Merry Christmas! So early, you say? Don’t you think advent time is over too fast every year? I think so and so I decided that advent and Christmas can absolutely start in November. One of my reasons to have a Christmas preparty was also that my friends Michelle, Tabea and Christian came to visit. This is the third year in a row that these friends (who were part of my Swedish choir in Uppsala) and I travel somewhere in November or December together. The first year, we all spent a weekend in Malmö, the second year, we celebrated New Year’s together on the Polar Circle and this year, few but faithful (we are usually 6 to 10), came to Hamburg.
We worked through the whole tourist program and I am happy to report that my tour guide skills are improving and my attitude to the city is becoming more affectionate. Far from Stockholm levels, of course, but getting better!
We did all the sights you “have” to do: the town hall, the Christmas market, the Elbtunnel, the Reeperbahn. At night, we wanted to go on a Lichterfahrt, a boat tour through the illuminated city. I have been wanting to do that since I moved here and my visitors thought it was a good idea so we went down to the Landungsbrücken and into the first ticket booth that advertised Lichterfahrt. The first irritation occured when we wanted to pay – with card. “All of you want to pay by card?!” the lady asked annoyed. When we had our tickets, we went to the kiosk where she said they would tell us which bridge the tour departs from. When we got there, we were told that “we don’t have anything to do with this!” We walked to the next ticket booth, Kapitän Prüsse, that also advertised Lichterfahrt, hoping to get information there. “Excuse me, we just bought these Lichterfahrt tickets”, I said friendly, “and I wonder if this is the same operator as you and you can tell me which bridge the tour leaves from?” Kapitän Prüsse and his colleague looked at me and said, “First of all, we are not required to submit information to whoever”. I suppose whoever was me, a customer, who, together with her friends, just invested 80 euros into Lichterfahrt tickets. They then barked at me that either I buy their tickets or I go back to the first ticket booth. Why, thank you. The German answer to service is no, as we know. Everytime we meet an unfriendly person now, we say, “This must be Kapitän Prüsse’s sister/brother!”
The odyssee did not end there. We went to the tourist information because we thought they would have some kind of overview of which Lichterfahrt is which and who operates which one at which bridge. They didn’t really know either. I mean, if the arrangements are so complicated that not even the tourist information understands, shouldn’t the operators notice that maybe things are too complicated? The tourist information lady sent us back to the first ticket booth…
When we went back to the original ticket booth, the lady shook her head and decided to go with us and spoke to the capitan at the bridge who, in Hamburg dialect, said “Who told you we don’t have to do with this? The guys at the kiosk? Geez, a bunch of dumbasses that work there!”
Finally, we got to go on the illuminated harbour tour – and it was rather nice! In the dark, only the pretty buildings are illuminated so you don’t have to see anything ugly. The guide taught us all about the impressive handling of cargo that is done in the port and we saw lots of containers. The feeling of Hamburg being a maritime gate to the world really strikes you on a harbour tour.
Hamburg is the largest European port. (By size.)
Late Saturday night was spent annoying my neighbours. If five people speak at a normal volume in my living room, the neighbours come over at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night to complain. I sent Ingrid to the door who charmed the neighbor away. It was also the night we lit the Christmas tree candles – yes, real candles – and I tried Port wine for the first time.
On Michelle’s initiative, we attended church service on Sunday. We thought we would double the attendance rates with our presence, but the Youth Choir was singing – very lovely indeed – which made the people flow in to the Swedish Church. Michelle has been there before with me in summer and the layman doing the service recognized her and even remembered what she studied. Within seconds, they were occupied with a political scientists conversation. Talk about making a lasting impression!
A special sentence must be dedicated to the weather: It was cold like never before since I moved here, very windy and surprisingly grey. Despite double tights layers, triple socks and double gloves, we froze more than on the Polar Circle trip last year. That did not keep us from discovering Hamburg though and we walked all the way to the Beatles square. Did you know the Beatles started their career in Hamburg in the Star Club? Now you do.
The last part of our tour I dedicated to my neigborhood. I am only partially knowledgeable and when my friends asked me about the church opposite my house, I said, “Ah, that is, eeeehm, Saint…eeh, Francis! It was built in, hmm, 1853, and, actually I am making all of this up.” At that very moment, a middle-aged gentleman in a trenchcoat approached us and gave me a very sceptical look. “Are you wondering about the church?” he asked and then spontaneously gave us an overview of the history. It is actually quite interesting! Former Hamburg mayor, German chancellor and grand seigneur of politics Helmut Schmidt was married in the church that is called Saint Gertrud, not Saint Francis.
Our last activity was Christmas Crafting with Michelle (known from the balcony programme “Gießen und Genießen mit Michelle”). I wanted to learn how to make the traditional hearts and luckily for me, Michelle knows and is a patient teacher. Now my tree is graced with colorful hearts that give the impression that a bunch of children are living here.
We are already planing next year – Örebro, Barcelona, who knows where, but we’ll meet again.