We spent a lovely four days with our friend Reinhold  in Hamburg.

We arrived on Friday 21st September and went with him and Gabi a friend of his to a great Lebanese restaurant.  On Saturday we went to a nice little cafe on one of the hundreds of canals in Hamburg and then to see the market running along the canal.  Maurice then developed a 24hour stomach bug so we left him in bed an went off with a group to an Oktoberfest party held in a very large tent.  We got there early at 5pm to get good seats which was just as well as it was packed within a couple of hours.  The specially brewed “Oktoberfest beer” and food was excellent and the band played nearly non stop.  There were quite a few people dressed in “dirndls and lederhosen” as well as all the waiters which added to the atmosphere.

We danced a lot and a good time was had by all.  There were security people about but although there were thousands of people, there was no trouble.

The transport system in Hamburg is excellent and you really don’t have to walk far – there is always a speedy bus/U-bahn/S-bahn connection to wherever you want to go and in the main train and bus stations there are big signs telling you the destination of the buses and trains and how long one must wait – which usually isn’t a long time.

Its cute to see the dogs travelling with their owners and sitting well behaved under tables at restaurants.  Some were even walking with their owners through the department stores.   They must be all well trained because you never see a mishap!

On Sunday Maurice was feeling much better and we had a lovely brunch with an ernormous choice of food at a nearby pub/restaurant which was fantastic value at 7.50euros each.  You only had to pay extra for drinks.

We have found the food/drink prices here in Hamburg to also be very reasonable.  There are of course more expensive places to eat and drink but the good thing is that you can get extremely good food for very reasonable prices.  Much cheaper than in Australia for similar fare.

We went on to “Hafen City”  which is a reasonably new area full of appartment buildings, restaurants and cafes right on the harbour.  We caught a ferry and did a round trip around the Hamburg harbour which was lovely.  We were still very lucky with the weather and had no rain to hinder our excursions.  We sat outside in the sunshine and had coffee. Then Reinhold made us a delicious Mousaka for dinner.

On Monday we went back to the “Speicherstadt” which used to be old warehouses.  They have kept a lot of these and renovated them and a lot are various kinds of museums.  We went to the extremely well organised and very busy “miniature world” which was fascinating.  It is divided into countries and they have probably completed ten different coun tries and more are always underway.  They have a control room like an aircraft control tower where technicians are always watching the exhibits and if anything goes wrong they can spot it instantly and have it fixed.  There are not only minute figures of people/animals and vegetables but whole villages in miniature as well as a working airport with aircraft taking off and landing with all authentically finished aircraft.

Reinhold treated us  to a very good German restaurant for dinner.

We caught the train to Lubeck which took 1/2 hour and were met by my dear friend Ruth who I had not seen also for 17years.  It was like old times.  She has a wonderful appartment with high ceilings and large windows and has it beautifully decorated.  She took us on a walking tour of Lubeck and we only had a little rain after we came out of “Niederegger” which is the most famous marzipan shop in Germany.  They have marzipan in every shape and form and a lovely old style cafe.  They also have a marzipan museum with life size figures in marzipan and a larg map of Europe made into a glass wall where almonds form the countries.  It is amazing.

We stayed with another dear friend Irmi and Peter who live on the other side of Lubeck.

The old city of Lubeck which is surrounded by water and bridges is beautiful.  The buildings are fascinating and have been beautifully restored.  Lubeck is world heritage listed. The Holsten tower is one of two remaining city towers and like many of the old buildings tends to lean a bit which gives it even more character.   Ruth took us on a walking tour around the old part of the city and through small passages built between many of the houses where there are many quaint houses and gardens.  Some of these connecting passages were used by people like Willy Brandt in the 30’s when the Nazis tried to arrest him and failed.

Wenesday we went into town and walked around and then another friend Katrin came and we had delicious veal cooked in milk and bay leaves – sounds strange but was delicious.

The following day we caught the train to Travemunde, a small seaside town on the Baltic sea where we met up with another friend and had a delicious fresh fish lunch on the fisherman’s wharf.  There used to be up to 150 fisherman in Travemunde but there are only 50 odd left now.

We had some very light rain but nothing that stopped us from walking about and then our friend Ruth picked us up and we drove around the Baltic sea to Scharbeutz another seaside town with beautiful boutiques and coffee shops.  It is a lovely scenic drive around the bay and many avenues of trees which are just starting to change colour.  We then went to Wansdorf a fascinating establishment which is very large and sells everything in the shape of strawberries including some really kitch items and at the moment there are many pumpkins on sale for halloween.  It is an enormous place which also has some wonderful smallgoods and homemade bread, jams and everything else you can imagine for sale.  We drove through the surrounding fields and forests to Ratzeburg, another beautiful old town.

We had dinner at a Italian restaurant and then went to a very lively salsa club called “Havana”in the old part of town.

On Friday we caught up with emails and skyped and had another wonderful fish lunch with Irmi and Peter.  We were then dropped in the old part of town where we explored more of the old streets. We went into an old building which was originally a beautiful old church with three spires. Construction started in the middle ages about 1260 and a wooden building with small rooms was contructed within the church which formed the hospital.  Irmi’s son Malte and his partner and twin sons Broder and Magnus live in the old part of town so we dropped in to see them.

Ruth picked us up and drove us to the school at which she taught and showed us her classroom.  In the village that night they were having a celebration for all the children. Once a year a festival for the children is held and a lot the residents decorate their houses with colourful flags and balloons and the children walk around the streets with lanterns and then have a big party.  We then went with her daughter Judith and other friends to a great Tapas restaurant with live guitar music.

On the Saturday we relaxed in the morning and then a group of us went to a wonderful restaurant in the country called “Federikenhof” and we had the beautifully restored “pig sty” to ourselves where we were served a delicious meal.  The pig is a good luck symbol in Germany and there were piggies of all sizes, shapes and forms as decoration but very tastefully done.  The service was impeccable and the food delicious with excellent service for a very reasonable price.

There are many wild boars in Germany and they have to be tested by vets before the meat can be used.  There are also many deer in the forrest so that venison appears regularly on menus.  The pork in Germany is delicious and has a very subtle taste.  The Germans sure know how to cook it and the sauces and accompanying potatoes and vegetables are always very tasty.  There is just as much discussion about food around the table as in Italy – as they say “same but different”.

In the evening we went to a fantastic circus called “Roncalli” who are apparently very well known in Europe.  It is fashioned on “cirque de Soleil” and was wonderful especially the skits with the clown who had all of us in stitches.  He was very clever.

There is a lovely custom that we saw in many countries including China, Italy and Germany where when a couple get married they go to a particular bridge and along the wire or ropes along the bridge they attach a lock and then throw the key into the river which signifies their unity.  There is also another growing tradition in Lubeck at least of knitting squares or lenghts of wool and also attaching them to bridges or to bike racks just for fun.

We farewelled our dear friends in Lubeck and caught the train to Eutin half an hour’s train ride north the next morning to our friend Katrin (another friend I hadn’t seen for 17years)and she drove us around the many, many lakes and forests surrounding Eutin which is another beautiful north German town.  In the morning we picked up her gorgeous nearly  91 year old mother and went to Kiel where we drove around the city and down to watch the container ships and smaller vessels enter the locks which lead into the Kiel Canal.  Maurice had read much about the Kiel Canal as a child and has always wanted to see it.    The German sail training ship the “Gorch Fock” has just returned to Kiel after being in dry dock and was tied up on the far bank.  We had a nice lunch overlooking Kiel harbour and Katrin gave us a tour of Kiel city which is quite small but it has an interesting pedestrian area.  After we had said our goodbyes Katrin drove back to Eutin and we went for a wander around the town.  It still wasn’t getting dark until about 7.30pm but it was cool about 10degrees.

The next day we went for a long walk around the lakes and town and boarded the “Stena Germanica” at 6pm for the trip to Gothenburg.  Our hotel wasn’t far so we just walked our bags down to the dock.  It was a very efficient service to get on board and we were met with a small gin and tonic and given the keys to our cabin.   The boat was very modern and had good facilities on board and the cabin was excellent even though it was an inside one.  As we sailed overnight we didn’t think we needed a more expensive outside cabin.  We stayed on deck for a while as the ship pulled out and there was no wind and so it wasn’t so cold.  It was lovely to watch the lights of the city disappearing into the distance.

Maurice and I have developed a taste for an “Aperol Spritz” which is very popular now in Germany and Sweden.  It is three parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol, 1part Sparkling water with lots of ice.  It makes a wonderful aperitif.  In the north of Germany “shandies” are also popular but they are called “Alsterwasser” after the river in Hamburg.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.