Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

November 2015

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.


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.

19th November 2015

Elbe Room
Posted by at 11.09pm | Out and About | 1 response

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.

29th November 2015

Bahn Hamburg
Posted by at 2.45pm | Out and About | No responses

Final post in the Hamburg series!

Having talked about the places I visited in Hamburg, I probably should mention how I travelled to them. Yes, it’s the big climax, the one you’ve all been waiting for: my assessment of the public transport system.

Hamburg, like many European cities, is blessed with a lovely public transport system. As well as buses, and the aforementioned ferries, there are underground and overground trains zipping all over the place. No trams, though. Boo.

But… dear, oh dear, the network map lets it down. A nasty mess of jagged lines, and the city centre is a jumbled mess with lines criss-crossing all over the place. It’s not as bad as the horrible Merseyrail map with the square loop from a few years ago, but still, I can only give 6 out of 10.


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