Hamburg, Germany: Days 1 & 2

8 January 2019

I packed up my bags and loaded them into the large European car for the drive back to Hamburg with Neele and Ute as my flight back to London took off at 7:00 am on Thursday.

Once we arrived to Hamburg, we checked into our accommodation, found some lunch, and explored the city.

While exploring, we window-shopped and browsed through stores. Eventually, the three of us hopped onto a train to a different area of the city with more restaurants. Ute, Neele, and I ducked into a pub and each had a drink or two – I had a fruity wine concoction, yum! We sat and socialized for a while until we decided to go in search of a place to eat. For dinner, the consensus was to eat some Turkish food, which happened to be a first for me. The food was fantastic and at the end of the meal, the restaurant offered tea in traditional Turkish glasses.

9 January 2019

The day began with purchasing tickets for a tour of Hamburg’s harbor and river. We each grabbed a quick breakfast at a corner bakery, admired the love locks on the bridge, and hopped onto the boat.

For those interested in traveling to Hamburg to take a boat tour, please keep in mind the English tours are only offered during the spring/summer months. If you speak German or have a translator, you will be able to understand everything perfectly well.

Originally, I started out in the interior of the boat for the tour. As Neele pointed out to me, my pictures were simply not going to turn out so she accompanied me outside to sit in the brisk, winter air as we cruised up the river and through the harbor. The numb fingers and frozen tush were worth the photos! Our early tour also allowed us to go up through Hamburg’s river since the tide happened to be going in the correct direction.

During the tour, I had the opportunity to observe amazing architecture, see Hamburg’s skyline from the harbor, and go alongside HUGE carrier ships. I also saw the 14th largest yacht being built as well as a carrier ship undergoing repairs. I learned yellow plastic barriers are placed onto ropes docking the ships to prevent rats from coming aboard. Lovely, right?

After the boat tour, we walked to the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. The building is a new architectural marvel for the city and is a sight to behold from both the outside and inside. In the room where the symphony performs, the ceiling has been hand molded/carved so the room is acoustically perfect.

To get to the upper floors, you hop on an extremely long escalator. It was the longest escalator in the world for a brief period of time before a larger one was built in China. After getting to the next floor and taking a shorter escalator, we arrived at an atrium containing a door to go outside on the terrace surrounding the building, a doorway into the connected hotel, and the gift shop. Neele and I walked outside and snapped a few photos of the skyline before heading back inside and browsing the gift shop. Once we concluded there, Ute, Neele, and I went to the cafe and had a snack/lunch of cake and coffee.

After our snack/lunch, we left the building and walked around the city some more. At the cafe, Ute had asked our waitress if she had any local recommendations. To which she suggested checking out an old church.

Around 3:00 pm, Ute, Neele, and I hopped onto a different boat for another tour of Hamburg. This time, the tour involved looking at the historic/old houses of Hamburg where the wealthy live. These houses when they go up for sale start at $15 million Euros. Additionally, any renovations of the houses must be approved to ensure the historical features are still preserved. All of the houses were absolutely stunning!

Once our tour wrapped up, we stopped by a grocery store and went back to the apartment for an hour before our dinner reservation at 6:00 pm at a nice restaurant. We drank some orange/vodka/fruity drink concoctions and opted for the mystery three-course dinner. The food was delicious!

As we wrapped up dinner, Neele and Ute gifted me a Germany Pandora charm for my bracelet to remember my time with them and our adventures.

We ended up having an early night as I had to be at the airport bright and early.

Germany, you are an amazing country filled with wonderful people, food, history, and architecture. I cannot wait to return.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

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Hannover, Germany: Wrapping Up

Friends! Hello! It’s been a few days! I assure you I am alive and well. For my last few days in Germany, I wanted to soak up everything and took the time off from blogging, I am back now and am recapping my last couple of days in Hannover.

6 January 2019

Neele and I said farewell to Berlin and took the train back to Hannover where her mom, Ute, picked us up. For the duration of the afternoon, Neele and I relaxed and I did some laundry. We shared with Dirk and Ute our adventures and my photographs. At this point, I was on day three of having no voice so Dirk teased me and told me “I left my voice in Berlin.”

In the evening, myself, Neele, and her parents went out to dinner at a Spanish restaurant. The Lange’s Spanish friend was going to join us, however, a family matter came up so I was unable to meet him. Next time! We chatted, ate tapas for dinner, and I drank my first German beer! I will not fool you though, my drink was a traditional half and half concoction of beer and sprite. Neele suggested I order this drink because German beer has a distinct taste that most likely the non-drinking American would not enjoy. I am glad I have Neele watching out for me. She suggests all of the good German food and drinks (not lying!) The half and half concoction was delicious and I highly recommend ordering it if you are not a huge beer drinker.

Spanish food featuring Sydney’s first German “beer”

7 January 2019

Another morning of relaxing, laundry, and catching up on sleep!

After a lunch of kebab, Neele, Ute, and I drove to see Oma (Ute’s mother, Neele’s grandmother) at her apartment retirement community.

Once we arrived, Oma greeted me with a firm handshake, huge smile, and a ‘Hallo!’ Neele played translator between everyone, since Oma does not speak any English. I was given a tour of the apartment and saw the CUTEST pictures of a toddler-size Neele. Oma beamed with pride and happiness when she showed me photos of her grandchildren. We then sat down to have some afternoon coffee and cake. Oma had the table set with the blue and white china, matching paper blue napkins, and dessert forks. We ate cake, chatted, and smiled. When we wrapped up our tea and cake, Oma presented me with a gift. I was so touched by the gesture. She gave me German chocolate and a pair of knitted sock/slippers (I have since coined the term “sloppers” for them: a fusion of slippers + socks.) I will forever wear my sloppers with pride, Oma!

What I found so beautiful about the whole afternoon is that communication can still occur despite a language barrier. Gratitude, happiness, compassion, and more can be conveyed through gestures, smiling, and touch. To me, interactions where neither persons know what are going on are profound and powerful because you come to the realization that all humans are the same. Skin color, language, socioeconomic status, body type, and nationality are merely labels and characteristics. Despite appearance, upbringing, and education, all of humanity wants to be loved and respected both of which can be conveyed without words. We, meaning the world and its people, all smile in the same language. Never forget that, friends!

Ute, Neele, and I headed back to Hannover. We dropped Ute off at home and Neele and I went to the grocery store to buy wine and cigarettes for a get-together with Neele’s friend, Nadine. I learned wine is very inexpensive at the grocery store and that cigarettes are dispensed through a dispenser at the checkout. Above the checkout belt is a metal cabinet with the different types of cigarettes. You simply press the button for the type you would like and they slide down a little chute onto the conveyor belt. No attendant needed like in the United States.

Once 7 o’clock rolled around, Neele and I trekked through her neighbors’ yards to Nadine’s house. Neele and Nadine cooked Thai chicken curry. While dinner cooked, we drank wine, talked, and listened to German music on Spotify. Neele and I did not leave until 12 am. The evening was relaxed, fun, and a time I will never forget.

View from my window featuring my sloppers from Oma

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Berlin, Germany: Day 3

Saturday started off with me waking up at 8:30 am this morning, which is the best sleep I have had since arriving in Europe. #winning

Neele and I grabbed a bit of breakfast. Then, we hopped on the train to an area of Berlin where the classier shops are (Chanel, Fendi, Tesla, etc.) so Neele could get her hair cut. Since we were early, we walked up and down the street taking in all the shops and buildings.

After the mission “get Neele’s haircut” was complete, we hopped back on the train and then onto a bus to go and see the Berlin Victory Column and the President’s house thereafter. In my opinion, the German President’s house is MUCH more impressive than the White House.

Next, Neele and I hopped on the city bus again and got off at the nearest stop to find the Birkenstock’s store. We happened upon an area of the city we had not yet walked through. At the time, there was a market going with local artisans selling wares such as cashmere scarves, jewelry, and wooden bow ties. As Neele navigated us to the store, we stumbled upon an artsy alleyway containing the coolest murals and graffiti. Its the unexpected discoveries of beautiful city hideaways that make traveling so much fun!

Once we found the Birkenstock store and I made my purchase, we went on a hunt to the nearest Wonder Waffel – a restaurant where you can build the most decadent waffle with ice cream and candy. However, when Neele and I reached the restaurant, the line was obnoxiously long. Since we were both starved, we decided to select different food for lunch. I ended up with the traditional German currywurst with fries. Essentially, a sausage with a ketchup concoction with curry powder. Delicious!

Currywurst

The next item on Neele’s and my agenda did not start until 6:30 pm, so to kill time we just wandered around Berlin looking at shops and the architecture. We walked down a side street and stumbled upon the monument below. The statues are in memoriam of the 2,500 Jews that were buried in the mass grave behind the fence. I was shocked to knowing mere steps away 2,500 bodies were buried in the ground.

Neele and I then walked back up the side street and went to a cafe to grab some caffeine before taking the bus to our final destination: the Reichstag. I learned tipping is customary in Germany but is not based on a percentage. Neele informed me you typically just tack on a few Euros based on the service you received. Valuable information!

After she and I were caffeinated, we hopped on the bus only to find out a protest was occurring and the bus driver could not drive through the area which would take us where we needed to go. As a result, Neele and I hopped off the bus and walked for 30 minutes. The walking was peaceful and allowed us to see more of the city and some of the famous buildings, like the Berlin Cathedral, lit up at night.

Before heading the Reichstag, we walked over to the Holocaust memorial because I wanted to see the area at night. However, I thought the concrete blocks would be lit up, but that was simply not the case. In the picture taken at night, you are able to see the massive number of blocks representing the Jews who never received a proper burial. Unfortunately, the height of blocks is not captured in the photos nor how the ground is purposely made uneven between some rows. Truly, the Berlin Holocaust memorial is a sight to behold in person.

To finish off our evening, Neele and I went into the dome of the Reichstag. In order to do so, you must reserve your spot online and bring a valid ID with you. No entry fee is charged. Essentially, Neele and I were able to go into the building where the German government meets to vote. Any German citizen can sit in on the German voting process at any time because the government views the process as a right of Germans. We took an elevator up to the dome and walked up the spiraling ramp, which provided a fantastic, panoramic view of Berlin. Since there was no voting going on, we were unable to see the voting process occur.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Berlin, Germany: Day 2

Friends, I am slowly overcoming my jet lag. I managed to sleep in until 5:00 am this morning. What an accomplishment! However, I woke up without a voice as a result of my ongoing cold. I am thankful though that I am getting my sickness out of the way prior to my classes beginning at Harlaxton.

Neele and I started our day off by getting breakfast at 9:30 am at the hotel’s buffet. I was thoroughly impressed with the wide variety of food options: fresh bread, cold meats and cheese, twelve different loose leaf teas, and yogurt with chia seeds. If you head to Berlin, stay at the Mercure hotel.

After eating, Neele and I headed to the train station to buy our train/bus tickets.

Side note: if you ever happen to come to Germany, I cannot recommend taking public transport enough! For 7 Euros, you are able to take as many trains/buses all day and can easily hop on and off to see the main attractions.

Our first stop of the day was the Holocaust memorial. The memorial is a series of 2,700 concrete blocks. The blocks vary in height and when looking between the rows, the ground is uneven and “hilly.” I found the memorial to be chilling and eerie.

After finishing up at the Holocaust memorial, Neele and I went to check out the World Clock. Then, we decided to start walking and happened upon the Red Town Hall. The exterior and interior of the building was gorgeous. On display in the town hall were pieces of art painted by Syrian refugees living in Jordan. I found myself wholly impressed by the art they had created.

Once we finished perusing the Red Town Hall, Neele and I hopped onto a bus back to the Berlin Cathedral. For 7 Euros, we had the opportunity to go inside the Lutheran church and let me say every cent was worth it! The dome from the inside contained so much detail as well as the alter and massive pipe organ. Below the pipe organ was an additional space that housed ornate caskets for early kings and queens of Germany. Neele and I then hiked up the stairs inside the Berlin Cathedral to see the panoramic view of Berlin.

After concluding at the Berlin Cathedral, Neele and I hopped on a bus and thereafter a train to head to the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery. The gallery is a series of murals on portions of what is preserved of the original Berlin Wall. No two murals were alike and other visitors were pretty respectful of waiting while you took photos. I found myself thinking how history repeats itself as I walked along the wall with the current political climate in the United States. After seeing the remnants of the wall in person and observing firsthand how the east side of Berlin is still trying to recover structurally, I cannot say a wall between two countries seems wholly effective.

Once we reached the end of the East Side Gallery, Neele and I walked for a while taking in more architecture and buildings. A neat feature of Berlin is that graffiti is EVERYWHERE! In some areas, the artistry seems to hurt the existing architecture but overall the graffiti adds so much character to the city.

Neele and I wrapped up our evening by grabbing dinner and just walking around and perusing the Christmas Markets near our hotel.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Berlin, Germany: Day 1

Around 1:00 pm today, Neele and I hopped on a train from Hannover to Berlin, Germany, for a few days. The train ride was around 1.5 hours, extremely quiet, and included WiFi.

Once we arrived in Berlin, we purchased train tickets to head to our hotel. The immensity of the train station blew my mind! So many people and so much coming and going. I am so thankful that Neele is serving as my guide/translator for my time here in Germany. Otherwise, I would be completely lost!

Berlin train station

Once we found our correct trains, we made our way to the hotel and checked in for the coming weekend. The hotel I found to be artsy and swanky and our room included a beautiful view.

View from our hotel room

After we switched bags, we headed out to explore. Neele took me through the department store next to our hotel, which is the second largest department store in Europe after Harrods in London, England. We went up to the seventh floor and perused through the stationary section. Most of the stores are high-end, luxury stores. On the 7th floor of the mall, visitors can choose what they would like to eat, load up the items on a cart, and checkout by paying for the weight of their food.

After finishing at the department store, we walked down the street and ran into a Christmas market still set up. Neele and I wandered and looked at the different booths. Along the way, Neele pointed out traditional food and drinks that are standard to the markets. Like Hannover, Berlin still had man Christmas lights up, which added so much character to the city.

Once we wrapped up at the Christmas market, Neele and I hopped on a bus to go and see the famous Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag. Near the Brandenburg Gate was the U.S. Embassy and the most expensive hotel in Germany. This is the hotel Neele informed me that Michael Jackson held his son over the balcony.

By the time we finished looking at the Reichstag, Neele and I were hungry so we hopped back on a bus to take us to an Italian restaurant. Before eating, we ended up walking through another newer shopping mall and ran into some Bear-lin bears throughout the city, which the city is known for along with their unique crosswalk lights of a little man. Neele also took me to a grocery store, per my request, because I wanted to see how they differed from the U.S. The most important difference to me was that there was a wider variety of Kinder chocolate…delicious!

Looking forward to another couple of days of exploring Berlin! This city has made a great first impression!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Hannover, Germany: Day 2

With only resting my eyes and having a brief nap the previous day, I woke up at 1:00 pm. Jetlag got the best of me and I woke up a few different times during that time period. I unfortunately also woke up with a sore throat and stuffy nose. Thank you recycled plane air.

Once I finally got up and around, Neele and I when back to Hannover. We toured the Herrenhäuser Gärten for a couple of hours. The weather was brisk but sunny.

My favorite part of the botanical gardens was an artistic part called the grotto. The artist who created the area of the gardens also designed the nanas in Hannover.

After the botanical gardens, we stopped by the university in Hannover. The building was extremely beautiful. Neele told me students do not live on campus, but rent flats. Additionally, most Germans get their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 5 years.

We hopped back onto the train again and ate a late afternoon breakfast/lunch/dinner of kebab and then went on a hunt for a snowboarding jacket for Neele. I also stopped by an ATM to withdraw cash because credit cards and debit cards are rarely accepted in Germany. Make sure you have enough Euros if you are coming to visit!

Our day concluded and we headed back to Neele’s house and spent the evening with her parents talking about anything and everything.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Travel Day 2: London, England to Hamburg, Germany

Once 5:00 am rolled around, Kendall and I went ahead and checked our bags and went through security. We found some breakfast and waited for our gate to be assigned.

First meal of 2019: smoked salmon sandwich with a fresh mango and lime fruit cup

At 7:00 am we were on our flight to Hamburg, Germany. The flight itself was very quick, 1.5 hours, and the plane was pretty empty. Upon landing, I went through customs. The German official took a while stamping my passport and I questioned if I was going to be granted admittance to the country. Eventually, he stamped my passport and I was able to go through to grab my checked bag.

The best way to start off the new year…traveling!

Once I had all of my luggage, I headed out to exit the terminal where Neele, my German host sister, and her mom were waiting for me. I said farewell to Kendall and headed to the Lange’s family vehicle. I was expecting a small European car, however, the vehicle I entered was fairly large for European standards. I would compare the vehicle’s size to a crossover in the United States.

The drive from Hamburg to Hannover was roughly 1.5 hours. For half the drive, I stayed awake the other half I napped. For the portion of the drive that I observed, I felt the area of Germany we were in seemed very similar to Indiana: flat, green, and filled with farmland. Windmills dotted the landscape to generate energy and cars drove down the autobahn like a normal highway.

Around 11:30 am, we arrived at Neele’s house. Her mother kept telling me, “German houses are much smaller than American houses,” which made me laugh. We ate lunch and chit-chatted. Neele’s parents went to work for a while, so they did not have to work the following day. I settled into my room and freshened up. At 3:00 pm, Neele and I took her dog for a walk, which allowed me to see more of the area.

After the walk, we drove into Hannover and explored the city. Christmas lights and decorations were still up, which made the city even more darling. The architecture and history of the buildings amazed me. Throughout Hannover, Neele and I would periodically find unique pieces of art or sculptures, which further added to the city’s character.

Once darkness set in, Neele and I met her parents at their office. I was able to see what her parents do for a living as engineers. Her mom and dad wrapped up their work and we walked to a traditional German restaurant for dinner. I had my first German schnitzel and oh my goodness was it delicious!

German Schnitzel – American portion-sized

Germany day one was unforgettable! I cannot wait to see what the rest of my time here has in store.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo