Adventures in Hamburg

23 Apr

After some more putzing around Berlin we caught a train to Hamburg in the evening. We had beers before the train and we brought beers onto the train. Once we arrived in Hamburg, we went and had schnitzel and beer. The next day we went to visit my friend André’s mom and his brother — sadly André has become a recluse and none of us had really heard much of anything from him in months. Its sad to lose a long standing friend, but I’m still friends with all the people I’ve met because of him. Along the same line, later we went to have dinner with Patrick and Jule (Jule is André’s ex) and we met their son Mats for the first time. We had a lovely dinner with them, fueled by prosecco and Spanish white wine. By the time we left Aleta was quite tipsy and not ready to call it an evening — we ended up walking around the Schanzenvirtel for quite some time, buying beers at hole in the wall vendors and drinking them while rambling about. Did I mention that Aleta likes walking around drinking beer? She does. :)

The next day we took care of our hangovers and a pile of chores — we really did get a lot of stuff done, including finding a nice pair of boots for Aleta. On my insistence we took a ride on the new U4 subway out to the port. When we arrived we were treated to the hourly LED lightshow and music performance right on the platform at Hafencity Universität — wow well done. The light were well done and the station was amazing — I’ll post a bunch of pictures once we get a decent Internet connection. After the ligthshow, we exited outside and there was… Nothing. Nada. Zip. Literally a trip to nowhere — we didn’t realize that the trains don’t go that far on weekdays — only on the weekend does it go all the way to the end for looky loos like us. Which makes sense, since there is no place to go — everything, incuding the university that is planned to be there has yet to be built. But transportation is ready to rumble — this was a stark contrast to public transit in LA where the Metro has been struggling for years to become relevant. Here the transportation comes first, the destination will be built later. Did I mention that I love German efficiency and priorities?

Then we gathered our luggage and started to make our way back to Berlin. Once we got to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, I had my favorite random encounter on this trip so far. I walked in the tea shop looking for some East Friesan tea for our Barcelona friend Marta. As the young saleslady walks towards the teas she asks me:

“Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”
“Of course not!”
“Were you in Barcelona in Parc Guell in the fall of 2011? I took a picture of your awesome haircut and I just recognized you.”

I just started laughing at the silliness of it. What are the chances of such a random encounter? I gave her my card and asked her to send me a copy of the picture if she didn’t mind. I love collecting pictures that come with awesome stories like this. A lot of people always ask me why I dress the way I do, or why I wear the crazy colors that I do. Its for moments like these — these moments make life truly wonderful. Here is one of the pictures that Elena Valtzi took:

Picture from Elena Valtzi

Then we had a crazy moment boarding the ICE to Berlin — I had shown Aleta the concept of a Wagenstandanzeiger — a chart that shows where train cars will stop when the train pulls into the station. We situated ourselves in the proper spot to easily reach our reserved seats. Then Aleta runs off to the bathroom and I told her to do it on double time — the train was leaving in 10 minutes. Just as she’d left, the train pulled into the station — but the train driver had apparently had as much to drink as we did and he parked the train one car off from where he should’ve parked it. No worries, I muscled all of our luggage onto the train and got us settled in our assigned spots. Then the clock started ticking down. 2 minutes to go. No Aleta. Worries flooding me. 1 minute to go. Minor panic setting in. I start formulating emergency plans in my head. Does she have her passport? Credit card? Phone? And then the train leaves the station. SHIT! One last panicked look, no Aleta standing on the platform. I did the only thing I could do — sit there in disbelief — for several minutes. I was about to pick up the phone and call friends (Aleta’s phone didn’t have a working SIM card) and arrange some _something_. Then Aleta appears: “There you are!!”

Phew! What a giant sigh of relief!

When she returned to the platform I was gone and she proceeded to enter the train, in the car that appeared where she expected it to be. She didn’t think that the train could be off by one car and didn’t bother to double check the number of the car. She went to our assigned seats and I was not there — she was just as panicked as I was. She finally thought to check the other cars and immediately found me in the next car. Phew.

After that we had a nice train trip to Berlin, a quick taxi ride to the hotel, where we upgraded to a suite and then a hasty departure from Berlin the next morning. Even though United assured me that Lufthansa was not going to charge me for the extra luggage, they dinged us for 200€. What choice did we have at this point? Not much — that extra luggage had way more than 200€ worth of stuff in it, so it was grin and bear it time. Still, all the air travel only cost us miles and $600 for two people. Not bad, if you consider things.

Aleta had one last beer and we flew off to Barcelona!

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