Sunday, 10 November 2013

Hamburg T2D2: Boats, Towers and Glühwein

Today has been rather hectic.

After a gentle start, and a latte near the Rathaus I set out in search for Dialogue im Dunkel – an entirely blind experience and adventure. Finding the place took about 3 attempts, each time returning near enough back to where I started. When I eventually found the place they had no availability for today, I booked for Sunday and had to spell my nachnamer, not easy when it begins with ‘W’.

My place booked, I headed for the nearby Maritime Museum. It is a massive building spanning nine floors and covering every detail of maritime history, from Art History to construction, merchant shipping to warfare, models and uniforms. I could write a whole blog post about this museum I spent 2.5 hours there but I could easily have spent much longer, they use ipods for audio-guides, they’re really into multi-media exhibition spaces and even the ‘boring’ cases of objects have been turned into books. The other brilliant thing was the provision of integrated spaces within the museum for education and group tours. The downside to this museum was definitely the price, entry plus audio guide cost 15€; that said if I’d stayed all afternoon, as I easily could have, I’d say that was money well spent.

(sorry it is sideways!)
I’m in Hamburg for a conference held at a church in West Hamburg. Whilst waiting for registration to open I paid a visit to a more historic church. The church of St Michaelis has both a tower and a crypt to visit, the current building was constructed in the 50’s – as you can imagine I greatly relished the opportunity to visit both for just 7€. The tower was, er, tall and offers a lift service for those for whom 10 floors represents too tall a staircase. The view from St Michaelis Tower was impressive and good value for money. The crypt is the final resting place of many Regency  burials – evidence of lavish coffins covered in velvet and gold trim were in evidence when the crypt was excavated. The crypt is also the final resting place of one of the Bachs, I know not which one.

After conference I met some friends for dinner and we went to this nice Syrian joint. The sausages were great and I was so full by the end. From dinner we stumbled across this Nacht der Jugend festival at the Rathaus. All we knew was there was loud music coming from the Rathaus but was an opportunity for us to visit for free! Further investigation uncovered that this was a festival to remember Kristallnacht and encouraged young people to think about politics – one stand even asked ‘is Swing Dancing political?’ Sitting in the main chamber listening to a young man rap at great volumes was a once in a lifetime oddity.

Subsequently we had great fun getting lost in one of the big underground stations in the centre of town but made it to the Winter Dom fireworks just in time. After the firework display we made the most of the little stalls; eating würst, drinking glühwein, climbing aboard tractors! So much fun was had we lost track of time and by the time I returned to my dorm it was 1 am, and unlike last night, there were three sleeping bodies all disturbed by my bedtime routine. Oops.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Hamburg T2D1: Ports, taxes, philarmonie

Hi everyone! It has been a busy few weeks again since we last spoke. I’ve moved house, been to a private view, read several books and now find myself typing from Hamburg.

I’m in Hamburg for a conference called OBJECT, run by my friends at Hope Dies Last. The conference itself runs Friday afternoon to Saturday night but I thought I would extend the trip to take in more of the city after a brief visit last year.

Bearing in mind that Hamburg is an old port town with a world famous Red Light District, and how I am travelling alone…I decided against those super cheap budget flights that land you in a town you don’t really know in the middle of the night. Instead I flew British Airways. The whole thing was so different to the usual flights I take, everything was ‘would you mind awfully…sorry…oh not at all’ and once we were in our seats everyone sat silently, amply supplied with complimentary drinks and snacks. I loved tracking where we were on the in-flight information screens. I could get used to travel like this.

Arriving at the airport, I was greeted by the familiar fahrkarten machines for all rail travel; the ergonomic design means you can quickly find what you are looking for (in my case the ‘English’ button and then the ‘Travelcard’ button) and these days I read German train timetables like a boss!

Eventually I emerged in the city centre. One of the things I find most challenging about Hamburg is the blatent inequality; such wealth and poverty alongside one another. Something about the arrival of quality goods and the opportunity for informal economies provided by ports enables this to take place at this extreme. I’m not trying to say it’s a sight I wouldn’t recognise in London, but it is like putting Regent Street and the Old Kent Road right next to each other! The two images below are of the same street.

Next I stumbled across the Zoll Museum. For just 2€ you can learn all about tolls and taxes in Hamburg throughout history. Yet again the German museums blow us out of the water on interactivity, engagement and ingenuity. These hats were placed throughout the museum; they’ve got speakers inside them so that when you stand underneath them you can hear first-hand accounts, but stood next to them you hear very little – such clever noise management – highly reminiscent of the DDR Museum methods. Also playmobil dock workers.

The photo below is of me expressing my shock and pride that before standardisation my rather short stature was deemed 5 foot 6 in Saxony. Haha!

After the museum I explored the new site of the ElbePhilarmonie, no Dad it still isn’t finished. Took some pretty pictures of the dock and returned to try to find the Hostel which was more difficult than it seemed. It also involved walking down some rather dark side roads. I don’t know if it is because I am carrying more expensive equipment with me than usual but I am really aware of how visible I must be. Even though I cross roads like a German (looking in the right direction, waiting for the man) etc. my belisha beacon effect is on full-beam; several blokes have already approached me in the hostel lobby area (incidentally the only place you can get free wifi).

Also, the hostel passed on the ‘Hamburg Tourist Tax’ to me as the consumer. I thought it might be a ploy to make me part with cash, but genuinely, if you can prove someone is in overnight accommodation as a tourist (i.e. not on business) the government seems to levy a 1€ tax per person per night (I googled it). Apparently this practice is quite common in other European cities like Barcelona but it’s a new one to me. That said looks like I’ve got a 6-bed dorm to myself tonight so not really complaining.

Tomorrow brings: many more adventures. I probably haven't died if I don't manage an update tomorrow.