My favorite city of Germany is Hamburg.
Today, I asked myself, “Why do I love it so much? Why Hamburg is the only city which I was horrified not to be able to see when leaving for a month to Brazil or for two months (turned two and a half) to Russia?” One of the answers that I discovered was that Hamburg had been my point of entry to a new life. I flew from Moscow to Hamburg, and the city made the first couple of hours of Germany in my life. But I did not see the city on that day. Only the airport, the S-Bahn ‘S1’ line to the central station, the station itself, and the Metronom train to Bremen.
I came to discover the city for the first time only a month later. I was using no travel maps, no tourist guides and no advice. The only thing I looked at were the city maps and the transport lines schemes at the train, S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations. On that day, and during several next visits, I would just take a train or start to move in a promising direction from the central station. When I would reach the next station, I would come up to the map, see the actual direction of my movement and see if I had any ideas for the possible targets. Or, if I already had some targets in mind, I would see whether I needed to go in the opposite direction. Usually, I did :)
On the first visit, I started with discovering the beautiful Binnenalster lake, just by walking in a good direction from the central station. It was still quite early, I was sleepy, and as I remember, it was cloudy and maybe even slightly raining.
I walked a bit around, enjoying the beautiful feelings of a morning. There were some surprising findings, like this painting of a house:
I made a circle, returned to the main station, and continued by taking a train to Hamburg-Altona, to see how the end of the line looks like. It looked like fun :) I had already seen dead-end stations before, many railroad stations have the same layout, e.g. in Moscow, or even the one in Bremen-Vegesack, so the concept was not new. The new thing was that Hamburg-Altona is equipped for the loading of the auto-trains. As far as I can guess from what I saw, it is a very long-distance passenger train, often overnight one, that has several cars for automobiles. People go somewhere and take their vehicles with them. That’s fun, isn’t it? :)
Inside the station, I discovered a machine where I could control the model railway! I immediately knew, “I want to do it, right here and now!” It required a euro-coin, but I had only a two-euros coin, so I went to the closest shop and smilingly asked to exchange it :)
From the Altona train station, I moved in the direction of the river. Again, it took quite some mental effort to make a good guess of my orientation by looking at the map at the station and comparing it to the surroundings. I went through a wonderful green zone and was amazed at the beautiful white Rathaus Altona.
Then I found my way to the river, and I spotted a bridge. Yes, a bridge. And immediately a new desire in me shouted, “I want to be there, I want to see it closer!” I also spotted a strange ship-shape building with a terrace on top of it, so I made it a point to go there. And what a beautiful view to the river and the port and the docks opened from that terrace!
Back to my desire to see that bridge. Again, all I could start with was going to the map. I estimated where the bridge should be and was surprised and reassured: there was a bus line which was crossing that bridge! I had a daily ticket, so I took an S-Bahn, switched to that bus, and here it was, the bridge. I loved crossing it, it was wonderful!
I switched the bus after the bridge, and returned to the Altona station. Then, I walked along the Elbe in the direction of the center… I am not sure if I reached Landungsbrücken, most likely not. I remembered that I had read some praise on HafenCity, so I took a bus number 6 which should have taken me there. However, it was the late afternoon, the roads were full of traffic and the bus was making way too many stops. I was impatient, and finally went off the bus at a stop called Jungfernstieg.
Those who know Hamburg well, and myself now included, should be amazed at how close I was to the Rathaus (Town Hall), and that I was standing almost at the door of the Apple Store. But I did not notice them that time. Not at all that day, even though I could see them later on the pictures of Binnenalster from that morning.
When I went off the bus at Jungfernstieg, I was looking at the other side of the road, where there was a construction site and something that looked like a small exhibition. I crossed the road, and entered that small building. It appeared to be an info-point about the building of the U-Bahn (subway) U4 line, which was taking place underneath at the construction site. That was incredible! Inside, there were some pictures, some audio stories, an interactive story of the U-Bahn system in Hamburg, as well as the U-Bahn train simulator!!! It was not about graphics (it had almost no textures), but about the feeling of the work of a train driver – with a time schedule, with speed limits that one should obey to not to derail, with required spots to stop at at each station, and with looking at the camera view to ensure that all people went out of the train or entered the train. That was fun! I did OK going from the first station to the second, but then I went too slow, came to the next station too late, missed the required spot… So, the simulator said something around the lines of “Go back to the school, you need some more training to drive properly” :)
That ended the day. I took an S-Bahn train to the central station and then took a Metronom train to Bremen.
What city do you like the most? How do you discover new cities? Have you ever been to Hamburg? Tell us about it in the comments below!