Eva and Suzi Head to Northern Germany
Posted on August 2, 2014
When Bob returned to the US on June 25 — the two of us having traveled and thoroughly enjoyed new-to-us regions of Germany, as well as Alsace in France — this trip had by no means come to an end for me. The day before Bob flew back to San Francisco, our daughter Suzi met us in Frankfurt. She and I embarked on a three-week journey through Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost Land of Germany.
This is where I grew up, and our first destination was my home town, Lübeck, near the Baltic Coast. There was never any doubt in our minds as to where we’d be staying: the small but lovely hotel with its assortment of breakfast items that wouldn’t quit.
We stayed there last year, and Bob counted 140 different kinds of foods, including a dozen different breads and rolls, plates full of assorted cheeses and meats, fish dishes, eggs, salads, fresh fruits, yoghurts, even cakes and chocolate chip cookies … Every morning, breakfast was an event, and it often carried us till dinner, with a snack in the afternoon.
We both love this old Hanseatic City full of history, beautiful architecture, parks and waterways with miles of trails, and not to forget: the world’s best marzipan!
This is the Holstentor, famous landmark of Lübeck, one of two surviving medieval gates of this once-walled city, dating back to 1478, and one of the most famous buildings in all of Germany. We spent time with friends, and I had the rare pleasure of spending most of a day with my brother who had come up from Hamburg. Here we are taking a lovely, leisurely boat trip on the river.
One day we caught a bus and went out to Travemünde, Lübeck’s port on the Baltic. It is a very popular summer destination and we found lots of activities going on: On a large, usually empty field, there were food and drink tents, amusement rides, souvenir stands, and several sea shanty choruses singing their hearts out from a number of stages. On the beach a tournament of beach handball was in full swing. The promenade with its fine old villas and mansions was ideal for strolling.
Lübeck’s famous son, Thomas Mann, already wrote about this well-known Casino in his book, Buddenbrooks, around 1900. This is where the fine people met and played. When I was growing up, it was a source of much envy and mystery, because we were too young to be allowed even to take a peek inside. Nor did we own the elegant clothing one was supposed to wear! Today it is an upscale hotel.
The wicker chairs you see in the background are typical for the North Sea and Baltic coasts. Designed for protection from wind, sun, and rain, they have been popular since their invention in the 1880’s. People rent them for the day and can move and shift them as the sun moves and the wind shifts. They recline and have foot rests and storage space, too.
But we weren’t just out for a stroll, we had a mission. I remember fondly the walk through woods and along the cliff when, as a special treat, my parents would take us out there, and the roughly 2 mile walk would be rewarded with Kaffee and Kuchen in a restaurant.
This restaurant is still around, although threatened by the constantly crumbling cliff. Suzi and I thoroughly enjoyed this outing — and our reward!
All good things have to end, so we had to pack up and move on. Our next destination was Hamburg, an hour away by train. When we stepped out of our hotel, intent on taking a city bus to take us to the train station, we found the streets lined with people and closed to all traffic, including city buses! A parade was about to start, an unexpected surprise, and we couldn’t let it go by without us! We thoroughly enjoyed it; it was something like our Rose Parade in Santa Rosa, but with a decidedly Germanic slant. All participants, walking, marching, or on floats, were tossing candy to children and adults.
Finally we decided it was time to go, and since we couldn’t catch a bus, we walked all the way through town, pulling our luggage, to the Bahnhof (train station), bought our ticket, were told what time the train would depart, and headed to our platform. About ten minutes before the train was due in, another one, clearly marked “Hamburg”, pulled in on the opposite side of the platform. Why not take the earlier one? It stopped for only a very short time, so at the last minute we hopped on, Suzi with her big backpack even getting caught in the closing door. Were we in for a surprise! Our tickets were only good for the regular train which would make several stops on its way to Hamburg, but this was an ICE train, coming from Copenhagen on its way to Hamburg with NO stops, and making that run in record time. We didn’t realize our mistake until the train had cleared the station, so there was no turning back and we had to purchase new, expensive tickets. But we did get to Hamburg in about 35 minutes.
We made the most of our next three days. Right off, we discovered a cafe around the corner that served Breakfast for Two at a very low price. It started with a glass of champagne, and the menu consisted of orange juice and coffee, breakfast rolls and breads and croissants (we found them as fresh as in Alsace), meats, cheeses, eggs, fried potato patties, tomatoes, fresh fruit, jams … Bear with me when I have to show another shot of our breakfast table! Needless to say, the waitress got to know us quickly as we showed up every morning to start the day with a glass of champagne!
A highlight was a visit to the Miniatur Wunderland in the old Warehouse District.
This once run-down and seedy harbor district has been wonderfully restored where restoration was possible, and all around it are architectually and visually very interesting new buildings. The Wunderland is a gem of imagination, creativity, and technical wizardry. It is a model railroad installation, but is far more than that — and not just for kids In fact, I believe adults get a lot more out of it.
Huge areas are dedicated to different countries, not exact replicas, but you recognize Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Scandinavia, even the USA. Landscapes with lots of details, towns and villages connected by trains, tiny people, there is a festival in one town, in the mountains cows are taken up a steep trail to their pastures, climbers hanging from ropes … You discover new details every time you look. The airport was the most fascinating exhibit, with different planes actually taking off and landing (I won’t tell you how that worked), taxiing and stopping at the gates, a parking garage with cars and an airport hotel with different people in each room, all tiny and so authentic looking. I think we spent 5 hours there and only saw part of it. Highly recommended for anybody who is planning a trip to Hamburg.
We often ran into lots of unexpected happenings. In Lübeck, Suzi and I were having dinner at our corner restaurant, outdoors under big umbrellas, when a huge bus pulled up across the street. Person after person filed out of the bus, more than I thought would fit into it, all in colorful uniforms with loads of medals and pins and other decorations and tons of instruments. Turns out it was a band from Sweden on a European tour, and “our” restaurant was the chosen destination for that evening.
Toe tapping music and four dancers were very entertaining — until the light mist developed into a pretty good rainstorm, and the musicians had to seek shelter so their instruments wouldn’t suffer. Then in Hamburg, after a delightful evening with my nephew and his young family, we returned by S-Bahn to our part of the city and were surprised to find at least a hundred police, some in riot gear, blocking the streets just a few buildings from our hostel. Nothing seemed to be happening, we joined the spectators, and learned that there had been a demonstration and that this show of strength and power was to prevent any more stuff from happening. People shook their heads, rolled their eyes, and said that this kind of thing happened a lot in that particular neighborhood. Oh well.
However, the World Cup Soccer games were on — and that was what really interested the Germans. Television sets were set up everywhere, indoors and outdoors, every restaurant had its beer and/or dinner crowd on the sidewalks glued to the TV sets, and huge monitors were set up in parks. In the end, their excitement paid off.