Last week in Rotterdam, Netherlands there was an international debating event called DAPDI. It ended on Friday, but due to the maintenance on European rail tracks, I could book my train ticket home for not earlier than Monday.
Although DAPDI was an interesting, however exhausting event, I experienced the influx of new energy when my friends, Julia and Ali, invited me to their place. This very place was Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, HH for short.
I have never been there before, so I could not miss this opportunity. I could not miss any opportunity to visit new places in general. Until I can afford it or someone pays for that. However, the latter almost never happens.
Since I am only a poor student from Eastern Europe, everything had to be planned in a way that will meet very strict budget constraints. The masterplan was to go to HH, spend weekend there in a cheapest place possible. Unfortunately, Ali couldn’t provide me crash at his own place, so I had to look around for something on my own. I wanted to have possibly most fun and afterwards, somewhere in Germany, catch the train in the sole true eastern direction. Otherwise, I would not have utilised my €29 I have spent on the train ticket in saver’s early booking offer two months ago.
So on Saturday, 26th of June, at 4am, I have left MJHQ (Mark-Jan’s Headquarters) and followed towards Rotterdam Central Station, despite the fact, taking the train was not my aim at all. For some reason, main train stations in most big cities in Europe, are also main bus and coach terminals, or at least they are located somewhere nearby. And there was my Eurolines coach waiting to bring me to the desired destination in about nine hours.
The bus was surprisingly well equipped, with electric socket, very slow, but working enough to send e-mails, Wi-Fi and headphones socket in each seat. The last one seemed the most surprising feature to me in times, where everyone keeps music on own devices, so I immediately decided to plug in, and using the built-in Blaupunkt control panel, I wanted to find out what is the offered audio content.
Each second channel worked. All of them offered music, but one channel was providing an audiobook in Czech. Decided to listen to it for something like 20 minutes, surprised that I am able not only to get the main plot of the book, but enjoy the funny (because of language, content or both; hard to say) description of the book’s world.
Later I switched to my own kindle and managed to read another 30% of the second Witcher book in its native language, not because I am that smart, but because for some reason me and Andrzej Sapkowski happened to be born in the same country and speak the same language. Although I have read it before long time ago, I do not remember it at all and back then I have not found it interesting. It seems I was too immature to understand and enjoy many explicit parts of it. Yes, this book is definitely not for kids, although I know many people claiming opposite. They have probably never read it. But the biggest advantage of having the re-read of the saga is possibility to annoy Haralds, who currently knows only the video game, with spoilers because why the hell not?
After nine hours of listening, reading, sleeping and being controlled by Bundespolizei at the German border (what somehow happened to be my first document control within Schengen zone I have ever experienced), with half an hour delay, I have finally arrived to Hamburg.
Immediately after getting out of the vehicle, I could not miss the big and shiny building of the hostel I have my room booked at, for as little as €21 per night with breakfast(!). It looked more like 3+ star hotel rather than youth hostel. I had to wait quite some time in a queue at the reception desk, but couple of minutes was enough to notice a guy dressed like a penis and girls dressed like bees in T-shirts with slogan “Beee, beee, beee, today we bee without men!”, whatever it was supposed to mean. Meanwhile, one could notice a tent with a caption “Lampedusa in Hamburg”.
Having checked in, happy that nice lady at the reception desk understood my German, I moved into my room, I could be possibly sharing with up to 7 other people.
But remember, this is Germany. Once I had to spend a night in the hostel in Eindhoven, I have just got instruction how to get to my room and was asked to take any bed that is not occupied yet. Of course, room was always open. But here it was not an issue. I got my key card, to enter the room and the building. This room could be entered only by people with the right key card. It was also equipped with own bathroom and toilet, which were clean at least as the whole building was opened for visitors just yesterday. With the latter thing, I was not that wrong though. The whole hostel was opened just year ago.
Having refreshed myself, in a dwarf-sized but clean bathroom, and put my staff in a chest under my bed, I went out to meet my hosts of the day. They were waiting outside.
Hopefully happy to see me, Julia and Ali took me around the city. We passed again by strange creatures described in the previous part, but at that time they were demonstrating on a street. There was also another anti-Israeli protest nearby. Regardless of the part of the city one was in, it was really hard not to hear all the noise caused by the users of right to freedom of expression.
Having bought public transport ticket in a machine, which was not willing to accept my Dutch Maestro card (similar to Netherlands, forget about paying with any other types of cards) and announcing that only true German Maestros are accepted, we decided to take a boat trip. As in Rotterdam, there are boats that are part of public transport system. Therefore, 1-day ticket for just €5.90 allows you to take subway, fast rail, busses and ferries as much as you want.
We decided to take round trip with a ferry. So we took it to the end stop and then returned. It seems like Russian tourists also discovered this fancy way for having a boat trip for little money.
Later we went to the Hamburger Dom. If you hear about “dom” in Germany, you probably think of this one.
But HH is a place where some things do not reflect their names. And this is the first case. Hamburger Dom is far away from the place of Christian cult.
I was quite lucky to see it, since Hamburger Dom takes place only twice a year, each time it is one month long.
We have together enjoyed some attractions, Ali managed to successfully struggle for winning a minion for Julia.
Dom is just next to the St. Pauli subway station. This name reflects though to a district that completely has nothing to do with holiness. It would be rather compared with Red Light District in Amsterdam, but it is better. The variety of services available in both places is similar, however Hamburg does not offer windows with ladies advertising themselves behind them. In my opinion, it is more genuine place of meeting for many subcultures, dressed in, at least, interesting way, sometimes stinking, but surely sitting on the pavement and drinking from bottles of unknown content. Sorry to all Dutchies, but you do not get both such people and bottles with unknown content in Amsterdam.
Having taken pizza for a dinner, this was the end of the day and end of my interaction with Julia and Ali. On Sunday, I wanted to discover city on my own, given that now at least I know the most important places, which is quite important for not getting lost.
Second day began with a, surprisingly good for this price, breakfast at the hostel. Later on, visit at the ATM to have some cash, given that my Maestro card is not working everywhere here.
At 10am, it seems I was the first visitor of “Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe” that Sunday. It is very close to the main rail station, therefore my hostel as well. For this reason it was my first destination for this day.
The general idea behind the museum resembles me British Museum I visited in January, during totally crazy trip to London which I will maybe describe in another post, another time.
There are many exhibitions at the same time, organised by periods and regions or particular artists. The difference is though, that in HH, you need to buy a ticket, while Brits allow you to see stuff they probably mostly robbed from own colonies but not only for free. I have also noticed The Sign.
Andy Warhol’s works exhibition was claimed to be the biggest attraction of the museum. However, I thought that such well-advertised event would take more than just one room of the whole huge building.
The next place was “Deichtor Halle”, and in particular “Haus der Photografie”. In my opinion, it was the most interesting place of all. There were current artistic, press and social campaign photos as well as illustrations (it was said “Photografie” only, right?) organised in one big hall.
Some of them attracted my attention more, like “The Astonishing Tales of The Time Travelling Woman” comic, which featured Angela Merkel travelling backwards in time to visit the greatest economists of the past and ask them for the solution to the Eurozone crisis. Unfortunately, I could not find full version on the net, I can only provide you with this poor spoiler (German only). Germans are really good in protecting their copyrights and they do it at any price.
Other one was “iDemo” (German only) campaign organised by “Die PARTEI” (“The Party”), which happened before the most recent elections to the European Parliament in May 2014. It featured a group of people manifesting at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin against or in favour of quite random motions. It actually made me think a lot about the role and status of the civic society in Europe.
The most hilarious thing though is the fact, that what seems a satiric group, is an actual party and won exactly one seat in last European elections.
All the descriptions under other photos and illustrations, as well as their content itself, were only in German. Also, the museum I have visited before had most of the information available in English, but still significant part of it was only in German. So one would not fully enjoy it, if does not know the language of Goethe and Schiller. If you suffer for this reason, I will be happy to be your guide and interpreter. Then, you will be able to enjoy up to 90% of the stuff.
Each of these places took me about three hours. After that I decided to walk through the boulevard along the Elbe river, then headed towards St. Michael’s cathedra, where I bought some postcards and decided not to enter the tower. I went back to the boulevard and took the subway to St. Pauli, where I started looking around for The Beatles monument, we could not find together yesterday. And after walking the main street twice, asking three people, finally found it. And was disappointed.
Well, there is a principle behind it. You can take bunch of friends, stand here and take photo as you were The Beatles. But this should be more a thing for Hamburger Dom and one could make nice business on it, rather than putting such installation on the street and claiming it to be a monument. But it is still important, that Hamburg episode of the band was commemorated somehow.
Walking back, still in St. Pauli, I have noticed The Second Sign.
Day 3 And Epilogue
Well, not much happened during day 3.
Kunsthalle is closed on Mondays, so I still could not visit it. Therefore, I had really nothing to do till 10pm, when my bus was departing to Hannover.
I was really happy. I am afraid it is my first day in very long time, when I did not have to hurry anywhere. I could walk around, if I wanted. I could read a book, if I wanted. I could sleep, if I wanted. I could write postcards, if I wanted. And actually I did all of it.
After writing all the postcards, I went to the Deutsche Post office at the rail station. Sir, who was in charge that day was quite surprised with wide-array of destinations I was sending postcards to. I am sure, he never saw a United World College student/alumni because they have much more friends in fancier places. Unfortunately to me, I have not studied at such.
But returning to my constructive, postcards have been sent to two continents, including, but not limited to highly rural area in “Poland’s Wild East”, very urban area of Hong Kong, and perhaps even more urban area of Russian capital and some places in Chinese mainland.
For some reason, sending each postcard cost exactly the same, regardless how far away was its destination.
In the evening I went to the bus station. And I noticed Signs. Signs of proceeding colonisation. Colonisation of former colonisers.
I have taken my coach to Hannover. After arrival, I hanged for an hour in the middle of night, bouncing between still open Burger King and McDonald’s open 24/7. Bored with walking here and there, I went to my platform, where the coming train was already announced.
Entered it at 2:40, as planned. Everyone was sleeping.
At 12:20, without a delay, I have arrived to the land rich in onions, garlic and apples #eatpolishapples
Featured picture from: http://www.maph.nl/media/media/hamburg_2.jpg