Ever since I have moved to Germany, I have enjoyed visiting places that I doubt I would have ever been to without living here. (Please see my posts on Heidelberg, The Libori Festival and Paderborn - but also Berlin!) The weekend just gone is a prime example of this. My family decided to debunk to Hamburg for my mother's ?? birthday and have a couple of days dedicated to pickled eel, smoked mackerel but curiously not Hamburgers.
Given that it was my mother's birthday, my motley crew decided to treat ourselves to staying at the very nice hotel, Park Hyatt Hamburg. We had looked at staying at the famous Atlantic hotel, run by the Kempinski hotel group, but the difference in price was vast, and whilst the Park Hyatt may not have the glittery history of the Atlantic, it was in a much better spot for our weekend of exploring the city. It is more centrally based, though, granted, the Atlantic is on the beautiful lake. But that is not to say the Hyatt's location was ugly. Indeed, it is just a stone's throw from the water, and on the city's version of a more attractive Oxford Street. The breakfast buffets were delicious (a must for me as a regular reader will know) and the cocktail bar was chic, refined and well stocked. I am quite boring when it comes to cocktails in that a gin and tonic is about as exciting as I get, but I had a delicious Gin Basil Smash on my first night and then reverted to type and had pink bubbles or a vodka martini for the rest of my stay.
Obviously, I had meals in between at some point during my visit and had some of the best food I have not only had in a long time whilst in Hamburg, but also the best food I have had since moving to Germany. In fact, I did not eat one thing that was short of scrummy for my whole stay. After a 'bridging' Apfel Kuchen at our hotel lounge upon arrival, (it was totally unnecessary, wholly my father's idea, and completely delicious) we headed, via the aforementioned Basil Smash, for Restaurant East, a trendy bar restaurant hotel conglomerate near the famed Reeperbahn. It had all the makings of being a bad idea - trendy, dark lighting, and in an up and coming, though questionable, area is not particularly parent friendly. But we all loved it. I had a main course sized starter of Beef Tartare followed by the chef selection sushi. Every morsel was putting me further and further into a very happy food coma, which was similar to my family members around the table. Other choices of steaks, tuna tartar and Weiner Schnitzel were all received with positives murmurings and reticent offers of 'would you like a taste'. (I always say yes).
The next day I woke earlyish to make use of the fabulous swimming pool and spa. The husband did not wake to make use of a dog and wife free zone. But after joining up again for the breakfast buffets, the family and I started walking towards the first mothership sponsored activity of the day: the Minatureland. Despite being told when we arrived that the next lot of tickets for 6 people was at 16.45, we all enjoyed the walk there, meandering through the historic docks and soaking up the city's atmosphere. Having bought our tickets for later, we continued our amble through Hamburg along the port front in search of a beer and ended up at the Fischmarkt area via the Reeperbahn. Apparently the infamous redlight district road was not as seedy as it once was, according to the Fathership. His comment was met with disbelief as it was definitely one of the more colourful streets I have ever had the privilege to walk down. That being said, in some of the back streets there are quite a few interesting and quirky bars, cafes and restaurants. I guess you just have to be lucky that it isn't next to a brothel. We also took in the Beatles Platz on our walk to the Fischmarkt, which was the most underwhelming tourist sight that I have ever come across. I know I have bad eye sight, but even to a hawk eye, you could have blinked and missed it.
The Fischmarkt was a welcome relief from the seedy Reeperbahn and let down of Beatles Platz. Whilst the market itself was closed, and is recommended to visit early doors on a Sunday after a night on the Reeperbahn, there were still numerous eateries at which to take a load off and have lunch. We ate at Alt Helgoländer Fischerstube and tried, amongst other delicious fish dishes, the famed Labskaus, which to me tasted a bit like corned beef hash. As a consequence of this being our second large meal of the day, and the morning's walk, the parentals decided to debunk back to our hotel for a quick power nap before the excitements of Miniature World and left us under strict instructions to enjoy the rest of the city before meeting at 16.45 sharp. We got as far as the next bar which was a pop up beach on the harbour front. It was an incredibly quirky place that served its bbq out of the front of an old Mercedes and was frequented by the trendier stag do goers. It was the perfect place to waste two hours before heading to the now much hyped Miniature World.
Which was awesome, albeit very much lost on me. My terrible eyesight, and the hoards of crowds, and the obviously small size of the displays on show, meant that I could see about 5% of what was there. But it is really quite a remarkable place once you get by the fact that it is actually completely pointless. I mean there is no educational value to this tourist sight, yet the level of detail that its makers have gone to is simply staggering (for instance, a fully working miniature airport, Vegas, the Grand Canyon, a Pink Floyd concert amongst various other perfectly random scenes), but there in lies its fun. And given the swarms of tourists there at any one time, it is certainly answering some sort of human need. The mothership walked round the whole exhibition with a smile on her face.
Once we had all finished looking at life in miniature, we headed back to the hotel to make use of the comfy beds for a power nap pre cocktail hour. The cocktails continued to impress with the ever helpful bar tender who also helpfully booked a taxi for the six of us. Said taxi was to take us to the fab restaurant on the water, Carl's Brasserie for a truly wonderful meal. I knew we were in for a treat on two occasions 1) the waitress asked me if I wanted pink bubbles for my aperitif. I had never met her before in my life yet she seemed to know me so well. 2) my father, upon starting his meal before anyone else, declared his Vichyssoise one of the best soups he had ever eaten. I found this comment almost earth moving, again for two reasons as 1) leek and potato soup sounds so bland that I wonder why it is ever on the menu as it can't excite the taste buds 2) my father is not known for his complimentary nature. (indeed, I always remember his response to my 2:1 'They're making exams easier these days aren't they'). Digressions aside, my starter was extremely tasty and very little conversation was made over our appetizers past what my husband thought of his first foray into Oysters. If he was a bit nonplussed about his shell fish starter, he couldn't have had a more different reaction to his Beouf Bourguignon. As I am prone to exaggeration, I will let his behaviour do the talking as a marking of his entree: he didn't talk at all during his main. He barely stopped for breath and the only thing he muttered was a very weak offer of a taste my way. I realised quite soon why he was so quiet. I only tried the gravy and I would quite happily have had a bath in it. I shall have to resign myself to trying to find an equally good recipe during our married life.
Back at the hotel, we had a few digestifs to burn away any over indulgence in time for brunch the next day, which saw the husband really hit his stride by ordering about six cappucinos and two rounds of pancakes. The mothership opened her cards, from all her siblings and offspring, before we headed to the lake again for a cruise in the glorious sunshine. The cruise took about an hour and was perhaps about 20% too expensive at 15Euros each. However, it was a great way to see some of the houses and bars on its shores. It made me realise that, as we had to leave soon after we would get off the boat, we had only really dipped our toe in what Hamburg had to offer. Indeed, I found Hamburg to be a highly enjoyable city full of culture and would urge anyone to visit. It could easily cater to so many tastes, wants and budgets - from the retired couple taking in the art galleries and architecture, to the boys hitting the Reeperbahn on a stag do.
As ever, I hope my pictures do the city justice. Any place that brings such a continual smile to my mother's face, will always have a big fan in me, and with a major airport just half an hour away from the city center, it couldn't be an easier place to visit. Any recommendations for further trips there will be happily received!
PS - Happy Birthday Mum, x