The area where the hotel is located was not any quieter and by now I do not believe it ever will be. From the slightly limited offer for breakfast I got about the best stuff available: Nutella for my bun and an apricot afterwards. I did not have to care about the breakfast that much as I had a feeling that the peak of the day would be very different – the visit to the Miniatur Wunderland.
The museum was located not fur from the piers, so we were well prepared for the subway ride and also were pretty sure about the direction of the short walk ahead. Well, at least Grandpa was. However, before we got lost, we could watch the Queen Mary 2 ocean linear making its way through the port and this (I mean the ship) was truly an experience for me. It was huge and people on board seemed (and sounded) really exited about being in Hamburg. Once my “inland syndrome” was satisfied, we set to go to our destination. We checked an information board with the map briefly but decided just to follow the crowd after all. This, surprisingly, did not come out as the best choice. Nevertheless, I did not regret it. First, we were not searching for the right building for too long. Second, and even better, it was a great chance to somewhat explore the Speicherstadt (warehouse district) of Hamburg and I just loved it. The warehouses built from red bricks right next to the water, the details of those houses such as green window shutters and the numerous bridges. To me, this was about the prettiest part of the city.
As regards our visit to Miniatur Wunderland, we had an online reservation because Rick Steves recommends to do so. I bet it is not a bad idea but it was not needed at the time of our arrival to the place. Prior to our visit, I saw an official video as well as read whole bunch of interesting facts: area of 1,300 sqm, track length of 13,000 meters, about 300,000 lights, 930 locomotives and 215,000 figurines at various scenes. I could recognize those were all big figures, however, I did not really get them until I actually was standing in the Wunderland and admiring the masterpiece of art, imagination, sense for detail and last but not least, technology.
Our visit started with a display of German history from prehistory to the modern times, including important events like both World Wars. The showcases were loaded with many small details such as improving planes and cars, the first train and Pied Piper with a flock of teeny tiny rats. All the scenes were truly lively: people chatting in small groups on the streets, dogs chasing each other, happy people in convertibles, playing kids, a postman in duty and many many more. All of it in the miniature interpretation, of course. A part of the prelude to the main exhibition was also so called Utopia depicting policies of Germany’s political parties. To demonstrate the ideals, goals, false promises and hopes or whatever, each party was given the space of a single square meter. I liked this part because it was so well organized and, again, with unbelievable emphasis on every single detail. As Czech economy is so much dependent on the German one, to me it was also interesting to get an idea what German parties promise to their voters. And the conclusion? The politics seems to be the same no matter where you are – as long as it is somehow developed and free country.
Only those two above mentioned (and in comparison to what was about to come, rather small) exhibitions took us quite some time to go through. It was not thus surprising that the originally expected length of the visit (two hours) was proven to be a wrong estimation. I believe that in total it took us good three hours to see it all. Before going into more details, I would like to emphasize that it was very well spent time and money. The main part of the exhibit extends on two floors, the connecting part being Switzerland, where we started our exploration of this wonderful and lively world. They really did a great job with this one and it was not hard to imagine that I actually climbed the high peaks of the Alps and looked down at the valleys with trains and cars unflaggingly running their routes. I could also watch cable car going up and down.
Having passed the Swiss glaciers, I made it smoothly through Austria (to name just few, there were slopes with skiing lifts, prison and a unique helix of tracks) and suddenly found myself in Germany – namely in the constituent state of Bavaria. It offered us a spectacular castle, including a demonstration of medieval fights, and a huge party was taking place in its proximity. Bavaria continuously transformed itself into the Knufingen Airport. Considering the technical part of Miniatur Wunderland, the airport was definitely my most favorite section. There was so much happening on such a relatively small area: regular as well as cargo and postal planes (Airberlin of course, accompanied by planes of Lufthansa, KLM and Turkish Airlines, a FedEx plane was fulfilling its task as well) taking off and landing all the time, planes at the gates and terminals full of tiny people waiting for them, cars parked in a huge, multilevel parking lot and fire station with a dozen little firemen on duty. To make it feel like in the middle of a runway, the typical sound of planes as well as recognizable air flow were employed. At night, thousands of lights turned on, however, the place did not get any stiller. Right next to the airport, the city of Knuffingen was located. Main roads as well as small streets were full of life: banners outside and trains and trucks (including Milka one) that never stopped moving. Other memorable object were the train station and a memorial of some sort.
They were not done with Germany yet. In contrast, two more section were devoted to this country: Middle Germany and Hamburg. The first one impressed me with a huge fair (lots of lights there) and large ice bridge. I liked the latter one more, as I could compare its template. I identified the main train station and Hafencity without any difficulties. Other sites, such as Hamburg’s largest bridge Köhlbrand and St. Michael’s Church, were not omitted.
I enjoyed the section devoted to America, even though there was no site I would have visited myself. On the other hand, the impressive 3D model gave me a better idea of reality than the textbooks back at high school did. Without taking a single plane and without any jet leg, I admired Mount Rushmore and national parks, including Grand Canyon. I visited Miami and Las Vegas for a short time. Finally, before saying Goodbye to the States, I watched a space craft taking off.
The last stop was Scandinavia and its beautiful landscape and colorful houses. For the first time, real water was used here and a boat model took an advantage of it. Quite a big portion of land was devoted to states of northern Europe, thus providing enough room for a lighthouse, unbelievably long bridge over sea (that was what the real water was used for), a port, several churches, a skiing area and finally, Kiruna – an ore mine. Once we checked it all, it was sort of relief as there was so much to look at and I was pretty sure I would forget some scenes rather fast anyway. At the same time, however, it was a little bit of pity because I was absolutely sure those guys have much more to come with. May the construction of Italy be a proof of this claim. Though there was not much to look at at the construction site, it was interesting in a way – just to see what a “nothing” (just a wooden board with couple of elevated blocks) they start with…
By the time we were leaving the building, it was pretty crowded. The lady selling Italian ice-cream right on the way to/from Miniatur Wunderland must have liked it. We were among those who supported her business.
Having seen the attraction that lured us to Hamburg and having taken care of our lunch, we took subway back to the hotel. Back there we tried to get organized for tomorrow – the departure and temporary Goodbye day. Trying to plan a bike ride from the hotel to Tatenberg was not as easy as I expected. As our attempt to get some help at the tourist information office was unsuccessful, we had to rely on Google Maps and a huge map of Hamburg my Mom lent us. Once the biking itinerary was somewhat prepared, I focused on purchase of train ticket from Prague to Olomouc. Apparently, it happened just at the right time as there was only one ticket left. What a portion of good luck!
All the planning made us feel sort of hungry, so, we set to go searching for a place to enjoy our last supper in Hamburg. There were couple of places we checked the other days and liked them, however, I kinda expected that my Grandpa would like to try something new again. That was exactly what happened – (probably) Turkish place located in “my favorite neighborhood” and called Urfa Kebab salonu got its chance today. The waiter spoke fairly good English but we had to rely on menu in German only. Tonight I had the hardest time to choose a meal for myself. Finally, we decided for two similar dishes with an intention of sharing them. Their names were Firinda and Firinda Beyti, or something pretty similar. Together with two glasses of orange juice, some bread and dips landed on the table. One of the dips was yogurt-like and I liked its taste very much, while the other one was hot. Way too hot – even mixing the two of them together was not of much help to me. Two more problems occurred over the time: first, the parsley problem again and second, enormous amount of food.
To wrap up the day as well as our great German trip, we packed our stuff and tried to get some rest even though the night kept its usual noisiness level.
I am very grateful I could have seen the beautiful and famous sites of both Berlin and Hamburg as well as bump into unexpected moments and experience, including the Queen Mary 2 transatlantic ship, the ride by ferry, restaurants I would never dare to try if it was not for my travel companion and many subway rides in Berlin. I am glad I could experience the two bus tours, which made me to correct (for better!) my opinion about them. My ego appreciated a handful of those moments when my limited knowledge of German was somewhat helpful. My laziness enjoyed a week without a summer job. As great and memorable those moments were, one aspect stood high above all of them – the shared time with a beloved and special person.
Thank you, Grandpa, for being the person you are and for making the trip possible and so enjoyable.