Germany

Ten things I learned in Hamburg, Germany…

Whenever Bill and I do a trip somewhere, I like to do a “post-mortem” kind of thing where I think about what I learned during my trip.  Hamburg is a city neither Bill nor I never visited before.  In fact, it was our first trip to “northern Germany”, though I hope there will be more.  So here’s what we found out during our travels.  Hope you learn something, too.

1.  Alsterwasser is basically the same thing as a Radler (or a shandy).  Basically, it’s beer mixed with lemon/lime soda or lemonade.  Alsterwasser is the “northern” version, while Radlers were born in Bavaria.

2.  My German isn’t good enough for me to be able to tell that the Schwabisch dialect is way different than the Hamburgisch dialect.  What little spoken German I understand sounds the same in both areas.  That could change sometime.

3.  Hamburg is a great place to go shopping.  There are lots of big name stores there, especially from well known clothing designers.

4.  Hamburg is a great place for eating, too… though there seems to be a huge number of Italian restaurants per capita.  Bill and I saw many Italian places followed by Portuguese restaurants.  We didn’t see many German restaurants.  But then, we might not have been looking in the right places.

5.  Hamburg has many bridges, supposedly more so than Amsterdam.

6.  Hamburg has a “red light” district.  There are even signs on the red light streets (which are actually public places where women can legally walk) “prohibiting” women and men under age 18.  I read that was because women may run the risk of being harassed by working girls.

7.  If you want to get to the Fischmarkt on Sunday, you need to get there early.  By 11:00, they’re closing up shop.  By noon, you might as well go somewhere else.

8.  If you go to Hamburg in January, bring a hat and gloves.  A scarf helps too.  It may not snow much there, but there’s quite a chilly northern wind coming off the water that will chill you to the bones.

9.  Don’t be surprised if you see someone in a convertible with the top down in freezing cold weather.  Germans will take their sunshine when they can get it.  ūüėČ

10.  Sometimes it’s a good thing to stand in a two hour security line for a one hour flight.  German strikes are pretty civilized.  Or… at least the one I was involved in was.

If you don’t have a dick, stay away from the danger zone…

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military hops, museums, Space A, Spain

Tickets to Seville and The Prado… and an amazing taste of real Spain

During my last visit to Madrid, my sister Becky and I visited the Prado museum.  I distinctly remember that we didn’t have time to see much because we needed to catch a train.  Also, Becky was in a foul mood and had pretty much cussed me out in a nearby park.  But Becky’s an artist and has the temperament to match her talent, so there you go.  Anyway, Bill loves to look at art and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more interested in it.  So we decided to go to The Prado and check out the exhibits.

Yummy churros con chocolate…

But first, there was some business we needed to attend to.  I wanted to go to Seville, which is my favorite Spanish city thus far.  So, after a cheap and very satisfying breakfast of churros and chocolate at an Asian owned bar near our hotel, we went by metro to the Atocha train station, one of Madrid’s two big stations.  It was interesting to take the Madrid metro again after so many years.  Bill observed that the machines offered directions in English, but there weren’t any attendants around.  So we had to be a bit more intuitive as we determined where we needed to go.

We got to the train station and made our way to the RENFE office so we could buy our tickets.  I sort of dreaded doing this, since the last time I visited Spain, I encountered some very unpleasant people in the Atocha train station.  I’m happy to report that this time, the woman who helped us was very nice and even admired Bill’s squiggly signature which doesn’t resemble a name.  She pronounced it “clever” and then made fun of all the people who signed so carefully on the credit card machine.  All the machine really cares about is that someone scribbled something in the right place.

We ended up with two tourist level tickets for the 1:00 train.  I would have opted for “club class” had the clerk offered it, but as it turned out, second class was a lot cheaper and plenty comfortable.  More on that in my next post about our bullet train ride to Seville.

Anyway, I remembered that the Prado Museum was very close to the train station.  My memory didn’t fail me.  All we had to do was cross the street and walk a little ways and there it was.

The Prado…

A cathedral near the Prado…

We got to the museum at 11:20 am and got tickets to the special temporary exhibit for 11:45am.  The exhibit was on the Velasquez family of Philip IV and it was surprisingly interesting.  Indeed, I was marveling at how much of art is also a history lesson.  After we looked at the Velasquez exhibit, we looked at some sketch books of Spanish artists who went to Rome to learn technique.  That was an even more interesting exhibit, given all that went into the training and the varying levels of talent among the artists.

The permanent exhibit is absolutely huge and takes hours to get through.  We saw a good portion of the  museum, but I finally wimped out after about three hours.  There was so much to see that I didn’t feel like my brain could process much more.  I’m really glad we took the time to see this museum, though.  It was well worth the price of admission.  One of the favorite parts of my visit was getting to see an amazing copy of the Mona Lisa‚Ķ  Check out this link from CNN for a glimpse!

The walk back to Puerta del Sol…

We walked back to our hotel from the Prado, then headed for the Puerta del Sol area, which is sort of the heart of Madrid.  I found us a nice family owned restaurant not directly in the line of tourism and we had paella and beer for lunch.  I think it was Bill’s first taste of paella and he really enjoyed it.

Bill had chocolate and I had vanilla for dessert…

Mickey and Minnie Mouse were in Puerta del Sol‚Ķ  So were Bart and Homer Simpson and Spongebob Squarepants.

We went back to our hotel, where I proceeded to take another long nap.  I guess the Prado affected me more than I realized.  Once I woke up, it was time for dinner and we went walking in search of a place for something to eat.  I didn’t want to go back to the Puerta del Sol area, because it was very crowded and busy and I didn’t feel like fighting crowds.  But I also didn’t want to sit in a crowded place near our hotel.  After walking around a bit, we finally stopped at a deserted looking bar.

The place was not the usual sort of establishment I would choose, but I was tired and just wanted to get something simple to eat.  Little did I know, that sad little bar would turn into an amazing cultural experience.  We walked in, sat down, and ordered two beers.  I ordered chicken wings and Bill ordered Serrano ham, which is just as good as Iberian ham, but less expensive.  The legs of ham were right up there at the bar and we watched the bartender carve some for us.  The bartender also brought us Russian salad and potato cakes.

Bill eats ham and bread…

Those chicken wings were delicious.

 It was pretty slow at the beginning of the night…

We drank beer and wine…

As the night wore on, we seemed to endear ourselves to the bartender, who brought us olives.  More people came in, including a guy who looked like he was into sports.  A little while later, his girlfriend came in.  She was tall, a bit overweight, and wore an extremely low cut blouse that showed off her boobs.  My face must have registered shock because next thing I know, she was whispering to her man.  He gave me a dirty look.  Then I saw her turn around and she had zipped up her jacket to cover her breasts.

I felt a little badly at first.  I didn’t mean to embarrass her.  But I honestly was surprised to see her boobs.  They left and Bill and I kept drinking.  The owner of the bar brought out more tapas we didn’t order.  It was clear that if you were drinking, they were feeding you.

I got up to go to the bathroom.  There was no toilet paper in the toilet, which was not very clean.  Fortunately, I had tissues that I had gotten on our Scottish cruise on Hebridean Princess in 2012.  They really came in handy.  I left a few for the next gal to come along.

The owner brought of empanadas and potatoes and bacon‚Ķ I finally had to look up at him with a look that said I was about to explode‚Ķ  though it was a lot of fun watching the crowd.  Football was on the TV and we got to see some Spanish ads, which are a hell of a lot more entertaining than American ads are.  One that we saw several times involved a naked man running through the streets.  His private parts were blurred out; but still, you’d never see that in America.

When we were in Scotland, a kind-hearted cabbie gave me a “wee Scottish tartan umbrella” to help fend off the frigid, damp weather.  Bill brought it with us on our trip and had taken it along on that night at the crazy Spanish bar in Madrid.  He was a bit buzzed and forgot to take it with him when we left.  I was a little sad, since that umbrella had sentimental value.  But then I realized we had traded one cultural experience for another.  And honestly, that bar was obviously run by guys who weren’t into neatness.  I bet the umbrella is still sitting where we sat and will be there awhile.  We noticed that there was a lot of trash on the floor and no one seemed too worried about picking it up.  On the other hand, we had a wonderful time.  When I protested all the food, the guy who was bringing it out gave me a “never mind” look and rubbed his stomach as he licked his lips.  Too funny!

The front of the infamous Spanish bar…

 We passed a gay bar on the way back to our hotel and I couldn’t resist snapping these photos.

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