I found out a couple of weeks ago that I would have an unexpected day off on March 26th. The base would be on stand down to take a breather from a recent exercise. A long weekend to fill! What to do? What to do?
How about a train trip? Since we are doing a lot of flying and driving over the next two months, this seemed like the way to go. I plotted out a course on Google maps to a couple of locations and Hamburg won for the easiest and least expensive location to get to by rail. Along this route we could make stops at Münster (to) and Bremen (from).
We began the journey on Friday night from Sittard and stopped at Münster for the night. We had a yummy dinner at an old German pub in town. I had browsed the English menu online so I knew exactly what I was going to order — bratwurst with fried potatoes. I may have mentioned before that I love German food. 🙂 The German name for this dish translated to Münster Rosary (no idea why). I was a bit disappointed that the waitress got the order wrong and brought chicken instead of sausage, but it looked and tasted delicious so all was well. The waitress, who didn’t speak English, indicated that I got a little extra beer in my stein and there was no way I was going to complain anyway.
Münster is a charming city and we really enjoyed being there. The main attraction is the Peace Hall in the Rathaus where the Peace of Westphalia was signed to end the Thirty Years War. Unfortunately, the city hall was closed for renovations when we were there. Bummer. Oh well, nice architecture, good food, beer, pastries and coffee were enough for this visit. We had to catch a 1pm train to Hamburg.
After a 40 minute delay, we were on our way in a crowded intercity train. We had to stand for the first hour and then we hung out in the dining car for the rest of the trip. (Note to self: reserve seats next time.) Our hotel in Hamburg had a funky decor, which was a fun change from the norm. It was kinda in an inconvenient location, though. We did A LOT of walking in Hamburg! We walked about an hour and a half before we got to our dinner location. I didn’t think a reservation would be necessary for a 6pm dinner at an Indian restaurant, but I was wrong. Luckily, there was another Indian restaurant just down the street, which was much bigger and had tables available. We had a great meal there and my craving for Indian food was satisfied.
I tried to get tickets for a concert at the new Elbphilharmonie, but they were all sold out (in fact, all a scheduled concerts for the entire year are sold out). We decided to go to a classical guitar concert at Laishalle, the old concert hall, instead. The music was excellent and we assume that the musicians were engaging because the audience was really into what they were saying; they spoke in German and we didn’t get it. 😑 The concert was a bit too long for my stamina, but Dick loved it.
On Sunday, we did a free walking tour of the old part of Hamburg. Our tour guide was from Croatia. Expats can be very passionate about their adopted city! The tour ended at the harbor, which gave us the opportunity to see the Elbphilharmonie up close and then go up to its observation deck for a great view of the harbor. It’s an amazing building, but hard to believe that it cost 800 million euros to complete. 🤑
We had planned to see the miniature railroad museum after that. Who knew it was so popular and requires advance timed tickets?! Oh well, it was just a curiosity thing anyway. We’re not exactly railroad enthusiasts. We had some time to kill so we headed back to the city center. The weather was milder than it had been in months and lots of people were out enjoying the city.
We caught an evening train to Bremen. The Bremen Ratskeller was my choice for dinner because of its history and it did have an interesting ambience. They have an extensive wine list and I chose a nice Riesling from the Rhine valley. We were able to buy a bottle of it the next day. Bremen looks and feels very old and we loved that. We did a tour of the city hall on Monday and wow, that building is pretty impressive inside and out! The tour guide started the tour in German only, but after Dick told him we were English speakers he kindly started speaking in both languages. He also picked up on the fact that we had Nederland connections and made a couple of jokes about that. There was a lot to see in this small city, including a couple of very cute shopping streets. It was fun to just browse around. I had a windmill cafe spec’d out for lunch, but the menu was limited and expensive. On our way back to our hotel, we were offered a free sample of falafel from a small restaurant and it was pretty tasty. We decided to lunch there instead and the food was delicious! We made a stop at Hachez chocolate shop to pick up some Easter goodies and I detoured for a shopping fix at Galleria Kaufhof (my fave).
It was a long train ride back home, but relaxing with just a couple of easy transfers to navigate. Successful trip!