As I mentioned in a previous post, I was able to spend a day and night in Hamburg on my trip to Turkey over winter break. I didn’t really want to spend a lot of money (okay, when do I EVER want to spend a lot of money) so I tried to see what I could do during that day. Western Europe can be expensive so I wasn’t sure what I would be able to do on the cheap.
A quick search on the internet, however, revealed an amazing, amazing thing. Sandeman’s New Europe Tours. Sandeman’s New Europe FREE tours. This is a genius, genius operation. Offer a free tour, hire amazing guides, a million people sign up and tip their guide, guide makes easy 1-200 or more Euros CASH (I’m estimating 5 euros and 30 of the people pay, it seems like there are usually 30-40 people/tour. I saw many people giving 10 or even 20 though).
(This is not my tour, and this is not Brian. I lost the picture but you get the idea!)
A HUGE group of about 60 or so was gathered in front of the Rathaus (or Town Hall. Apropos name, isn’t it?) in Hamburg. Some were for a tour in English (the lingua franca of travelers across Europe) and some were for a Spanish version of the tour. I was very surprised the rain didn’t hold any of us back! Luckily the rain stopped and we were left with a cold, but not freezing, slightly windy day. Our tour guide, however, was prepared for the elements with his set of 7 layered T- shirts! He was an Aussie named Brian and VERY funny. I didn’t think that a town renowned for trade and shipping (yawn) would be all that interesting but Brian really made it come to life. HIGHLY recommended! It’s a 3+ hour tour, so bring good walking shoes. I’m not going to take up space here with details on Hamburg, there are other websites than can explain the history much better than I can! One random fact that I thought was interesting was that the Santiago Way, a common pilgrimage route in Europe, can actually be reached by starting in Hamburg.
Because my flight arrived at 7:30 am and the tour didn’t start until 11am, I had some time to kill. I had read about some boat tours on the river Elbe, the river which fed to the sea and that made Hamburg such a prosperous city. I was pretty skeptical that there would be much happening on Dec 27, two days after Christmas, which is celebrated in most European cities. I purchased a daily Hamburg tourist card for transport etc, and arrived at the docks around 8:30. Sure enough, no tours were running, but a captain of the commuter ferry (yes, you can take a boat just like a bus or train there to get around the city) said just hop right on, the ferry fare was included in my card, and it went the same exact route that the tour did!
Do you like cranes? If so, you should go to Hamburg. I don’t know, I sort of was into it. None of these pics are mine by the way, they all went missing 😦
A Hamburg card costs 8,90 Euro for one day. This covers the regional train to the city and subway, as well as the ferry. You also get discounts at some local restaurants and tours too, though I didn’t end up taking advantage of this. You can buy it at the airport transit vending machines, or in advance here: http://www.hvv.de/en/tickets/day-tickets/hamburg-card/
On my return trip I met up with an astrologer, Klaus. He is the German-English translator for a friend/teacher of mine here in LA. When I told her about my trip, she insisted upon giving me money to take him out for dinner. Klaus was super friendly, and kind enough to give me a ride to and from the airport (luckily not too far from where he lived) and let me crash his couch. We went to a Portuguese restaurant named, oddly enough, Restaurante Porto. This place was REALLY good and $50 US actually went a long way- 2 entrees, a bottle of Vinho Verde, and a cappucino for Klaus. I ordered a huge plate of grilled sardines that came with a big salad and potatoes for under 10 Euros. I couldn’t finish it! Hamburg has a whole neighborhood of Portuguese transplants apparently and is something I might not have stumbled into otherwise, without the help of a local. We geeked out on astrology until the restaurant closed and had a really satisfying meal.
If you’re looking for a snack during the day, stop by one of the kiosks at many subway stations. I looked and you could get a sandwich for just a few euros. They also had really great stands at the Christmas market around the church. I didn’t have cash on me at the time the first day because my ATM card was acting up at the ATM downtown (also I was really full from United’s not-too-shabby gluten free meals on the flight), but some guys on the tour scored some really good smelling sausage sandwiches (GF/paleo note: chuck the roll) with mustard for 2-3 Euro, and gluhwein (spiced hot wine, typical for the winter holidays) or hot spiced apple cider for the same price.
In the summertime there are some really nice parks, which unfortunately were closed when I was there. Planten un Blomen (gosh, those Germans are such pragmatists) was highly recommended by both tour websites and locals. Check it out, it’s free! Sometimes there are concerts in the summer too.
So that’s Hamburg on the cheap! If you bought a sandwich/drink for 5ish Euro, went out at night and spent 15 Euros at the restaurant for a really good meal (share a bottle with friends or pass on the alcohol, tip your tour guide instead), couchsurfed, took a free tour, hung out at the park, and got the Hamburg card for transport, that’s under 30 Euros which is a steal for Europe. Sweet!