Hamburg: City of Ham & Burgers

In Hamburg, it is illegal to insult swans, thus making it cool.
So let's say you've been traveling around Scandinavia for a couple weeks. You have listened to the Fox song on repeat, taken in the pines and mountains and decided that the natural beauty of the area is beautifully natural. But even in August, it is starkly obvious that winter is coming. And after buying a beer or ten, you realize you are quite in danger of going broke. You find yourself staring at your empty wallet, and you begin to daydream about the Dollar to Euro exchange rate.

Well, it's high time you get out of Scandinavia. Don't want to get snowed into the region if you want to keep your toes. Heading south, you'll hit Germany. And Hamburg is a convenient stop. Lucky for you it has some pretty statues and a rich history.

Pictured: Justice triumphs over the Hamburglar.
How should you get to Hamburg? Glad you asked. For a surprising journey that I am totally going to spoil for you, take a train from Copenhagen to Hamburg, Germany. You'll look at a map and scratch your head. There's some water in the way between those cities. You'll shrug and board the train. You assume there are some bridges.


Your train gets on a boat. It's...a train...on a boat.

At least for a minute or so, you are on a train. On a boat. Savor the moment, check it off your bucket list, and then they make you go above deck and enjoy the sunshine. Eventually you have to get back on the train (it's on a boat, did I mention?) and the train drives off the boat into the ocean, if you're unlucky. Or maybe back onto the track. And you eventually get to Hamburg!

In the city, you will find some iconic buildings, like the Chilihaus. It's supposed to look like a boat.

The pessimist's corner office.
 There are also some statues that showcase German engineering. This one was all about hydraulics. Water bubbles, those cylinders turn, and it treads that fine line between art, fountain, and wasted public funds.

Art in motion!
Kidding about the statue. I don't know who owns it. When it comes to wasted public funds, you need look only as far as the Opera House. Originally slated to be completed 2009, the city's contract with the architects was $180 million. Now, with a projected opening in 2017, the estimated cost is a mere $785 million. Whoops.

At least it can serve as a daycare; children of the city will be able to see opera for free!

But I feel sure this modern aesthetic will go flawlessly with the rest of the buildings along the river.

Or not.
 But, if you are in Hamburg, and you can tear your eyes away from the modernist financial black hole, you should stop by the Rathaus (translation: house of rats.) Or maybe City Hall. It has a beautiful courtyard.

But it's really the workmanship and small details that make it pretty.

Pretty face?
And much arm waving.

Almost looks like liberty.
And, as long as you're in Hamburg, you will have no choice but to go to Reeperbahn. If you talk to locals, some of them will tell you the area isn't cool anymore. But if you are looking for signs advertising table dancing, or very normal dance clubs filled with music you will recognize from America, or for stag parties of 20 dressed as batman, you can find all of the above! 


Top Five Things To Do Differently Next Trip

Hello dear blog-readers and facebook-stalkers!

You may have heard a rumor that I am back in the U.S. of A. This may be true. But wait--my blog last said I was in Hamburg--was that the end of the trip?

God no. There were a lot of cities. Like, a lot. Fifteen? Twenty? Something like that. Some of them were pretty sweet. You're going to have to hear about them, too, as I get caught up on life and blogging. I promise at least a couple more awesome photos. I apologize for the poor form on getting so far behind. I assure you, it won't happen again.

That aside, I gotta pause for a few moments and recognize the pure unadulterated awesomeness that was the last four and a half months of my life. I am super grateful to the confluence of events in having a job I could sort of take with me and the driving angst of the postgrad-poor-economy-fugue that allowed me to drop everything and live the dream. And to everyone I've met, that's hosted me or bought me a drink or spent an afternoon getting lost and making fun of street signs--I want to say thank you. You are awesome and you made this trip amazing x 1000. 

But I learned a thing or two with this trip. And I think next time I will do a couple things differently.

1. Stay Longer in Each Place
I wanted, during this trip, to see as much of Europe as possible. So I hit at least one city in the following places: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Italy, and Spain. Sure, it was four and a half months, but if you hit that many countries, it gets to be a lot of moving around.

2. Stay with More Local Hosts
I won't say I don't love hostels, because I do. But if you spend a lot of time meeting and hanging out with other international travelers, you can miss quite a lot about the place you are actually visiting. Some of the best experiences I had were staying with cool people that lived in places I wanted to visit and/or had never heard of. 

3. Bring Camping Gear
I love European cities. I love walking around city centers and looking at architecture. But after the 500th example of neoclassical, Gothic, or Tudor architecture, you realize you just want to go camping near a goddamn waterfall.

4. Keep it Open Ended
If you have an end date picked out way in advance, new travel invitations and ideas will come up immediately before you are set to leave, and you will regret getting on the plane. Besides, you might not even be out of money yet! What business do you have going home?!

5. Pack Solo Cups (Red Cups)
"Oh, you're American? With yellow school buses? AND Red Cups!?"
While Europeans love American-style drinking games, the color choices are often limited to translucent. And that's a problem. You have to party it up in style. Forget the clothes, pack your suitcase full of red solo cups. Then you are guaranteed to make friends.