Friday, July 7, 2017

Hamburg (July 5 - July 7)

Continuing the adventure that started in Singapore, stopped in Copenhagen, and now in Hamburg, Germany...

After arriving, Pat and I went to our hotel, Centro Hotel Boutique 56, across the street from the station; Jenny's family had and hour to look around before boarding a train to Berlin and the start of their adventure, traveling through Europe.

Our room at the hotel was at the front, facing the station. No air conditioning, so the windows had to be left open all night. Less than ideal, as the street noise (cars, police and the restaurant below our window) PLUS no lift!

Ever stop somewhere where you probably shouldn't have? Although we had wanted to visit Hamburg to see the Miniatur Wunderland, this was not when we should have done it. The city was preparing for the G20 meeting the coming weekend.

Our friends, Jim and Mary Jane, had visited the Miniatur Wunderland, a couple of years ago and recommended it to us. This is a fantastic model train - bills itself as the largest model railroad in the world. I have no problem believing them! As the brochure points out, there are:
  • 1,040 locomotives
  • 280 moving cars and trucks
  • 385,000 lights
  • 260,000 figurines
  • flight simulation of Knuffingen Airport
  • 15,400 meters of track (9.6 miles)
  • controlled by 50 computers
  • 9 areas 
Make sure to click on these photos to see a larger version and all their details:

The old wharehouse where the Miniatur
Wunderland is located







A concert being held in a large stadium

Look at the detail of the crowd at the concert

On the beach


The little white flags are visitors'
wishes for a better world

An invitation to leave a flag
with a comment on world peace

A Switzerland area

Busy sea port

Keeping an eye on operations

Some of the control cabinets

One of the many workshops

One of the best areas is the airport, with planes taking off and landing, ground vehicles moving around, including fire-fighting equipment rushing to a crashed plane.

Watching action at the airport



A plane preparing to takeoff

Rolling down the runway

Starting liftoff

As the plane approaches, the wall opens up

A collapsed nose wheel

After a couple of hours watching trains, we left to walk to the fish market. Unfortunately the stalls had already closes so the only things still open were restaurants.

On the way back toward our hotel, we passed through an area where preparations were underway to protest the G20. All along the area between the fish market and the train station we saw large groups of police and military (some convoys of police had over 20 cars). Some businesses along our route were boarding up their windows. All day, and most of the night, we heard sirens.

By the time we ventured out for dinner the streets were eerily empty of cars. Like the scene in an apocalypse movie. Pat picked up a "Welcome to Hell" poster and I thought for sure out photos were taken and added to a database somewhere. Gulp.

One of the many signs protesting the G20



This van is covered with "G20 Welcome
to Hell" posters (Pat has one of the posters)

This bar seemed to be the protest hangout

Some of the assault vehicles staged for the protest

Many places were being boarded up

This is part of a 21-van police caravan that passed us

At the recommendation of Jim's sister, we ate dinner at the Old Commercial Room, across from St. Michaelis church, which we had visited earlier in the afternoon. We were glad for the recommendation. The food was excellent and with the G20 disruption we were able to get a good table immediately - not a busy night for them.

Below are a couple of photos, taken while we walked around.

One of the canals in the redeveloped water front

Outside one of the breweries

Very interesting store front

The Hamburg train station

Then next morning, our train to Paris (via Cologne) was supposed to leave at 07:00. When we arrived, there were large groups of police patrolling the building and the platforms. Many of them were carrying automatic weapons; all wore bullet-proof vests and helmets. Not exactly something that makes anyone feel comfortable - we could easily become "collateral damage".

Our train did not arrive at our platform on time - it was nearly 2 hours late because of delays in other cities while the police checked boarding passengers headed to Hamburg. Any German train that is late by more than 90 minutes is cause for a ticket price refund. We have submitted the paperwork - we'll see.

Because of the delays leaving Hamburg, we arrived in Cologne, several hours late and missed our connection to Paris. The next scheduled train to Paris would not get us to Gare du Nord until after midnight. This meant we would not get to meet our AirBnB hosts and get instructions about their place.

In order to arrive in Paris at a more reasonable time, we caught a train to Brussels, and then on to Paris, arriving in Paris about 7:30 PM - still too late to meet our hosts.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Copenhagen (June 30 - July 5)

After a 4 hour layover in Bangkok, our flight from Singapore arrived in Copenhagen at about 7:30 PM. Pat and I took a cab to our AirBnB. The driver was not one of the better ones we've had: seemed to have trouble using his GPS and had to reload it several times - each time I had to look up the address again. He had to pull over three times to reset his GPS, promising that he was not charging for these delays.

When we finally got to our AirBnB we met the owner who showed us her apartment and explained about the creaky floors and the neighbor below. We would be here until July 5. Our host is a painter so we got to enjoy some of her work. Pat especially liked the piece hung over the bed.

View from our AirBnB

Pat liked the paintings by the owner

Observations on Copenhagen:
  • Definitely cooler than Singapore
  • Very flat
  • Lots of bicycles being ridden all the time, even in the rain
  • Lots of rain
  • Bike lanes on all the main roads
  • Bike lanes were referred to, by one of our walking-tour guides, as "kill zones" - cars will often stop for you, but not bikes!
  • The neighborhood we stayed in was rather generic, almost industrial looking, but safe with convenient stores and a bus stop
  • Bus transportation was good - fares base on the ride, not the distance; therefore, it cost the same to ride one stop or 10 stops.
  • Parks had lots of things for children 
We did a very good walking tour of Copenhagen. They are provided free, meeting outside the city hall, and consequently are busy. When we assembled, the crowd had to be broken into 4-5 groups of 15-20. Our guide was from Peru, but had studied and lived in Copenhagen for many years, He was funny and kept the boys well entertained (and us too). The tour lasted a little over 3 hours, lots of walking, and sporadic rain.

Copenhagen's City Hall

There were so many of us the tour guides
had to split us into smaller groups

One of the modified bikes on the plaza,
looking like a motorcycle

Another bike modification

One of the streets included on our tour

Our Peruvian tour guide

Drew helping the tour guide describe the major islands of Denmark

Kylie and Bryan arrived from Charlotte a couple of days after us - our "mob" was now grew to 8 strong.

One of the days included a  Netto-Bådene cruise on the canals and waterways of Copenhagen. Halfway through the 1 hour tour, the rain came down heavily. As I was the only one with an umbrella, we all crowded under it. I sure wish we had a photo of that, but everyone kept their phones and cameras dry, not necessarily our heads.

Jenny and kids decide to sit way in
the back (we moved back, too)

Ai Weiwei installation

We are turning around to head out of this
part of the canal

Heading out

New opera house

Old submarine hanger and Drew

One of our most memorable meals was at  Restaurant Under Uret for  smørrebrød. We each ordered a different meal and then passed the plates so everyone could have a sample, if they were so inclined.

Our order marked with "A"

The menu

Marinated herring

Warm, home-made liver pate with beetroot and bacon

Old, strong cheese with lard, jelly and rum

Potato with chives, red onion, roasted onions and bacon

Fried herring in marinade

Curry-spiced herring of the house

Roast beef

Literally, under the clock

The day before we left Copenhagen was spent at  Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world, opened in 1843. Jenny's coworkers had given her tickets for all of us - what a nice gift. I rode Dæmonen (The Demon), a roller coaster with 3 separated instances where you are up-side-down, with Drew, Kylie and Bryan.

On our way toward Tivoli Gardens

Heading into Tivoli

One of the many upside-down rides Kylie and Bryan rode

Kylie and Drew in a much tamer ride

Drake driving Ms.Jenny

Next to last row: Drew, Me, Kylie, Bryan

The following morning, July 5, we all went to the station to catch trains to Hamburg, Germany. The interesting thing about this train was when it reached the coast, it was loaded onto a ferry for the trip to Germany. While on the ferry, we all had to leave the train and go into the dining facilities and souvenir store area. Once docked in Germany, we re-boarded the train.