to the hostel, went for dinner, and grabbed a cocktail at a gin bar that had ‘Cocktails and Dreams’ in the window. I love that movie. 

Day two started with a walking tour, as I most commonly do (GuruWalk). They are advertised for free and ask for a donation. I usually give around $20. Great value. 

Monarchy nations fascinate me. Although steeped in tradition they seem so outdated. Copenhagen experienced several fires so you do not see medieval buildings. The architecture reminds me of Amsterdam and that is because the current designs were heavily influenced by the Dutch. 

During the tour, we stopped for Glogg, a warm wine with raisins and nuts, similar to the German gluhwein. Yummy.

Hans Christian Anderson came to Copenhagen at age 14 to audition for the ballet. He was very tall so did not get in. He returned to his hotel room and wrote the ugly duckling. This statue is from 1913 to commemorate his Little Mermaid story. Grateful for us Hans did not make the ballet. 

After the tour, I stopped for a traditional Danish meal consisting of roasted pork, red cabbage, pickles, and rye bread. It was delicious. 

As I most often do I stayed in a hostel, Steel House. I shared the room with five others. When I went to sleep it felt warm but when I woke an hour later I was suffocating in the heat. I got up and found the temp at 23.4° (74.12 F)! I have been keeping my house at 16° (60.8 F) so no wonder it felt warm. I turned it down. I have been avoiding these pod-like beds as I am claustrophobic (which gets worse as I age). I did not have an issue at all!

The original eleven (11) hour return home turned into fifteen (15) due to a train/car accident. What an adventure! The hardest part of traveling in a country where you do not speak the language is when there is a change in plans. You learn to be bold, ask questions, and pay it forward. I heard announcements overhead and suddenly saw everyone exiting the train. I asked questions and followed the crowd and we landed at a bus stop. At the bus stop our 'Lord of the Flies' instincts kicked in and it was a madhouse. 

But I was prepared. My odd food insecurities meant I had enough food to last a week so adding a few hours did not make me cranky. I was wearing enough wool to stay warm waiting outside at the bus stop for two hours and being single and packing light made it easy to pivot (aka run to the bus when it arrived). While on the bus there was a single mom, baby, and little girl. I spent the next hour, between a couple more train and bus transfers, carrying and entertaining the little girl which gave Mom a break. She was adorable. My arms were killing me. 

Before all the chaos I started crocheting a sock. I would have finished one if it had not been for the diversion. 

This was a great weekend. The room was $60 and the train was only $130 making the weekend less than $200. A great value for a Wellness Day.