This was a last minute trip for me. My sister in law phoned to say her friend, who she was planning this trip with, was ill – and would I take her place. Two hours to change flight details, find passport, Euros, travel insurance, find the correct cabin sized luggage and pack! No to mention phoning and e-mailing to cancel things I had planned, and checking that husband had enough food – or remembered where the local supermarket was!
After all that rushing, we then sat at the airport a long time, the plane was delayed by two hours. A short flight to Hamburg, and regretted not having a how to survive in German book. We need not have worried, like with most Europeans, English was quite widely understood. . My sister in law was ready to take a taxi from the airport, but with such a good railway system, that was not necessary. The train from the airport to Hamburg centre was straight forward, a platform change and the next stop was near to the hotel.
We stayed at the 5* Hotel Grand Elysee. We had a large comfortable room, fluffy dressing gowns and slippers. Pity there was no kettle and tea making facility – I usually take a travel kettle, but had forgotten in the rush. Sat and had a meal and listened to a pianist before turning in. The hotel also had a swimming pool and spa with changing light effects which were very relaxing.
We treated ourselves to a breakfast, a bit expensive, but very tasty food and ate enough to keep us going each day. There were not many tourist leaflets, and none in English, but the concierge recommended the tour bus which stopped near the hotel. This gave us an overview of the city, and we stopped off at the main square to look round our first market stalls. Then on to the river, which was probably picturesque in summer, but was somewhat bleak and cold. The bus paused here for half an hour, then continued. Unfortunately roads were closed due to a student protest, so the bus wove a route round the city, without picking up or dropping off, which was a bit frustrating as we passed near the hotel, but couldn’t get off till we were back to the river. This was the opposite side of the city to the hotel, which meant a long walk back. It did mean that we saw the city lit up with lots of lights. The lights were co-ordinated, all white and tasteful which gave quite a magical effect, both round the markets and in the indoor shopping precinct.
The markets consisted of mainly wooden huts. Some just had their wares on display, some were set up as workshops – lantern making, glass blowing, wood carving etc. Some were in white, pointed tents, and looked more temporary. The main ones were in the square outside the town hall, with others in smaller squares or along streets. A wide variety of colourful Christmas themed goods were for sale, lanterns, wooden Christmas decorations, gingerbread and even bird houses. Everywhere came alive at lunchtime and in the evening when people crowded round the many food stalls and mulled wine booths. I didn’t realise you bought the glass or ceramic mug as well as the wine – so had a nice souvenir -a tall, heavy glass!
We had a free ticket on the tour bus for the next day to make up for the disruption on the first day, so went round again – this time getting on and off!.
On the third day we pottered around again, and found an art gallery and museum to look round. We could have done with a What to do in Hamburg book, as we somewhat repeated ourselves.
One discovery way Mc Café –this was part of McDonalds, but with sofas and proper cups for coffee, and special offers of coffee and food. Not very German, but comfortably English. We also found a very large indoor shopping mall with spectacular Christmas trees, lighting and a huge craft and art store in the basement – also lots of different food outlets of every imaginable ethnic type.
Our flight back home was late evening, and late again. We were relieved to get back, especially as the plane changed it’s mind about landing at the last minute and accelerated like mad and zoomed back up to do a circling manoeuvre before trying again. Not very impressed Flybe!!