Monday, July 16, 2012

Down the Rabbit Hole

When my husband had to go to Hamburg, Germany for work, he asked me to go with him. Usually he flies there but we decided we would drive the 5 hours and enjoy the German countryside. At times I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Curiouser and curiouser. 

Germany is famous for many things…. Hummel’s, which when asked no one knew what we were talking about, Oktoberfest, which apparently is in September and the autobahn. A lot of people dream of a road without any speed limits and my husband is no exception. I quickly pulled out my pillow and closed my eyes. I was falling deep into the rabbit whole just as I heard him saying something about “The need for speed”. Luckily they’ve installed several areas where speeds are posted and there was a lot of construction and rain slowing us down a bit.

The countryside in Germany was stunning! Pockets of little villages dotted the farmland along our way to Hamburg. Arriving in Hamburg with the view of the magnificent harbor with all the cargo holds was quite impressive. You could tell this was one of the largest ports in Europe. And with that sight in front of me an old familiar gnawing in my gut returns. I’m in a foreign country and I don’t speak the language.

As the next day began I summoned up my courage to venture out on my own while my husband went to work. Some people may find this not a big deal, but to me it’s a tad intimidating. Step one, get a map and step into the map to familiarize myself with my surroundings. I felt like Joey on “Friends” when they go to London and he has to step into the map to get the right directions going. But, whatever it takes!!! Step two, make sure I’ve got the address to the hotel so if I get lost I can get my way back. Step three, make sure I’ve got money for a cab to get myself back when and if I get lost. Step four…. Go!

 I headed down the street to one of the large train stations. I found a lovely elderly couple who didn’t speak English but they pointed another person in my direction to help me find the area to buy a ticket for the Hop on Hop off Bus. Thank you so kindly to the helpful people in the world.

I wish I could say the same for the man that sold me my ticket for the bus ride. The bus stop was not near the train station and I would need to go a little bit to find it. I asked the ticket salesman where I would find the stop. He reminded me of The Caterpillar from Alice's adventures. He was rude and spoke in short confusing sentences. He haphazardly told me where to go. I said thank you and said I would return if I couldn’t find it. I went to the left as he had instructed me to do and came to a bus stop. But I knew it was not the correct one. I asked several kind people there where it might be and they had no idea. Clearly, I was not in the right area. So I went back to the ticket man. He laughed at me and said “How could you not find it!!!” It’s right there! There’s no way you could miss it!” All said while laughing. Then he resaid his directions this time adding several details he had failed to mention before. I ventured out again, and this time, after crossing a street, passing through a hotel and then venturing down two more streets I found the bus stop. No big deal… I’m alive and I’m not lost anymore. I’m hoping the ticket salesman will be blessed with the opportunity to travel to foreign country and have someone give him crappy directions and laugh when he gets lost.

I will once again give praise to the Hop on Hop off bus companies!! I love being able to ride the bus around the cities and have someone point out all the wonderful sights and Hamburg was just as delightful. The bus driver notified the tour guide that I spoke English and he immediately said the tour in German and English. Thank you so very much. He also made sure I was comfortable with my surroundings and was able to return to my hotel with ease.

The next day I had two different quests in mind. I wanted to see St. Michaelis church and I wanted to see where the Beatles made their mark on Hamburg.

We began at the beautiful St. Michaelis. We were lucky enough to visit when the church was open and when the organ player was playing. I lit a candle for my parents and sat to listen to the music. Then we climbed down the stairs to the crypts below the church. Yes, I know it sounds creepy but it’s my thing. J Wonderfully lit and well maintained it was nothing but beautiful. And it’s because of meandering like this with a love and respect for cemeteries that we came upon this unique burial site. I could do nothing but smile and say a little prayer.

Back in the light and onto the next mission… said in my best Ed Sullivan voice THE BEATLES!!!!! We ventured a short walk from the church to the Reeperbahn, a street not only famous for night life, strip clubs and sex shops but also where The Beatles got a wonderful start before becoming famous.

What was life like before... I Am The Walrus? Before... Let it Be? Before... A Hard Day's Night? We went during the day because I had no desire to be in that area at night. Apparently it was just as sketchy back then as it is now. Daylight was a little safer but I was still on high alert. 

Most of the bars where they played are long gone but there are a few areas where memories are left for people. Walking in the footsteps of the Beatles.. I’m glad I did it but not an area to be in alone.

Between shopping, beer fests and enjoying the sights, I ran out of time. I seriously considered going back to the ticket salesman on the last day to tell him I was still lost. The look on his face would have been priceless. This American Girl was not speaking Jabberwocky! I’ll save that for next time.

Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe.

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