It took longer than expected to get to the stellplatz in Hamburg on Wednesday because some numpty (me) miskeyed the co-ordinates into the satnav. Fortunately it didn’t take us too far out of our way and we parked up at about 13:30.
There was a bus stop right by the stellplatz, and at the end of the 15 minute journey it was a 10 minute ride on the S-Bahn to downtown Hamburg. The fares were super cheap – an all day pass for 2-5 people cost just €12, and can be used on buses, the S-Bahn, the U-Bahn and the river buses.
I hadn’t done much prep about things to see and do, deciding to rely on a map and leaflets from the tourist information office. With the weather pushing 30°C it was too hot to walk all over the city so we’d be taking it easy.
In Germany it’s typical to find the tourist information office at the Rathaus, so we headed there first and were disappointed to find that there wasn’t one there. Whilst there were tourist signs in the streets, there weren’t any maps about the place, and a quick check on the interweb told us that there were only three offices in the entire city: at the mainline railway station, the airport and harbour. That’s pretty poor for such a large city which is apparently looking to boost tourism to offset the decline in shipping activity at the port.
We’d already wandered through the Alten Wall shopping area packed with so-called premium designer clothing shops (so not us!) so we took the S-Bahn to the railway station and eventually managed to locate the tourist office. The lady behind the counter couldn’t have been less interested, but she did give us a map and some information in English.
Walking back through the Altstadt towards the Rathaus, we stopped along the way for an ice cream as it was so hot (like we needed an excuse). We passed lots of interesting looking buildings which had blue plaques outside, but as the information was in German only, we remained none the wiser. After dinner at a brauhaus, we returned to the van to make plans for yesterday.
The next morning we returned to the Altstadt to see the bits we missed on Wednesday, before heading over to the harbour area. We’d booked ourselves on to a walking tour of St Pauli: the Reeperbahn and the harbour. With two hours to kill before the start of the tour, we went for lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and had a hamburger in Hamburg – something which we’d told ourselves we wouldn’t do!
The walking tour was one of those free ones where you give a tip at the end of the walk. Our guide was an Aussie bloke who gave us a really interesting tour. The best part was the history of the Beatles who played in clubs in and around the Reeperbahn between 1960 and 1962. Then, as now, the Reeperbahn was a mile-long red light district, and whilst the whole area is now very seedy and has probably changed beyond all recognition, it was great to see some of the places where the Beatles lived and played all those years ago.
I know that a couple of days isn’t enough time to properly see a big city like Hamburg, but whilst we enjoyed it we don’t feel the urge to return anytime soon, like we did the first time we visited Berlin. Maybe that’s because there aren’t many historical buildings (the city was heavily bombed in WWII), or perhaps it’s the lack of tourist offices and information in English.
We left Hamburg this morning, and are now on a free stellplatz in a small town called Twist close to the Dutch border. Tomorrow we’ll cross over into the Netherlands, our 24th country on this trip.