Travel: Cologne, Dusseldorf, Bremen, Hamburg, Hannover, Berlin


Hello everyone – this is a much delayed post, so do forgive me. I will try and remember all the things I’ve done and the tips. My first travel blog was with the family, so it was a lot more relaxed. I am not a relaxed traveler. I try and do/see/eat as much as I can when I travel.

General travel tips: 1) Take a brand new marker with you – leave your name everywhere you go. 2) The Germans are lovely people – although most may not speak English. 3) Book all your train/bus tickets in advance if you plan to go to several cities.

I landed in the early afternoon at Cologne quaint little airport. The man at immigration was lovely (phew*), gave me a lot of good advice and sent me on my way. I purchased a Kolncard which cost me like some 10 Euro and gives you access to public transport and some of the sites of interest – but I was in such a mess that I managed to lose it in 30 mins. I stayed at the only YHA hostel they had which is pretty magnificent but got off at the wrong metro station and had to walk a distance carrying my bags. “I’m a backpacker, not a drag bagger.” Anyhow, enough of the moaning. I loved Cologne. I spent 2 nights there. The day I arrived, I met up with my cousin and his gf – we did a quick walk around the city. Lock bridge, passing the philharmonic, and ended up in the center of the market where some of their friends were performing some acrobatics alongside an opera singer. Big turn out. We then sat on the river bank, had dinner and parted ways. The next night my cousin insisted that I stay with them, and the hostel was very accommodating with refunding me my next nights stay.

Travel tip: 1) If you don’t have anyone in Cologne, the Kolncard might be worth it. 2) You are not allowed to walk over the Philharmonic as your footsteps mess up their acoustics. 3) Cross lock bridge and photograph the cathedral from the other side of the river – at night. Trust me you won’t be disappointed.

The following day, my cousin and I grabbed breakfast – chocolate pretzel, took a few pictures of the 4711 store and went on to brave (me more than him) the steps to Koln Dom. It’s definitely worth the climb, and it was better because it was a Saturday – you could hear the philharmonic practicing in the square below. The inside is spectacular, worth the visit, it’s also free. We then went on through town to the local Lindt chocolate factory, it’s small, it smells heavenly but I’m not sure it’s worth the price, maybe would have been had I not lost my KolnCard. We then set of home to have a small little BBQ. It was a chilled out afternoon – watched some surfing on TV, enjoyed the BBQ, then later we all went out a gathered so that they could do some skateboarding. I did get on it, I stayed on it mostly with support. It was just nice. Peaceful.

Travel tip: 1) There’s a lovely bakery (Merzenich) close to the KolnDom which has all the German delicacies. 2) If you are going to climb the steps to Koln Dom – go before 11am and take water! 3) Definitely buy 4711 souvenirs. 4) There’s a chocolate shop somewhere that only sells chocolate KolnDoms which are excellent gift items.

The next day, after a complete German breakfast of eggs, a multitude of breads, jam, honey, nutella, and spreads – I caught my train to Dusseldorf. Again, it was quite a walk to the hostel, this time truly. There isn’t much to do in this city. I spent less than 24h here, because I only came for one thing. It’s still a lovely city to walk around in. The riverbanks were busy due to a French-German festival. There’s a few odd things you can do in town – the city is an art capital, there’s plenty of galleries to go to, but if you really want to try something special go to the Kunst Im Tunnel. It was free the day I went, or it’s generally free, I don’t know. It’s an old underwater tunnel that has been transformed into a gallery. Every (few) month(s) there is a new theme and sculptures, drawings, paintings, mixed media, robotics, videos are brought together to get the message of the theme. Sometimes it doesn’t make much sense, but there are plenty of art enthusiasts around to ask. And finally after much walking about, waiting for the sun to set, I headed down Konigsallee. It’s in the heart of the branded shopping district. A lovely little canal that runs through with ?Zeus on the far end and trees on both sides and lights that reflect in the water. Definitely worth the photo opportunity.

Travel tip: 1) You don’t need to go to Dusseldorf. 2) If you do, just relax and enjoy the city, sun bathe in Hofgarten, have loads of ice cream. 3) The Rheinturm gives you a good view of the city, also has a revolving restaurant on the top. 4) They don’t have female only hostel rooms.

I was knocked out with all the walking but I had an early morning bus to Bremen and dashed to the station, just in time. It was a journey that took forever going through German country roads. Bremen is a quaint little village I must say. It is a village that has some interesting history and has built it’s popularity on that. The story of the traveling musicians by the Grimm brothers was born here – and every turn is a traveling musician statue. It is also one that has a Roland – a guardian statue. Very few of those remain. The one in Bremen is from 1404. Bremen cathedral is a spectacular beauty – modern and well lit. Of course it costs next to nothing to go up to the top to get a view of the city. Another thing I discovered about Bremen was it’s “shopping district” – colorful shops built on weaving cobbled paths with cafes tucked in between. You get all the delicious local delicacies and pastries as you make your way through. I haggled my way onto a delayed earlier bus and got to Hamburg just in time for bed.

Travel tip: 1) When booking your bus out, book it earlier because there will always be a delay even on the sunniest day. 2) Sit outside and enjoy a hot cup of italian coffee and local macaroons while listening to the musicians play.

Hamburg is by far the best definition of a harbour town. Just like in every other major German town that given you passes, so does Hamburg and I got one. It gives you discount on attractions and allows you to ride all the public transport available. The first thing I did was to go on a walking tour that covers most of Hamburg that needs to be seen. We ended the tour near the Miniatur Wunderland so the first I did was go get a ticket for the day because you have to book your slot. I got a slot towards the end of the day and since it was still mid day I had some 6 hours to kill. Because I had my travel pass, I just took the metro everywhere – saved me time. I went to St Michaels Church – it’s got an impressive tower and a lift that takes you to the top.  Off I went on the lift – it’s pretty busy up at the top, but the views are worth it as always. Following that I went to the harbour – there’s a ferry that takes you to the far end. It’s about a 40 min trip back and forth, you can sit on the deck and watch the containers and cruise ships pass you by. There’s plenty of places along the harbour to grab a bite but the best food is down Deichstrabe. While you are at the harbour, I recommend going down to the Elbtunnel – an old tunnel that connects both sides of the harbour now only open to pedestrians and cyclists. Miniatur Wunderland, no matter how childish it sounds is a damn marvel. It’s mind blowing the attention to detail and the way it’s all been placed to work. I recommend it. After that tiring day, I ventured on to Planten un Blomen looking for the dancing fountain show – but I couldn’t find it. The park is huge and I was just too tired. However, it’s a beautiful park, very serene, very feng shui and all that jazz.

Travel tip: 1) Speicherstadt Kaffeerosterei is a gem of a place. They serve coffee from all parts of the world and local Hamburg pasteries (slightly pricey but worth it). 2) Buy the Hamburg Card – it’s worth it. 3) I never managed to have anything to eat at Deichstrabe, but it’s not too pricey – quite reasonable for the portion sizes. 4) You can walk across the Elbtunnel if time permits. 5) Allow yourself a minimum 2-3 hours at Miniatur Wunderland 6) Enjoy a picnic at Planten un Blomen.

I had half a day in Hamburg before I took the bus to Hannover to meet my uncle and aunt. I just wandered along the canal, got a Franzbrotchen from Dat Backhaus – it’s a cross of a cinnamon rolls without the raisins and a croissant – genius!, visited the elb tunnel because I didn’t do that when I should have and then ran back as usual to catch my bus. Uneventful journey to Hannover. Very much a university town. Walked around – went to the top of the goverment building via elevator. Unique elevator that goes up to the top slightly slanted. Then went to the river crossing and watched this interesting engineering marvel of getting ships across the river that has unleveled banks. Went home to a nice German meal and good conversation.

Travel tip: 1) Dat Backhaus is some seriously good stuff. 2) You don’t have to go to Hannover.

After another fab German-Lankan breakfast – I was packed onto my train to Berlin. Made it just in time for the last Sandeman Free Berlin Tour, which of course as I said earlier takes you through most of the tourist attractions and gives you a rough idea of how to plan the rest of your days. Then I nipped into the Ritter Sport store – if you haven’t had their chocolates, you are missing out!

Travel tip: Try and do your souvenier shopping on day 1 if you have to as many of the bigger souvenier stores all line the road to the Brandenburg Gate.

I purchased the Berliner Card for 48 hours – again it gives you all access to Berlin and if you plan ahead and want to go to Potsdam which is on the outskirts of Berlin, you can buy a travel pass which allows you up to zone C. I headed off to Potsdam in the morning. It’s a small city famous for the palace grounds, now hosting an university. Again the tickets to go into Sans Souci Palace were for 2 hours later and I didn’t have the luxury of time so I opted to go around the palace grounds instead. It’s a magnificent place even if you don’t have the opportunity to go inside. The gardens are lavishly designed and all the fountains still work. Once back from Potsdam – I went to the Palace of Tears museum in Freidrichstrabe station. It takes you through the division of the east and west Berlin, the ideologies of the people, and what it was like in those times. After that, I met up with a friend in town and just caught up before I got back home.

Travel tip: Potsdam is worth a visit, even if you don’t go inside the palace. You can book tickets to the palace online as well.

The next day morning I headed to the East Side Gallery – it’s a part of the wall which has now been repainted with modern art by different people, showcasing Germany and just other really good art. It’s a good 2 hour walk, back and forth. I then went on to Kochstrabe station, grabbed a bite at Checkpoint Charlie and headed to the Topographie of Terror. This museum takes you into the minds of those that lead the separation, their backgrounds and the lengths they went through to get what they wanted. I next went strolling past the Brandenburg gate and the Reichstag, hopped on a bus and landed at the heart of the Tiergarten. There’s a golden angel smack in the middle and you’ll probably have to cross the road several times before you can get to the underground that leads you to her. It’s a good climb to the top again for a view from the city from the outside. And that’s all folks.

Travel tip: 1) You can have a lovely view of the city from several places including Berliner Dom and the Reichstag. 2) If you’d like to go into the Reichstag, you will need to book online early. It’s free, don’t worry. 3) Just like any capital, Berlin has the most variety of shops and some duty free products, do shop here.

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