Germany (Hamburg) - Checking out the Christmas Markets
Our last trip of 2016 was to Hamburg in Germany for the Christmas markets which was Richard's 35th birthday present. I have never been to Germany before so I was pretty excited. We worked from home in the morning and then drove over to a little village near terminal 5 and dropped the car off using the justpark website. Luckily we left with enough time as the guy basically didn't have enough petrol so asked if he could quickly fill up which was fine but a bit cheeky as well! If you're going to run a side business, be ready! It was an easy journey getting through security and passport control and we had no bags to check in. We opted to go and eat in Giraffe and we both had burgers. I went for one which was a harissa flavour with rocket, mint and some red onion, it was rather tasty and I had a smoothie to be good. We flew with BA which was nice and we got some free plane snacks, I went for some kettle like crisps but Rich made a rookie mistake and chose some random nuts which he didn't enjoy. It was a quick journey and took about 1 hr 20 and we made our way to the underground train station which was accessible from within the airport. We got the S1 and U2 trains which took 45 mins and €6.4 to get us to Messehallen which was about a 6 min walk from the Inter City Dammtor Messe hotel. It was pretty straight forward and only 1 swap so was good. When we got out of the train station there was a funfair right near it called the Dam which I had read about. It comes to Hamburg for 1 month every year and luckily we were there on its last weekend. We spotted there was a prison right near our hotel which was unusual! When we got to the reception there was a stag group dressed as Mexican's which was quite funny. After settling into our lovely 12th floor room overlooking the funfair (apparently the other side overlooks the port and is the nicer side but the receptionist said the funfair side was good at the moment) we ventured out. We were told to head for Colonnaden for restaurants which was about ten minutes away. We had a quick walk down the street and saw mostly German and Italian restaurants with one Thai. We then saw a little market near the water and there was a big Christmas tree in the middle of the water on a mini island. We had a little look before deciding to go for food. We got turned away from 3 German restaurants.. I think it was more about our timing then being English that this happened (I hope) as they were all busy and the last one said there would be nothing free until 9 or half 9. We finally settled on a Vietnamese restaurant. We ordered some chicken satay and spring rolls to start and I had a hot fiery chicken dish which came cooked with veg and rice and it was yummy and had a good kick. Rich went for some noodles with wrapped meat rolls but there were more noodles with little flavour and I could see his disappointment with it. I ended with a mango lassi which was delicious and it cost about €38 with a tip. The waitress thought we were Danish, must be the blonde hair, blue eyes and amazing looks haha! After dinner we went back to walk properly through the market and it was lovely, white stalls with a star on top of them and playing English Christmas tunes! We wandered to the Town Hall and then decided not to go into the market there and save it for Saturday so we headed back to the hotel. We were lucky as we saw the fireworks over the funfair which were really pretty from our view.
On the Saturday we went for a wander and went through part of the park and came across an ice skating rink. There were loads of people on it but lots of really experienced skaters who were zooming around very confidently. We made our way to the docks and port to explore. There were lots of harbour cruises heading out but we walked the port front and stopped to get a fish sandwich, it's pretty infamous there for that. Rich had a baguette with a rawish fish and pickles and even though I wasn't sure about it, it was pretty tasty! I had a breaded fish baguette which was nice as well called the fishback. After our sandwich we headed onto the warehouse district and to the miniature wonderland which is the #1 attraction on trip advisor. It was pretty busy in there and when we went to buy tickets he asked if we had a reservation.. when we said we didn't he said it was an hour wait or to book for later so we left it.. Hamburg seemed to be a place so far where you needed to book things in!!. We decided to wander off and go check out some other sights. We wandered on the port front and headed for the red light district of St Pauli. It was a bit grotty looking and there were some sex shops around and a Christmas market. One stall was selling sex toys and they had a big stage which had a pole dancing/half naked lady later that night. After checking this market out, we went to find the Elba Tunnel, this stretched under the habour to the other side of Hamburg with all the warehouses on. We walked down the steps and walked across to the other side and got the lift up. We came out and took some pictures, there wasn't loads on the other side.. just lots of big warehouses and some houses. We took some pictures on this side and then headed back. We decided to get the train to Jungfernstieg and check out the Town Hall and markets. Our first food of choice was sausages!! I had a currywurst and Rich had a bratwurst, they were both delicious! I then had a hot chocolate in a cute little mug. You paid a deposit on the mugs and got it back when you returned them. I wanted one so went back on Sunday night to get one and keep it as a souvenir. We then got a train to Stephansplatz which was close to our hotel but through the park. In the park it had a Japanese style garden which was lovely with a pond. We then went to chill out in the hotel for a bit before dinner. We decided to go to a restaurant that James my boss had recommended called Gröninger Privatbrauerei Hamburg so we got the train to Melberg and walked from there which was about 5 minutes. We went early after our experience on the Friday night so we wanted to make sure we could get in. We got there for about 6 and when we asked for a table he said I can sit you near the bar (but again he hesitated so seemed again like we needed a booking), we walked through and it was massive. James had said you could buy buffet food and weigh by the plate, we opted for something off the menu. It came with 4 different types of pork, 2 different sausages and 3 different ham/gammon style meats plus some potatoes with apples or something and some cabbage, it was all delicious and a big old plate of food for us. They had big beer barrels as well so we had to try the beer and had one with our dinner, I don't really like beer but this was actually ok. It was a nice restaurant and I was glad we managed to get a table. We then got a train back and walked through the park which shut at 8.
Our last full day - Sunday, we agreed we would eat lots of food around the markets so we set off on our mission. We started with bratwurst in the first market with the white stands near Colonnaden, Rich had a spicier one which he didn't enjoy as much. We then went to the town hall to try this bread with mushrooms with cheese and sour cream on top which we had spotted the day before. It was nice but more bread then ingredients so was a bit of a let down. One thing we couldn't spot was supermarkets or a little shop to get water from so we went into the subway to get some. We then wandered over to check out St Michaels with a quick stop in Starbucks. When I went to the toilet people were trying to take my seat and Richard said it was taken, they said it was rude to save a seat (They weren't English but spoke it) and in the end some woman just put her stuff on my seat, some people lack manners. We paid to go into St Michaels to go into the crypt and up into the tower €7 each. The crypt had lots of history about the church, it's actually burnt down a few times and been rebuilt, once was through lightening striking the tower and another time was when some workers were up there and a fire caught and they didn't notice. To this day it still has renovation work going on. We then walked up a few flights of stairs and caught the lift to the top. It was very windy up there and had a great view over the city so naturally we took lots of pictures. We then walked down the stairs stopping at some information on the way down. On our walk back into the centre we came across a half bombed church which had been destroyed in World War II. They had a sign which said they kept it to remind them of the awful stuff that happened in WWII by Germany. We headed back to the Town Hall but unfortunately missed the English speaking tour so we couldn't go around the grand building which was a shame. We then headed for another market near Rathaus and checked this out. There were a few stores which seemed to sell chocolate on sticks like Kinder, I went to get one but they were chocolate covered banana, strawberries or grapes so we left it. We did go back to the first white market and had some delicious mushrooms and onions topped with crème fraiche, they were lovely! We also got 4 mini pizza rolls with tomatoes, cheese, bacon in. We were definitely making the most of our food intake that day. On the way back we booked into the Tiffany restaurant for 7.30 for some Italian. Later on after we got ready we headed over to the Hamburg Don funfair, there were lots of ghost trains and candy stalls and fish baguette stalls. The bigger rides were about €5 and we decided to go on the rollercoaster one. It was good with two big loops but it did feel quite unsteady and a bit scary and I don't really scare at these things. I felt like someone on the final destination 2 ride After our wander around we headed for our Italian. I had bruschetta to start and a scampi pizza which had cheese, tomato, shrimp, garlic and spinach on, Rich had a seafood mix on his. The restaurant was a lot less busy then previous nights. We then headed into the markets for one last look around and I had a dessert of small doughnuts covered in lots of sugar icing. Rich had another bratwurst! I finished off with a lovely hot chocolate and kept the mug, it was nearing 10pm and the market was getting quieter and stalls were finishing up so we took some pictures near the entrance and bid goodbye to lovely Hamburg. On the way home we came across a small market which was closing and had white Christmas trees in it which I believe originated from Germany.
On the Monday we woke to a foggy and cold morning. We left our hotel at 8am and got our trains back to the airport and arrived there for about 8.55. We went through and used the last of our change to get some water, a baguette for Rich and a pastry for me. On the plane, the air stewardess was having a nightmare with all the hand luggage people had brought on and Rich's rucksack came down again. He was not best pleased. In the end we were 20 mins late taking off as they tried to sort out getting all bags in. We were offered snacks again and I choose some white chocolate biscuits as did Rich but unfortunately for him they had lemon in and he doesn't like lemon so he lost out again on the snacks run We landed at 11.25 and got through customs pretty quickly and our driver picked us up at departures. We were home again for 12.30 so it was an easy journey and a lovely weekend away.