Our Hanseatic City Tour to Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck
Our plans in Germany were loose to say the least. We wanted to explore a few less well traveled areas, at least to non-German tourists, knowing that we could head to some of the more world-famous areas on future visits. We decided to head up to the Baltic coast to see what the German seaside was all about but we checked out at a few historic cities along the way.
The Hanseatic League were a trading group that dominated commerce in Northwestern Germany from the 13th to 15th centuries. We drove through a number of towns and cities that formed the league with our first overnight stop in the city of Bremen. We parked in a very crowded camping park close to the center. The city has some very interesting architecture of dramatic structures that have mostly been rebuilt after wartime damage. It was our first rainy day for a while so we ended up taking shelter in a cozy brewery. After getting accustomed to Belgian beer over the last few weeks it was always going to be a tough for Germany to follow and to be sure the beer was just meh! Still being in out of the rain and drinking mediocre beer is better than getting wet and drinking water.
The camping park where we stayed was in a great location for the center but was also close to a lovely green area of the city. The next day, when the sun returned, we explored and enjoyed the park. There was a random music festival going on that seemed to be mostly attended by hippy families and in the park we had our first exposure - literally - to the German’s penchant for nudity. Strolling around the numerous paths through the park while dodging cyclists and families with toddlers chasing after toys we were suddenly faced with some sunbathers who were making sure they had no tan lines! We scurried away taking our prudish Britishness to somewhere we felt more comfortable - a biergarten overlooking the river where everyone had clothes on.
We moved on from Bremen to another Hanseatic city; Hamburg. Both of us had visited previously, but again never as tourists. So we took in the heart of the city and enjoyed some time wandering around the Alster lakes. It’s a lovely city with a very cool atmosphere. We liked it a lot.
I have a school friend, who lives nearby so we met her for dinner and spent an evening trying to piece together who we remembered from 35 years ago. She made some suggestions of what we should see in the city. One recommendation she gave us that we would probably never have gone to otherwise was Minatur Wunderland.
Minatur Wunderland describes itself as the world largest model railway but it is so much more. There are recreations of music festivals, alpine ski resorts, the Las Vegas strip, Miami Beach. They even have a replica of Hamburg’s Concert Hall which opens up to reveal a tiny orchestra that are actually playing their instruments. Every 15 minutes, as you wander the numerous spaces, the lights dim to see everything in simulated night time. To top it off they have created an immense working model of an airport with planes taking off and landing. Take a closer look at the picture at the top of this post to see the detail. We spent almost three hours there and could easily have doubled that. It was amazing.
The Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall is an incredible building to behold in full size too. Hamburgers seem justifiably proud of this spectacular building. You can take a trip up to the viewing plaza for free, although you do need a ticket. You can get the tickets online, we just walked up and got ours at the box office as it wasn’t too busy. The escalator ride alone is worth the visit and the views from the plaza over the city are excellent.
We took an evening trip to the Reeperbahn and visited the St Pauli Night Market, which happens every Wednesday night at this time of year. It’s a fun atmosphere at the market with lots of people buying plates of meats and cheeses with a bottle of wine and enjoying a summer evening with friends. We took a walk around the famed sex district and found it to be tired and seedy. Nowhere we really wanted to spend any time if the market hadn’t been on.
The final hanseatic city we visited was the pretty Lübeck, we just stayed for one night in a city parking lot to break up our journey to our first Baltic Sea stop. We did a quick runaround the city and found it to be quite charming, but the visit was somewhat marred by a torrential summer storm. It was time to move on a get some coastal air in our lungs. Next we would be entering into the former East Germany and experiencing the seaside - German style.