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Exploring Hamburg!

2nd December 2011

Why Germany in Winter

Many people asked me with a shocked look on their faces why in the hell I was going to Germany in the winter. My response consisted of FOUR things:

1 – Christmas Cookies
2 – Christmas Markets
3 – Gluwein
4 – Bratwurst

No one really does Christmas like the Germans and I couldn’t wait to get into the holiday spirit. Although on numerous occasions this proved a little difficult as the mammoth realizations that I would soon be ending this odyssey and that I had developed feelings for a guy from Nepal, began to weigh heavily on me. I am not ashamed to admit that I cracked on more than one…. ok five occasions, but my amazing friends Cathleen and Nadine were always there to support me.

Hamburg a Little Jet Lagged

After nearly giving Cathleen a heart attack that first morning by popping my head up from the floor and saying good morning, we started to plan our day.

Side Note: I have a history of changing sleeping positions. Growing up my mum would go to wake me up and find my feet on the pillow instead of my head. And when I find a bed too soft or after traveling for a long time, I often find the floor more comfortable. Strange but true.

Hendrik and Cathleen had ensured that I had the best options for breakfast, with rolls and meats and cheese and German granola WITH chocolate chunks… I thought I was in a 5 star hotel. You guys were great!! Although it did take 2 Germans and a South African/American to figure out the fancy coffee machine… was probably made in Switzerland (that’s our excuse).

Despite the lack of sleep and ever increasing jet lag Cathleen and I went to explore Hamburg, as we would be leaving to Berlin in the morning.

NOTE, culture shock is inevitable when leaving the embodiment of chaos that is Kathmandu and Nepal and arriving in German perfection and planning. Everyone was wearing conservative winter clothes and here I was in multi colored sweat shirt and scarf from Nepal (mainly because I had chucked all my others to fit in the new). I was easy to mark as a tourist. Oh well I guess I have to play the tourist at least once.

We walked past a statue of Otto Von Bismarck, if I remember correctly. Cathleen was surprised I had studied him in high school.

Why yes… after a quick google search this is in fact the most well known of the statues of Otto Von Bismarck, the statesman who unified the German States into a German Empire in the late 1800’s

Heading to a famous church with beautiful architecture we not only discovered it had been rented out for a function, we also discovered a bit of a nutter in a santa suit with a gorgeous German Shepherd (would it be just a Shepherd if it was in Germany??) and a rather large “elf”. He was, apparently, protesting the function, although we couldn’t really understand him, but his 7ft tall “Elf” in the trench coat was certainly a bit intimidating.

Protesting “Santa” and his “Elf”


The statue outside the church

Tea please
Since it was downright frigid, ok maybe not quite, but close enough to it, we decided to have tea and Cathleen knew just the spot. It could have come out of Diagon Alley and some other story book, as the place was tiny and situated between 2 large buildings.

Entrance to the Alley

It turned out what I thought was the entrance to the tea shop, was in fact the entrance to a hidden alley that dated back to 1718. The little shops brought back visions of an era long past.

Alley

The tea shop was at the end of the alley filled with sweet and tea and curio shops. It literally oozed Christmas from the decorations to the smell. There was even a chimney with a twist… literally!

Twisted!

Hamburg used to be a hub of trade for spices, cloth and other goods. These were transported on boats in the canals and the old storehouses still line the river. Makes for quite a stunning view.

Old Storehouses Become Trendy Lofts

Noting the previous photo and how narrow the canal is will give you a new appreciation of the barge drivers who manipulate them between each section.

Barge Ballet

Knowing how much I loved cooking, Cathleen surprised me with a visit to the Spice Museum, apparently the only one of its kind. It had spices of every kind from all over the world and the aromas were quite intoxicating, if I may say so. The entry ticket was a packet of fresh whole pepper corns, (just emptied them into my grinder this evening).

Christmas Market #1

Wandering around Hamburg was quite delightful but finally it was time for my first Christmas Market. We were off to meet Hendrik and some friends for Gluwein. Even though it was around 3pm on a Friday, it looked as if every other person had the same idea.

Christmas Market – Hamburg

This also meant my first encounter with Christmas Cookies!

Cookiessssssssssss!

And of course GLUWEIN!!! Gluwein is a spiced red wine that is served hot and is very yummy.

Cathleen and I enjoying Gluwein

Unlike many countries where you buy a drink in a disposable cup, here in Germany you buy your drink and pay an extra 2euros for the ceramic cup unique to that market or city. If you decide not to keep the mug then you get your 2euros back, however, if you are like me, you decide to keep it and make a collection for every Christmas market you go to… of course the reality of getting them home will be something I deal with at a later date.

Gluwein Mug 1

German SIM Cards

Heading “home” we picked up supplies for me to cook dinner as a thank you to Hendrik for putting us up or putting up with us, either way, BIG THANKS!! I made the Schmidt Family Spaghetti Bolognaise, always a hit.

After dinner we started the complicated process of trying to figure out how to set up my SIM card. In Germany there is no such thing as slipping it in and switching it on, nope you have to register on a website and then wait a few hours before its even active. But finally we had success and right before bed I sent Buddha a quick text saying that I missed him and here was my German number. He had replies to my email saying I had arrived safely with a very sweet message about how he had gone to Monkey Temple and even though the monkeys were happy to see him, they apparently missed me, so he said hello for me. So sweet, its already starting to feel so unreal…

Tomorrow it is off to Berlin!

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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San Fran/Eugene/LA – Day 105-112 – Easter Surprises!

April 21st – 28th 2011

San Fran
My friend, Rachel, had to work during the day so I decided to unpack, do laundry, download photos and work on my blog. I also had the chance to go for brunch with a friend I had met in Spain. It’s always great catching up with folks you meet on your travels.

Around lunch time I decided to pop out for some food and opted for something from Safeways. I got about 5 steps in and then froze… artificial lighting, elevator music and so much food and choice… my brain could not fathom the choices. I finally decided on cheesy bread, salami and cheese. The deli lady was from El Salvadore and we chatted a bit in Spanish. Am really missing that aspect of traveling in a non-English speaking country, I truly love the challenge of communication.

The rest of the day was spent trying to sort out the nuclear bomb that appeared to have hit my bag and figure out how to get everything into one bag so that I could get it all to Eugene the next day. After some sorting and deciding and tossing out I finally managed it.
You know you are a backpacker when you can fit a closet into a bag!

Surprise!!!
I had decided to surprise my parents for easter and had managed to find some reasonably priced tickets. Keeping secrets from my mom has always been nigh impossible for me (my brother and father stopped telling me what gifts they bought her when I was 5 as I kept giving it away). But somehow I managed to keep this one under my belt and it was so worth it. My friend Sarah, picked me up from the airport, we stopped in at a store and picked up some blue bunny ears and a bunch of flowers and headed to the folks. The story was that Sarah was going to stop by and drop off something I had left in her drawer at work, this way ensuring at least one of the folks would be home.

Sarah walked up while I hid behind a hedge. Dad opened the door and the conversation went like this:
Dad: hey Sarah, how are you?
Mom: hi there Sarah
Sarah: I am good, this is what I found in my drawer
Kathy: Surprise!!
Mom: What are you doing here?
Kathy: Surprise!
Dad: yes, but what are you doing here? You are supposed to be in SF or somewhere!
Kathy: oh for pete’s sake folks don’t I get a hug!

Got to love leaving your folks essentially speechless and shell shocked! Of course that didn’t mean they would run out to get me the steak I had been craving, mainly because they had just had some for lunch.

Easter Egg Hunt
Saturday I made a store run to pick up candy and plastic easter eggs. Today my best mate, Darcie, was bringing her 2 and a half (one still incubating) kids for lunch and an easter egg hunt. Dad and I stuffed the eggs, he decided some of them should be stuffed with Bob the squirrel’s peanuts (and people wonder why I have a warped sense of life with a father like that).

Side note ~ we have a wild squirrel, dubbed Bob by my mum, who comes and literally knocks at the glass sliding door until we give him a peanut, recently he demands 2.

It was a great day with 2 beautiful girls running around trying to find the eggs and then being very good and making sure each one had the same number and not eating the candy until after lent. Then we had a fantastic steak lunch (mmmmm steak), but all good visits come to an end and it was soon time for them to head home. Its crazy to think the next time I see them there will be 3 little ones.

On the Road Again
After Easter Sunday brunch at friends, repacking and sorting my bag again, it was time to head out again. So often when you are on the road all you want is a weekend at home to recoup but it never seems possible. It was great being able to make that wish a reality, especially as it could be over 7months before Iget to see the folks again.

Living it Large in LA
My next stop was a few days with a friend in LA. I had worked with Alex at the Woodland Park Zoo and when a cheap ticket to Sydney popped up on my radar it was the perfect opportunity to catch up. Since Alex had to teach a bio lab the first day I sat in a local coffee shop and worked on blog entries. Then we went and explored some of the area around Cloverfield (the suburb she lived in). Day 2 we met up with a good friend of hers deep in the LA jungle, went for a pedicure and then headed along the coast.

A stop for some amazing seafood and then a quick break on the beach. The water was beautiful, the beach was stunning… Except for the highway behind us and the freezing temps of the ocean, it was perfect.

My last day in LA was spent relaxing, we went for a long walk to the store and then had nap time and finally finished packing. The flight to Sydney left at midnight, I hate midnight flights as I always have trouble sleeping on planes, and little did I know what this trip was going to entail.

Stay tuned for another full day of travel, this time by plane…

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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