Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Friday, September 30, 2005

Berlin - Day 1

With a little trepidation I left the station - lanes full of taxis ringed the exit. Should I try to get a taxi or should I walk? I had an idea where abouts the hotel was but I couldn't see the landmark that it was near. I know that it was just done from the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche but it was no-where to be seen. A little hesitantly I thought I'd try the taxi - as the driver came out and opened his boot, I first got him to look at the address. I didn't want another Cologne experience. He looked and then thought, then decided no he wouldn't take me. He told me that it was "geradeaus und links." Luckily I knew what that meant and I didn't really want to argue the point so I walked. I wasn't quite sure how "geradeaus" I had to go before going "links" and when I found the church I wasn't sure which of the two roads to take. I eventually took the road that lead to the tourist information centre - they would be able to give me a map and probably tell me where the hotel was.

Well, they sold me a map but did direct me to the hotel - I was almost there, it's actually in the neighbouring complex!

I'm was very pleased with the room - it's probably the largest I've had so far. The view from the window was okay as well.


After settling in I decided to check out KaDeWe - so armed with the cameraphone I headed down the road. KaDeWe is only 2 blocks away.

Fans of "The Amazing Race" would recognise this structure - it's just outside the hotel.

And this is the rear of KaDeWe - talk about impressive. It rivals Harrods in size - interesting that it's listed as being the largest department store in continental Europe. KaDeWe stands for Kaufthaus des Westens and the building was pretty well destroyed in WW2 - although like many things, it was rebuilt, bigger and better.

My main interest in coming here was to visit it's food hall - like the Alsterhaus in Hamburg it's not to be found on ground level, but in this case, the 6th floor.

It wouldn't be an understatement to say that one could get lost in here - as it's something that I seemed to do on this floor. Just when I thought I'd seen all of it a new section would open up.

Why have one Champagne Bar when you can have four - Champagne Jacquart, Moët & Chandon, Roederer and Veuve Clicquot.

Cured meats weren't just divided into countries of orgin, the local german product was divided into regions as well. I've never seen so many hams, salamis and sausages in all my life. I never even thought so many varieties existed.

French cheese was given it's own section as was French pastries and bread - Lenôtre the in-house baker. Paul Bocuse was present in a dining area.

Then we had the vegetables, fruits, salads, tea, coffee, conserves, pasta, caviar and foie gras, hors d'oevres and antipasto, wines and spirits and who can leave out the meat and fish.

Needless to say I didn't leave empty handed gathering a couple of cheeses and a little treat from Lenôtre.

On the way out I spied this contraption
It's the Philips "Perfect Draft" just stick your keg into the machine and you have beer on tap, becks of course - it's a mandatory requirement for all homes to have at least one.

Since this should predominately be a a food blog, here's some of the goodies
DSC01661.JPG DSC01663.JPG
DSC01664.JPG DSC01665.JPG
Le Rustique Camembert from Normandie - a little time out of the fridge and it oozes perfectly. This is considered a commercial cheese and it's made from pasteurised milk.

DSC01667.JPG DSC01668.JPG
Roucoulons from Comté de Nice region of France. A brie style made from pasteurised and unpasterised milk. It has the characteristic of a washed rind with that lovely earthy aroma that fills your fridge.

This was a most enjoyable sunflower seed roll, beautifully crisp with soft insides.

What's in the package?
DSC01671.JPG's a pistachio torte
I'm going to have to finish it off tomorrow.

Train: Hamburg - Berlin

At least last night there was silence in the room next door. Perhaps having a word to Lin did the trick.

I realise I've been remiss to actually show you the accomodations - now my room wasn't the flashiest, the bathroom was minute and even with the nut next door, it's a very friendly place and in a great position for touring Hamburg. It's on a pedestrian only strip so it's quiet but there's also plenty of restaurants to try out. I'd come back, perhaps get one of the larger rooms.

This was my room - it's only a double bed but it was comfortable enough.
The view from the window wasn't exactly inspiring

This is the front of the Hotel - it's an attractive building - in the breakfast room it's still has it's original features with elaborate cornices and roses.

When it's time to go I bid Lin farewell, and once again she apologies for the noise. We chat for a little while and I must say, Lin would be one of the main reasons I'd return. She was friendly and helpful, handing out maps and giving out directions and offering suggestions of places to see.

Eventually I head out - I had planned to walk to the taxi rank but good fortune shines upon me, when a taxi pulls up at the lights right on the corner. Going to the station? - no problem for this driver.

DSC01645.JPG DSC01646.JPG
Hamburg Station certainly is large - I really like it's design - it's simple, elegant and practical.
While waiting on the platform this train caught my attention - the name made me chuckle.


Boarding the train was no easy feat - for the first time there's no vacant seat in the non-smoking carriage yet the smoking section is basically empty. You'd think it would be the other way around. Luckily the other two people didn't smoke so it ended up being a fairly comfortable ride.

One of the hardest parts of getting to this seat was making my way through the previous carriage. The aisle was blocked as a couple of little old ladies tried to fit their 10 pieces of luggage into their seating area. The people behind me were not as patient as I, shouting over my shoulder at them. They weren't the only ones with bags blocking the aisles - a ridiculous situation when you consider that the luggage compartment at the end of the carriage was empty! I've got some nice bruises from people's bags being jutted into me. Lovely.

During the trip I decide to have a look at the restaurant car. A combination of smoke haze and huge queue sends me scurrying back to my seat.

An hour into the trip an attendant walks through handing out "welcome to 1st class" packs. Sounds impressive - it consists of a wet towelette and a mini packet of Haribo Goldbären (like gummy bears)

I don't know why but this trip has been one of the most boring I've had - it's only 1 and a half hours to Berlin but it felt like I travelled for 5.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hamburg - Day 4

It couldn't last, could it? Uninterrupted sleep, what was I thinking?

I should return to last night as I was trying to sleep the noises in the room next door began to build. First, it was a scrap here and a bang there until it progressed onto what sounded like furniture rearranging. Only stopping when perhaps the Feng shui was just right or the voices in their head told them they'd done enough to appease the dark overload.

After those shennanigans, I was woken abruptly, just after 6am to a series of loud bangs. Then came the stomping, more banging and the return of the furniture rearranging. You'd think a herd of elephants was in the adjacent room. It boggles the mind to think one person could make so much noise in such a tiny room. I could feel my germanic good vibes dissipating quickly.

I'd decided, in light of my northern neighbour that I would be visiting the Kuntshalle, that's not right, Kunsthalle. It's the museum of art and supposedly one of the most important art galleries in Germany.

After having flicked through the tourist information, a visit to the Ovelgönne historic harbour was also on the cards. They have on display 20 restored old ships.

I won't bore you with breakfast details as it's the same as the last two days.

As I leave for the day and lock my room, who should be coming out of their room to also leave? The noisy swine from next door. From appearance, I can't tell if it's a butch girl or an effeminate male. I do know whatever they are, they are a first class *@((@!_!*#&#(.

First item on the agenda is a train from Stephanplatz to Lucksbrucken - good timing sees me waiting less than a minute for the train's arrival. Less than 15 minutes later I reach the destination. Now I know that the 112 bus runs from here to Ovelgönne, I'm just not quite sure where the stop is. I eventually find it, when a bus pulls up on the opposite side of the road. A bad set of traffic lights see me miss it "by that much" (Vale Don Adams).

It's a 15 minute wait for the next one, however Germany's timing is still up the creak and the bus arrives late. For god sake, they need to settle this election.

As fate seems to be going on this trip, my arrival at Ovelgönne coincides with the starting of the rain. I only manage a few shots before I call it quits. The rain is coming down way too heavily and the lens is smattered with rain drops. I do take some shots with the camera phone just to give a general idea of the place.


It's while I'm at the dock that I discover that there's another way here - and that's by the HVV ferry service - it will actually take me back to Lucksbrucken.

Some 10 minutes later the ferry rolls up and by this stage the rain is hammering down. During the trip you can also feel how the ferry is struggling under the force of the waves, I certainly wouldn't have wanted to have been on that little canal boat with these waters - I'd be needing a bucket to bail out the water.

It's here that I meet the gentle natured german school children...Not. What a feral bunch and their in-effectual teachers would do our most useless state school teachers proud. These kids were basically doing whatever they wanted, smashing each other into walls and other people. I managed to dodge a bag in the face during one of their shoving matches. They were also locking each other in the toilet. I wonder if these kids are here from Cologne?

Mental note to self: learn to swear in german

I had thought about visiting the Rickmer Rickmer's ship at Langebrucken but quickly decide against it once I see the number of school kids heading that way. I'd probably end up overboard.

After now having wasted an hour without accomplishing anything and the rain not seeming to abate, I decide to visit the Kunts, umm Kunsthall.

The train took me to Hamburg Sud where I got to see this poster...
Paalo will be busting his flute that he missed seeing Jethro Tull playing Aqualung Live.

There's no shortage of taxi's at this station and from here it's a short but damp walk to the gallery (once I worked out where it was).


What can I say about Hamburger Kunsthalle? It wouldn't surprise me to find Ralph Rembrants and Joe Van Goghs in this gallery. I think you really need more than one painting to justify calling it the Rembrant room.

In comparison to say the National Gallery in London, this one is kinda sad. At the Picasso room, I was expecting work by Peter Picasso. Instead, to be fair, they were Picasso's - sketches, not paintings.

It was now time to check out the contemporary art section - consultng the map proved difficult as it really didn't make any sense. I ended up asking the ticket seller, she nodded and smiled and efficiently gave the directions. Maybe she does it alot.

You have to go through the museum shop and through some other rooms and then through the restaurant and then some a flight of stairs and bingo bango you are there! Simple isn't it? German effeciency at work again.

Since I was in the shop I took the opportunity to look for something to buy, maybe a guide on the collection. It was slightly surprising that everything was in German. That made my decision pretty easy - I would be getting nothing.

As I continued on I was stopped at a doorway - I had no idea what the guard was saying, so I pointed to my map - eventually she said ticket. Oh, I have to show her my ticket before I could get any further. You'd think you'd hire guards that spoke more than 2 words of english, but that's just crazy talk.

The contemporary art collection certainly is....different. I think they theory behind it is to make it as big as possible. I have to be especially careful in places in case I can't recognise where the art stops and the floor starts.

Certain sections are closed off as more installations are being set up - I pass by a unpainted wall and I'm still not sure whether that was one of the pieces of "art" or just an unpainted wall.

The contemporary art building is designed as a hollowed (it's not the only thing hollow in this gallery) cube, at the base of the hollow core is a sculpture - and it so reminded me of the Simpson's episode when Homer becomes an artist. This thing had chairs and umbrellas hanging off - I swear there must be a bbq in there somewhere.

They say good art is supposed to evoke an emotional response - I wonder if hysterical laughter is an appropriate response?

When I eventually leave the gallery it's still rainy so I train back to the hotel - where I have a late lunch in the hole in the wall restaurant. This place is quite interesting. Run by Italians it only has one (maybe two) choices for lunch and it changes daily. There really isn't seating you just stand up along the bars and eat there.

What can I say about this simple dish of Prawns and potatoes in a spicy tomato broth. Simply Divine! Huge fresh prawns, with a slight crispness as you bite into them, the flesh vibrant and juicy. Potatoes pieces like sponges absorbing the prawn flavours. The tomato broth offering a perfectly matched spice to compliment the prawns - the crusty italian bread perfect for soaking up the juices. Hmm, you can say I like it.

If you'd like to see more pictures from today click on the link
Hamburg Set

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hamburg - Day 3

Another uninterrupted sleep, I could get used to it. Breakfast is as per the last however many days. I've got it down to a fine art - I make a boiled egg, cheese and proscuitto roll. Don't try it at home, I'm a trained professional.

I hop on the train at Stephansplatz and it's a very quick trip to Hamburg Sud Hbf. Now, this is the first time I've even heard of Hamburg Sud. Seems the station is that big that it's divided into north and south.

DSC01586.JPG DSC_3911.JPG

I manage to get another map from the Tourist Office - what a surprise they don't charge anything for it.

With the new and improved map I plot out the course to the first target, the delightfully named Spitalestrasse and no it's doesn't live up to it's name.

Along the way I pass way too close to one of the stations Pissoirs and I contemplate plucking out of my eyeballs and dunking them in bleach.

The Spitalerstrasse (thank god it's not in cologne) is a pedestrian mall - one of several in the area.


The Spitalerstrasse links to another pedestrianised street, Mönckebergstrasse or "Mo" as it's popularly known - for some reason the knick-name "Spit" never really took off for poor ole Spitalerstrasse

There are some nice buildings on this street

There's a Burger King right behind this fountain and it's hard to take a photo and not show any of it's signage.

The news last night had a story that one of the department stores is giving you a free return flight to new york if you buy their €199.95 jacket. I wandered by the window display advertising the offer.

My aim in coming this way is to visit the churches of St Petri and St Jacobi.

When I arrive at St Petri I find that Christo's beat me too it.
No, really, it's having work done so that's the best I can do.

I do however really like the building that's on the lane right next to the church

It's then off to St Jacobi - the interior of which is fairly unexpiring. It has that white walled coldness of a Lutheran church and some quite odd decorations. It's main feature is it's massive organ - umm, that just doesn't look right. The Arp Schnitger organ was placed in a bomb shelter which was fortuitous considering the church was bombed and destroyed. It looks like something Liberace would have owned - it's hideously baroque.


I have to say that modern stained glass is crap - and stained glass from the 1960's is über crap, pardon my german and this church is home to crap stained glass. For all the complaints about the opulence or decadence of catholic churches, the lutherans certainly weren't shy when it came to building pulpits.

So far I'm batting none for 2 in finding a decent church today so it's time to go to my final spot, St Katherine's.


And now it's none for 3. Though in this one, I get the cranky church lady. This church was weird - it has the feel of a hallelluia church. The windows near the vaulted ceiling should be glass or stained glass, instead they had taped up cardboard with "drawings" that some hideous little darlings had created.

On one of the side aisles, a mound of wood lay on the floor - from one of the leaflets I gather they had made some kind of ladder going up to the roof - or at least that's what the diagram looked like it was. And no, I don't know why, so don't ask me.

As is my usual thing, I give some money for the upkeep of the church. I dropped in my coins as I'm leaving I just nod and smile at the church lady who's holed up her desk and she just looks at me as if I've taken a piss in the baptismal font. Okay, where's the coat hanger so I can get my money back. Maybe she knew I'm with the opposition.

So to the final judgement. The best church in hamburg is the bombed out ruin of St Nikolai. Don't bother with the others.

The Zippelhaus runs in front of St Kat's, parallel to the canal and on the other side is the area known as the Speicherstadt. These are late 19th century red brick warehouses.


At this stage it's raining so I decide to call it quit and head back to the hotel, taking the opportunity for a early(ish) lunch.

I decide to take a chance and risk a cruise around the Alster - I write off the 1.30 and 3.00 cruises as they include punch (and I don't want another drunk german experience) - and settle on the 3.30pm, which will be the 3rd last of the day.

I get my ticket and wait on board, taking a seat in the outside rear section of the boat. Right on time, we set sail, I shortly discover that I'm the only one onboard. It makes for a very easy trip for the captain since he doesn't bother with the commentary. I have however got an english information sheet so I'm all set.

The Jungfernstieg is the site of the 13th century dam on the Alster river - it's then split into two, the Binnen(Inner) and Außen(Outer) by the two bridges, Lombard and Kennedy

This is the view of the Binnenalster from Jungfernstieg towards Ballindamm...
...and this is the Lombard Bridge.

The TV tower is 890 feet high

Krugkoppel Bridge just one of Hamburg's 2428 bridges, yes, it's more than any other city in Europe, yes, it's more than venice.

I think Paalo will like this little boat....
it goes very well with this house on the shores of the Außenalster

Heading back, trouble was soon at hand, dark clouds were building...the question is would we make it to shore in time

Travelling under the Kennedy Bridge I couldn't help but wonder
would it be in better condition if he said "ich bin ein hamburger?"

The storm hit about 10 minutes from shore - it was quite a heavy downpour but mercifully brief. By the time I reached shore, the rain was just a light sprinkle.

(The skyline with the spires of the Rathaus and St Nikolai)

I had thought about catching the 4.45 canal boat - partly because I felt bad that they went around with only me on board, but then the weather changed again and it started to pour. Maybe this was a message from above warning me of folly? That thought firmed in my mind when I decided to forgo the trip and head back to the hotel, the rain stopped. Spooky eh?

For dinner I go to another nearby restaurant.

I have a lobster cream soup - there's no photo - you all should know what it looks like. It had the appropriate lobster colour and chunks of lobster through the soup. It was quite creamy. A good soup.

As I waited for the main to arrive I thought about the last few weeks and that I've hardly had any meat at fact it's almost like I was a vegetarian. I know I just had lobster but fish don't count, neither do chicken, they aren't meat. And eggs don't count either, or milk or yoghurt. I admit I have had salami and sausages but well, I haven't eaten anything with a face, that's what really matters. I mean, the face would have been all ground up before it went into those sausages so that doesn't count anyway. Yep, I've been as much of a vegetarian as most vegetarians are.

And the reason for my dietary thoughts was bought about by my choice for main - Wiener Schnitzel! It was served with traditionally cooked peas and carrots - I suppose microwaving is traditional. I shouldn't be that harsh, they were very nice baby peas. The schnitzel was a bit odd since one pieced tasted like pork and the other veal, the menu had stated it was veal. Maybe they ran out. Neither had a face so I'm still a vegetarian.

If you'd like to see more photos from today just click on the link
Hamburg Set
Hamburg Alster Cruise