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Two hours in Hamburg

 By Marlys and Michael Easy Hiker

Let’s be totally honest about this: The best thing about Deutsche Bahn’s Across-the-Country 1-day rail pass (the “Quer-durchs-Land” ticket or QdL for short) is that it’s very cheap. 48 Euros for two people on any regional train in Germany: that’s an unbeatable offer.

Journeys take a little longer than on the fast IC trains, that much is for certain, and their trajectories may be slightly more convoluted, but that can be a benefit, too.

Recently, on our way back from a hike in the Mecklenburger Seenplatte, for example, we took the opportunity to break up what would otherwise have been a very long train journey to make a two-hour stop in Hamburg. Two hours in Hamburg are not a lot for such a big city, Germany’s largest after Berlin, but we had been there several times and knew where to go. In the end, we were surprised how many of the city’s main sites we were able to cover.

From the central train station, head straight (down Mönckebergstraße) for the so-called Binnenalster, Hamburg’s poshest mile. Along its banks, you can find some of Germany’s biggest private banks, most expensive hotels and fanciest restaurants.

The huge and opulent building on the artifical lake’s southern shore is Hamburg’s City Hall, built in the 19th century with the era’s typical sense for flash and grandeur.

Walk down past the Alsterfleet canal, underneath the Alsterarkaden colonnades, before turning right on Stadthausbrücke and heading for St Michael’s Church, Hamburg’s main landmark since it was built in the 17th century – famous not least because it was the first building of the city that many of her visitors, coming from the sea, were able to spot in the distance.

The church may look rather austere from the outside, but the interiors are as tacky as a West End theatre. (Entrance is free, but you are encouraged to donate €2 when you leave. Alternatively, you can squeeze by the burly lady who guards the exit door. Best to wait, probably, for one of the other tourists to distract her with a question – that’s what I did, anyway.)

The street on the right hand side of the church, by the way, leads you straight to St Pauli – Reeperbahn, Star Club and all that. (Unfortunately, we had no time for that.)

Instead, we turn left out of the church, past the modern offices of Gruner & Jahr, one of Germany’s largest publishing houses, in the direction of the harbour, one of the ten largest in the world.

Turn left to head for the Speicherstadt (“warehouse town”), my favourite part of Hamburg and one of Europe’s greatest works of 19th century architectural engineering, grand and graceful at the same time, a cross between Venice and London’s old docklands. The buildings were all warehouses once, of course, but are today mainly occupied by theatre companies, museums and tourist attractions such as the “Hamburg Dungeon”.

I could easily have spent the rest of the day walking from canal to canal, but there was no time. Instead, we took the subway train back to the city centre (if you have a Länderticket or a QdL Ticket, you are also free to use subways and S-Bahn trains) and had just about enough time for a quiet cup of coffee outside in the April sun on Mönckebergstraße, the city’s main shopping street, 5 minutes away from the central train station.

By Marlys and Michael Easy Hiker

 How about going to Hamburg? Have a look at our flights here!

 

 

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European Car Free Day: The cities with the highest awareness

Want to join in European Car Free Day? The aim of this initiative held every 22 September is to raise awareness about climate change by encouraging people to make their routine journeys on foot, by bike or by public transport. This year, as well as leaving your car at home, we invite you to inject some fun into it: get away to the European cities that are implementing policies to favour pedestrians and take a quiet stroll through the streets without worrying about the traffic.

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Happy House

It is rare to find this kind of buildings in Germany, a country as jealous of its harmonic architecture. Even more in a town like Brunswick (Braunscheweig), located in Lower Saxony, just over 20 kilometers from Hannover.

Brunswick was a great example of this architectural consistency with old postwar buildings and characteristic half-timbered, forming a homogeneous whole.

Until the Happy Rizzi House stood in the historic heart, a five-storey building that contrasts sharply with the other buildings. This is a great work of modern art, full of smiling faces brightly colored, bug-eyed, crazy shapes and asymmetrical forms. Such a psychedelic collage!

Its construction on land that used to be part of the stables and fields of a Ducal Palace, so close to the church of Saint Andrews, caused much controversy and rejection in this population at the beginning. However, its construction continued starting in 1999 and it took two years to complete.

The funny thing is that, once the initial shock, most of the citizens of Brunswick came to love this "happy home" and now would be unwilling to demolish any way. And, to Brunswick, many tourists come just to observe its facade; not inside, which are labor offices, that can not be visited.

The idea came after a conversation of James Rizzi, New York artist and pop art exponent, with Jäschke Olaf, owner of the Aeschke gallery inBrunswick. They had already collaborated in the past but never to undertake a work of such magnitude.

Unfortunately, Rizzi died in late 2011. He was a beloved artist in Germany due to his work left and for his work with charities. Her hallmark were hi of three-dimensional paper sculptures, with prints of children's characters and vivid colors. These designs became translate into everyday objects, from small labels to larger works as a Volskswagen Beetle, trains and even aircraft.

But happy house is surely his most voluminous work, that will make you crack a huge smile when you see it.

Address of the Happy Rizzi House: Ackerhof 1 Braunschweig

Happy Rizzi House por Gerd Evermann | Boing 757 por Gero Brandenburg | Happy House por Magnus Manske | James Rizzi por Alexander Lieventhal

Why not take a trip to Hannover? Have a look at our flights here!

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The Biggest Funfair on the Rhine

The Biggest Funfair on the Rhine is organised by Düsseldorf’s St. Sebastian shooting club, which dates back almost 700 years and currently numbers more than 1,500 members. It’s held in celebration of the club’s patron St. Apollinaris, whose feast day is on 23 July. The highlight is the historical parade, one of the biggest and most spectacular in Germany, with over 3,000 uniformed marksmen, marching bands and horse-drawn carriages.

St. Apollinaris was declared Düsseldorf’s patron saint when the city acquired some of the martyr’s relics in around 1300. A beautiful shrine, now in St. Lambert’s Church in the old town, was built in his honour. Eventually the annual commemorations evolved into a fair at which it was customary for the club St. Sebastianus Schützenverein 1316 e.V. to shoot dummy birds. Whoever shot down the bird was named shooting king for that year – a tradition that still continues today. Apart from this, the fair has changed dramatically. Nowadays the 165,000 square metre fairground on the bank of the Rhine boasts masses of rides from Germany and abroad, which are all geared up to thrill more than four million visitors from all over the world. Everyone looks forward to the historical parade – and the sensational fireworks above the city. Those in the know will tell you that the best place to view the fireworks is from the middle of the Rhine on board the MS Riverstar, an elegant vessel whose wood and brass fittings hark back to the glory days of travel. Sadly the boat can only accommodate around 170 passengers – so early booking is advised.

Picture by Rainer Driesen

So you feel like visiting Düsseldorf, do you? Book your flights here!

 

 

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