Hamburg – where it all began

Okay maybe a bit dramatic – that is where my trip began. Still, it was pretty awesome.

First off, I was surprised by how much German I understood – don’t get me wrong, it is still extremely little. But at least I was not completely lost and confused by the world around me. The station was easy enough to navigate and it was quite easy to get on the S-bahn to Berliner Tor. This is the station closest to the hostel I stayed at.

So you get out of this little station and… well no first you need to find the right exit. So I headed back in straight through and then: …when you get out of the station you walk under this bridge which we would have typically avoided back home. I mean it looks dodgy – all graffiti and gloomy. Not the most comfortable of situations for a paranoid South African.

If by chance you don’t know a South African, let me tell you: we (I generalise yes – maybe that is just me) have this deep rooted sense of discomfort bordering on paranoia. Now I believe that is a good skill – it keeps you aware of your surroundings. By being suspicious of everyone and everything, you are more vigilant. It also ensures that you have this mini panic attack when you walk out a train station and come face to face with this particular bridge.

Then a guy with a suit and briefcase walks past you. A kid on his kick scooter and well everyone else exiting the station. So after laughing at myself for perhaps being too paranoid (in this instance) I went ahead to the hostel.

The check-in staff at the hostel did not help at all to salvage the reputation of Germans being ‘somewhat’ rude. If you are German: rest assured, I have now decided that this stereotype is not true for you all. I’ve met some super nice people up till now. I can also say that it is clear I have some German heritage. It’s like German Shepherds (haha, see what I’m doing here) – so cute and fluffy and amazing, but you do not want to be on their wrong side.

Hamburg has your typical big-city-feeling – I suppose this is to be expected from a city with around 1,7 million inhabitants. It is big and it is busy. Still there are spaces where it is so peaceful that you almost feel alone. And inbetween the concrete giants, you find these pearls from an old world that has long since been surpassed.

I spent about an hour lying in my room deciding on my next step before I headed to the train station with no specific destination in mind – I had a rough idea of the neighbourhood I wanted to find. After a bit of aimless strolling, I had one word whirling in my mind: steel. This was a city of steel – literally. Amazing steel structures everywhere.

Steel structures everywhere – street lamps on the bridge, a steel bridge at the back (to the left) and a steel tower behind the tree to right

Here I want to interrupt myself to just give you some insight into how I envisioned this trip. I will be travelling (including my time in SA) for 86 days, which is quite a while. Also, it was a rough year and I want to have a bit of a holiday – not just run around to get to see everything.

So my goal for this trip is not to see every tourist spot or landmark. That does not mean I will not go to the touristy places (you will so see posts on the Eiffel tower)! However, I was set on relaxing, experiencing, getting a bit lost and seeing things as I go.

So I followed the steel bridge, and by luck decided to go straight ahead, which lead me to this amazing tower:

Hauptkirche St. Nikolai

The information board in the ‘courtyard’ says the following: ” St. Nikolas’ Church, built on the site of a former 14th century church destroyed in the Great Fire of 1842. New building 1845 – 74 to plans by architect G. Scott. Destroyed 1943 – 44, leaving just the tower and outer walls. The ruin is maintained as a monument against war.”

This monument is intended as a place to remember the victims of war and tyranny. It also boasts with the highest church tower in Hamburg at 147.3m high. There is a glass panelled lift with which you are taken to a height of 76m with breathtaking views over the city and trust me it is worth every cent. [€5 for adults, €4 for students. Incl museum and lift]

Next stop, Miniatur Wunderland…

Described online as the largest miniature or model railway attraction in the world. If I am very honest – I was sure this was one of those model-train-nerd places (sorry!). However, a lot of internet sources rank this as the top thing to do in Hamburg, so I went despite my reservations. And oh how wrong I was in my assumptions. This was truly one of the most fascinating museum (for lack of a better category – maybe exhibit?) visits I have ever had! I was like a little kid – pressing all the buttons, getting excited about the flashing lights and taking hundreds of seemingly identical photos. You basically travel through miniature models of USA, Scandinavia, Germany, Italy and Switzeland (I hope I am not forgetting any place). So if you have about 2 – 3 hours and €15 to spare: GO!


Another top listed sight is the old warehouse district in the Hamburg port. The area was built in the 1880’s and is now classified as a historical monument. Buildings with oak-pile foundations, canals that fills with the tides and steel bridges (told you it is everywhere) – it is really something to see. I wandered between the buildings the whole morning and if it wasn’t for thinking I might starve, I would have stayed longer.

Miniatur Wunderland is located in this area, so you really have no excuse to miss it.

So, was Hamburg worth it?

YES!! It did most definitely not disappoint. The city itself is busy in places, but there is something for everyone. I think for now I am happy with what I saw, but if I would ever find myself in Hamburg again I won’t be hiding out in the hotelroom either.

Some facts about my stay

  • Stop on trip: #1
  • Days: 2
  • Budget: €180 (for accommodation, food and sightseeing for 2 days).
  • Actually spent: about €143
  • Hostel: A&O City. The biggest hostel I have seen. Really nice though, with a decent breakfast and only about 300m from the S-Bahn station.
  • Local transport: I only used S-bahn because it provided easy enough access and it is included with the Eurail pass.
  • Distance walked (according to the “very credible” Samsung tracker): 11km + 13km
  • Local cuisine tried: Labskaus. It’s weird, but I like it.

Next up: Hannover



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