Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!


This is my little corner of the world wide web. If you're visiting for the first time, you might want to start by reading a bit more about me. I blog here about anything that interests me: mainly culture, Liverpool, politics, trains and a whole lot more besides. The latest posts are below and there's more in the archives. For other sections of the site, follow the links in the navigation bar above.

19th November 2015

Elbe Room
Posted by at 11.09pm | Out and About | No responses

Part 7 of my trip to Hamburg. I’m nearly at the end, honest!

Hamburg is a port city, straddling the River Elbe and welcoming ships from all over the world. It’s the second largest port in Europe behind Rotterdam, and the ninth largest in the world. The best way to see the harbour and port up close is, of course, by boat. It was our last day in Hamburg and we had a few hours to kill before our flight home, so we headed for the river and the pier at Landungsbrücken.

Landungsbrücken Landungsbrücken

The ferries in Hamburg function as part of the public transport system. The routes are numbered just like bus routes, and you can hop on board as easily as you would a bus (well, almost).

We were joined by some of Boris’s friends from Friday night for the trip. At the Landungsbrücken pier we boarded a number 62 ferry for a short journey west. The weather was cloudy with the threat of showers, but we still took ourselves upstairs and stood on the upper, open deck.

Hamburg Ferry

Great views were available in all directions: on one side of the river, office blocks and apartments rise up; while on the other, mile after mile of docks and industry line the bank.

Hamburg Waterfront Hamburg docks

20 minutes later we arrived at Neumühlen, where we alighted and went for a short stroll. There are some impressively posh houses and a short length of beach here, with a slightly incongruous backdrop of cranes and docks on the opposite bank of the river. I’m reliably informed that anyone going for a paddle has to look out for the wakes generated by the huge ships which go past.

Hamburg beach

Time was growing short and we needed to get back to the hotel for our bags. We headed back to the pier for a ferry back east. We had to wait a few minutes and a crowd of people built up. When the ferry arrived it was already quite crowded, but we joined the procession of people waiting to board and assumed there would be no difficulty.

As I boarded, one of the ferry crew stepped onto the gangway behind me to obstruct it. I didn’t quite catch what he said, but it was clear that the boat was full and no more passengers would be allowed to board. The problem was that one half of our merry band was still standing on the pier, and I could only watch as we sailed off, leaving Boris and co behind.

There was a happy ending though. Boris got a lift direct to the airport while I rushed back to the hotel on the U-Bahn to collect our luggage, then manhandled two suitcases onto the S-Bahn to the airport. Well, I guess it was happier for Boris than me.

14th November 2015

Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Posted by at 11.17pm | In the News | No responses

Eiffel Tower

What to say about the Paris massacre that hasn’t already been said? I’m finding it difficult to find the words to convey the mounting sense of shock and horror that I felt as I watched the evening’s events unfold on television. I can’t even begin to imagine the trauma that those directly affected are feeling.

I try to look at these things unemotionally. Mathematically speaking, the odds are in our favour. If you live in a stable Western democracy, chances are that you will never be caught up in a random attack.

But even the most rational human could not totally rid themselves of the nagging doubt, the fear that you could be one of those people who are later described as “being in the wrong place at the wrong time”. There’s always a slight possibility that a routine shopping trip, a visit to the cinema, or the commute to work can turn tragic in the blink of an eye.

I am comforted by the many acts of kindness that were reported in the immediate aftermath. The Parisians who opened up their homes for stranded people. The taxi drivers who took people home for free. Cities are imperfect places in many ways, but at times like this the anonymous mass of people somehow always seems to coalesce into an impromptu support network.

Paris will recover, and carry on – just as London, New York, Mumbai and countless other places have had to do. The only alternative is for everyone to hide under the bed and never come out – although admittedly, telecommuting and online grocery shopping makes this a very feasible option these days.

But carrying on can wait for a day or two. In the meantime, let us all honour and mourn those whose lives have been cut short so brutally.

3rd November 2015

Park life
Posted by at 10.59pm | Out and About | No responses

Yes, I’m still writing about Hamburg!

Inexplicably on the Friday afternoon of our trip, Boris decided to leave the rest of the group and spend some quality time with his family. Outrageous!

I could have gone to the Hamburg Dungeon with Florian and Andrew, but since the only available tour was in German, I decided to pass. That left me at a bit of a loose end, or it would have done if it hadn’t been for my sister Jenny and her boyfriend Andy, who by pure coincidence were in Hamburg at the exact same time as me.

We arranged to meet at Planten un Blomen, the big park in the city centre.

I’m kind of spoiled when it comes to German parks because my first experience of one was Berlin’s huge, sprawling Tiergarten. But Planten un Blomen (literally “Plants and Flowers”) was lovely too – a haven of tranquility in the midst of a frenetic city, as all good parks are.

Yes, it was nice to get together and spend some relaxing quiet time together. True to form, we then wandered off and ended up in a pub. Ahem.


24th October 2015

Don’t fear the Reeper
Posted by at 7.14pm | Out and About | No responses

It amused me, recently, to see John Whittingdale give a speech at the Conservative Party conference in which he praised the success of British artists and performers. “There are no German Beatles,” he noted.

That last sentence amused me, because while the Beatles are indeed British (hailing as they do from every Tory’s favourite city, Liverpool), it was in Germany that they honed their craft. They were in Hamburg on and off for over two years, returning to the UK in 1962 with a lot more performing experience and much better prepared for the global superstardom that awaited. Hamburg airport has a quote from John Lennon on display: “I may have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg”. In summary, John Whittingdale is an idiot.

All of which leads into my Saturday night in Hamburg, which started at Beatles-Platz, where this cool statue of the fab four is on display.

Beatles Platz

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10th October 2015

Masterpieces in Miniature
Posted by at 8.11pm | Out and About | No responses


Apologies for the delay in posting the next instalment. I have been quite busy recently!

Our Saturday morning in Hamburg was something I had been looking forward to for a long time – our visit to Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway (bigger even than Rod Stewart’s).

Miniatur Wunderland is so popular that you generally have to prebook an admission slot, especially at weekends. This was something we had neglected to do, but after a little bit of wrangling with our hotel’s computer terminal and its intermittent wi-fi connection, I had a printed PDF voucher which would allow us to gain entry between 10.30 and 11.30 (once you’re in, you can stay as long as you like).

Miniatur Wunderland is spread across two floors of a giant warehouse in the Speicerstadt area of the city. When we first arrived at the Wunderland building, there was a brief bit of misdirection where we walked into what appeared to be a fire escape (we only noticed our mistake after going up three flights of stairs).

With our pre-booked voucher we were quickly inside the main building, and on to the models themselves.

I have been to plenty of model railway shows (I’m still single, fellas!) but I wasn’t quite prepared for this. One of the first things you see when you enter the exhibition is a breathtaking model of the Alps, with mountains so tall that balconies have been installed above so you can see them from below.


alps-4 alps-3


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2nd October 2015

A Hamburg stroll
Posted by at 10.05pm | Out and About | No responses

Friday morning we decided to do a walking tour of Hamburg. Every day at 11am a tour sets off, taking around two hours to take in some of the sights of the city. The tour starts at the Rathaus (City Hall), one of the many impressive buildings to be found in the city centre.

Hamburg Rathaus

In the square outside some sort of inter-schools concert was being held. Children of varying ages filed in and sat themselves down on folding chairs, to be entertained by other children. Well, I say “entertained” – we escaped just as a group of teenagers started rapping (badly).

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30th September 2015

Frühstück, Mittag- und Abendessen
Posted by at 9.05pm | Out and About | No responses

For past travel blogs, I have done a chronological account describing what I got up to. It was exhaustive – practically every minute of last year’s Berlin trip is accounted for – and exhausting to write. This time I’ve decided to try a different approach by writing a series of posts, each themed around a particular aspect of my visit.

First topic is one close to my heart (and stomach): food! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen some of these pictures already.

I was fortunate to have Boris with me as a guide. No wandering around looking for somewhere suitable to eat, as happened when I was in Berlin alone. Boris knew the places to eat and as a result I enjoyed some delicious meals.

We had breakfast in Schweinske, a chain of restaurants found across north west Germany. From the breakfast options, I opted for Die große Sause, a delicious offering of bacon, eggs, ham and cheese, alongside bread rolls with jam and honey. It was delicious, so much so that I had the same thing again the next day.


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28th September 2015

Hamburger Helper
Posted by at 10.05pm | Out and About | No responses

Regular readers of this blog (if there are any left) will know that I have a bit of a thing for Berlin. I’ve visited there twice, and I want to go back. It’s the most exciting, cosmopolitan, liberal city I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.

However, it turns out that other German cities are available. My friend Boris was returning to his native Germany to celebrate his birthday in Hamburg. Would I like to come along, he asked. The chance to visit a new city with my own personal tour guide? I hesitated for approximately 9.5 nanoseconds before saying “Ja!”

So, on the evening of 17th September I found myself at Manchester Airport waiting for a Germanwings flight. I arrived far too early for the flight, but I didn’t mind, as Manchester is a massive, sprawling terminal and I was grateful to have the time to saunter gently from the railway station to security to departure lounge.

Germanwings use fun-size aircraft on the Manchester-Hamburg route, with just four seats in each row. I was perturbed by the cabin crew’s insistence that I put my wheelie case in the hold – I don’t like parting with my luggage – but it arrived at the other end without incident.

Hamburg Airport is connected to the city’s extensive S-Bahn system.

Hamburg S-Bahn

One change of train later and we were exiting the U-Bahn at Lohmühlenstraße, where we promptly got lost, wandering around the grounds of the nearby St Georg Hospital for a good 15 minutes or so. The rumbling of my wheelie suitcase probably woke up every patient. We eventually had to retrace our steps to the station, then take a different route to our hotel, the Relaxa Bellevue. It was late, and we went more or less straight to sleep once we’d checked in.

Next morning, we ventured out of the hotel and across the road, onto the shores of Lake Alster to admire the view.

Hamburg Lake Alster

I had a feeling that this trip would be very nice indeed.

16th September 2015

Stuff happens
Posted by at 10.10pm | It's My Life | No responses


As August gave way to September, I found myself in something of a low mood. There were actual tears produced at one point.

It had been a stressful few weeks. Work has been difficult, I’ve had an End of Module Assignment to deliver to the Open University, and on top of that, I’ve moved into a new flat.

You may remember that, when last we met, I’d just acquired the keys. The apartment was devoid of furniture, fittings and most of the other things that are required to – ahem – “make a house a home”.

I didn’t immediately realise what I was letting myself in for, but it turns out that being a grown up is hard.

It didn’t help that there was a long list of niggles to sort out. The Virgin phone line didn’t work and required an engineer to come out. I phoned up Liverpool City Council to sort out council tax and was put on hold for nearly an hour because the telephone operator forgot his computer password. I had to phone Scottish Power on three separate occasions to actually get an account set up. United Utilities asked me for a water meter reading… and I couldn’t find the meter. The sofa I ordered failed to turn up on time.

For the first couple of weeks, I spent my evenings eating ready meals on a deckchair in the bare living room (because I had no dining furniture). I would probably have had a nervous breakdown, were it not for my amazing family and friends who rallied round with practical, financial and emotional support. Too many to mention individually (and I don’t want to forget someone and upset them) but you know who you are… and THANK YOU.

After all that, it was fortunate that September brought several events which cheered me up no end.

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15th August 2015

Flat tired
Posted by at 9.31pm | It's My Life | 2 responses

So today I picked up the keys to a flat I’m renting…


now what do I do?