Wanderung 27

Mediterranean Adventure

November - December 2012


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Friday November 16th, 2012: Downtown Hamburg and the Model Train Museum (AKA: Miniatur Wunderland)


Arising just in time for breakfast with Heinke and Gustl (I try to never miss a meal!), we set off for a day of wandering around the downtown and harbor area of Hamburg.


Today was typical Hamburg November weather, grey and cool. It wasn't really raining, but the humidity was 100%, so it might as well have been. I remembered, why I always had hated November in Germany: it got light later, dark earlier, it was grey, and there were not even Christmas lights to cheer you up. In addition the last church Sunday had the name of Totensonntag or "Sunday of the Dead", which was about as cheerful as the name would indicate [although quite popular with zombies!]. But here I was, and I decided to have fun in spite of the gloom, and fun was a downtown trip.

We set off by bus and train to the downtown area. We both enjoyed walking by a stand that promised icecream in the summer and Gluehwein (mulled wine) in the winter. We first went to Karstadt, the last of the great department stores, that is still a department store. I enjoyed looking at stuff and finally bought a new wallet. At home I had noticed, I had a wallet for English money and one for Australian money, but none for Euros. That had to be changed. Then we just kept walking.


Monika enjoys wandering around Hamburg as it is the city where she was born and raised. Although much has changed since she last lived there, many things that bring back good memories still remain. The rather imposing, Baroque-styled Rathaus (English: City Hall), for example, remains with a wide plaza in front. Since Christmas was approaching, however, the normally empty plaza was being temporarily converted into a Christmas Market, and one of the outdoor boutiques right in front of the Rathaus was already open for business!

At a shop specializing in amber jewelry in the nearby Alster Arcade, I bought a nice pair of amber earrings set in sterling silver for Monika, who recently had her ears pierced. We had lunch at a food court across from the Rathaus and took the subway a couple stops over to the harbor area to also wander around there a bit.

The temperature was stuck just above freezing and a cold, wet wind was blowing, so it was a bit chilly for an extended walk and we instead elected to visit the Miniature Wonderland that boasts the world's largest model train layout.


I remembered that in the Alsterarkaden, a little shopping area next to the Alsterfleet, was an amber store, and I really wanted some earrings made of amber. We did find the store, and found just the right amber studs. Things looked already brighter.

In front of the Rathaus people were assembling the yearly Christmas market. In a few days it would be bright and cheerful (and serving Gluehwein) but it was already a cheerful sight. So we wandered through the incomplete market and enjoyed what was there.

It was lunch time and we stopped at a food court just off the Rathausmarkt where we had eaten before. This time we ordered lunch at the Italian place, Bob had lasagna and I had spaghetti with goulash. Bob snagged a couple of seats and we had a very nice lunch.

We went back to the U-Bahn and took a train onto the Hafencity (English: Harbour City), Hamburg's newest place along the river. The old warehouses are being refurbished into lofts and new apartments are being built along the canals. We had been here before but were curious to see how much more had been done. But it was cold and one thing we wanted to see again was an electric model train museum, it was now called Miniature Wonderland. There was no line, and we were happy to get out of the cold and damp and into a wonderland of miniatures.



Miniature Wonderland turned out to be rather fascinating as they had added a whole new section since we last visited.


This is a true marvel. Some model train buffs, a pair of brothers, went hog wild. It had started out with a reproduction of Hamburg, including all the highlights. Not only train and train stations, but places like the Hagenbeck Zoo and the football stadium. Beside model trains running every where, there were cars and trucks running on the streets and little people everywhere. In the football stadium they were yelling 'goal' ever now and then.

The great thing about it all were the details. On one street a car had overturned and stuff had landed in the street creating a backup.



The new section was two stories high and over on one side featured a miniature airport. It was astonishing enough that they somehow arranged for the airplanes to be taxiing around the airport, but they also had engineered it so that the planes could take off and land from a short runway! Those actions were complete with sound effects appropriate to the type of airplane (propeller, small jet, or large jumbo jet), and that part of the complex seemed to fascinate all of us onlookers.

The other section that was fascinating in a "how do they do that" kind of way was ship port in the Scandinavia section at the other side of the museum. As one little girl said after sticking her hand in the water, "Look, Daddy, real water!". The ships were really floating, too, and I thought I saw waves coming from the propellers underneath. How those ships are accurately steered and powered I have no idea but it is for me quite intriguing.


The newest additions were an actual airport with planes landing and taking off, and a two story section that looked like Switzerland, with trains on three different levels. From Hamburg they had expanded to a section on America, specifically the Wild West including Las Vegas, Scandinavia, where a cruise ship was actually sailing down a river, and Austria, complete with a gondola going up and down a mountain.



When the dim the lights every once in a while, the whole layout lights up, and in some ways that looks even more realistic than it does by day. The night skyline of Las Vegas, for example, was just prefect as far as I could tell. At "night" some of the buildings were also lit from within and you could see very tiny people going about their very tiny business such as eating dinner in a cafe. Amazing.


Every 15 minutes it got dark and all the lights came on and you could see the trains and cars at nights. There were lights in the houses so you could see people doing whatever they do in the evening. Truly every detail was seen to and I can't imagine how much time and effort had gone into creating this wonderland.


After a quick but fruitful stop in the attached gift shop (10 Hamburg postcards for 3 Euro!) we returned home in time for Kaffeetrinken, the German version of afternoon tea, and had a relaxing evening at home chatting with Heinke and Gustl plus Detlef, who stopped by to say hello.


If you ever are in Hamburg go see Miniature Wonderland: take the U-Bahn to Baumwall, go over a bridge to the Kehrwieder point (English: Come Back point) and walk to the left along a row of tall, old brick warehouses. Keep your eyes to the right and look for a queue of people as the signage is minimal. When you find it, I am sure that you will have a wonderful time.

When we finally got out, we were ready to do some more walking, so we walked through the Hafencity to the end were the cruise terminal is situated. One of these days we will find a cruise to go to Hamburg or come back from Hamburg. I will keep looking. More of the apartments had been completed since we were here last and it all had a finished look, except for the perennial building site, the Elbphilharmonie, an imposing site that one of these years will house the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra and be ready for their concerts, we just don't know when.

By this time we were exhausted and it was time to head back to Heinke and Gustl's for Kaffeetrinken, Abendessen and a quiet evening.

Copyright 2013 by R. W. Holt and E. M. Holt


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