Friday, June 15, 2012

Back to Deutschland

I've been lucky enough to visit to Germany four times now and have always really enjoyed my time there. Even though after eight years of school lessons I'm completely rubbish at the language.

This time I got to visit the lovely city of Hamburg, thanks to my work writing my Bron in The Don's. I was sent to stay at, attend the opening and review the generator

After four months of backpacking around Europe and dozens of trips since, I consider myself a bit of an expert on staying at a hostel. I’ve probably stayed in all types – good hostels with great social areas but dodgy beds; 16 bed mixed dorms with noisy nightmovers; and even in a private room with an ensuite. I’ve had amazing service and great value for money as well as the complete opposite – dodgy hygiene and being ripped off. So when I got asked to visit Hamburg to attend a hostel grand opening, I jumped at the chance.

The hostel opening was for Generator Hostels’ brand new (well six months old) Hostel located in the heart of Hamburg. I say heart literally as it sits directly outside an exit to the central train station. I checked in and went downstairs to attend the welcome party where I met a representative and got given the grand tour. Previously a hostel, factory and a recording studio (The Beatles recorded a song there!), most recently the hostel had been a several yearlong restoration project, and I would have to say it was well worth the effort.

I got to view several types of rooms from six bed dorms, to privates and all of them were clean, fresh and welcoming. They even have female dorms and as a single female traveller this type of accommodation is always welcome. The best part about the rooms was that they all had individual bathrooms so no awkward waiting in hallways in your pj’s with your washbag.

Once the tour of the rooms was over, it was down into the party area where the celebrations were well underway. The social area is broken up into a café lounge, bar with outdoor area and sunken breakfast bar and games room. If you fancy getting online – there is a computer lounge (plus free wifi through the entire place) in the mezzanine so if you’re a single traveller or just want to meet new people there is no shortage of options.

The party was great fun and even with my dodgy German (i.e. non-existent) I managed to spend the night chatting away and enjoying the atmosphere. After a few drinks and some delicious food (schnitzel and pretzels canapés – how German!) it was time to head out and see some of the Hamburg nightlife. I’m not sure where we went as I was taken out by a German speaker but the club seemed like fun and we had a bit of a dance before calling it a night.

The next day it was breakfast at the hostel – a variety of cold cuts, cereal and toast for a reasonable €5.50 – before heading off to explore the city. Hamburg was great to visit as you can see much of it on foot. I set off from the hostel along the canal and like a good shopaholic discovered the Gansemarkt – the central shopping and café area. I spent a little while wandering around this area before weaving my way back through and finding the town hall. The ‘Rathaus’ as the Germans say is right by the canal and directly in front of a large square where you can find a perfect spot to grab a currywurst or bucket of frittes with a bier before settling down on the many steps and watching the crowds go by.

After a mid-morning snack it was onto the Lake Alster which is in the middle of the city and home to many boat tours and activities including row boats and sail boats. For €13 I jumped on a tourist boat and spent an hour being guided around the sites of the lake. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what these sites where as the guide was only German speaking but it was still a great way to explore a different side of the city and watch the rowing teams train, sailboats find their way across the lake and ogle some gorgeous old houses smack bang on the banks.

After my trip around the lake I stopped by one of the many Eis Café’s to grab an ice cream before jumping on the U-Bahn out to St Pauli. Home to the red light district, St Pauli is also home to St Michaelis Church. St Michaelis is Hamburg’s oldest church and has been on the site for several centuries however due to a series of unfortunate accidents the church currently on site is the third one after fires, war and thunderstorms had destroyed the others. The best part about these renovations means that unlike many other churches around London this one has an elevator to the top! Thankfully, for those who are unfit, it’s a €4 fee and a short elevator ride to the top for some perfect views of the city.

Heading up to the top meant I got the chance to ‘see’ the city with the short amount of time I had to visit. I was lucky that it was a pretty clear day so I battled through the wind to check out the 360 views of glorious Hamburg. From the cranes and containers of the docks, across the parks and into the city to the peaks of other churches and city hall, it made for a really pretty view.

After all the walking around and sightseeing it was time for a drink so I wandered down to the red light district famous for its bars and clubs and other kind of establishments. The district is quite long and as I walked along the ‘Reeperbahn’ I was jostled by many football fans on their way out to watch Germany in the Euro Championships. The bars nestled between strip clubs and peep shows were chock full of spectators which made for a fun lively mood. I found a cheap restaurant and grabbed a bite to eat and drink while I watched the game. While I am sure the rest of the red light district is good fun I decided to pass on any other activities and head back to the hostel.

Hamburg is a great place to visit and I was sorry that I only had a short time as this laid back thoroughly German city has a lot to offer.

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