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Tiny things in Hamburg

I spent a week in Hamburg, Germany recently to meet with colleagues at our Hamburg HQ and host a couple Meetups. Booking my visit on the heels of MesosCon EU meant that the week I was there coincided with a national holiday. I learned that on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of a church, a key point in the Protestant Reformation. Germany was observing the 500th anniversary of this act. I spent this Reformation Day exploring Hamburg.

My exploring had nothing to do with religion, so my first stop on this holiday from work was to the Miniatur Wunderland.

The largest model railway in the world, and one of the most successful permanent exhibitions in Northern Germany.

Now, I have been getting into model railroads, but calling this a model railroad doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s really a whole miniature world, including a model airport that cost 4 million Euros to build. The place takes up three stories of a historic warehouse building, with dozens of people employed to run it all, and along with an impressive control center, there are three racks of hardware at the entrance.

Stats and train nerd stuff aside, it’s a fun place to be. I bought tickets late, so the only ones available online for the day were in the 7-8AM window right as they opened for the day. This timing was not easy with my jet lag situation, but it was worth it. Since it was a holiday, the place was packed with people by 9AM, so getting in early was a good call, I was able to take lots of great pictures before it got too crowded to get close to a lot of the exhibits. Throughout the morning I walked my way through various countries in Europe (various German towns, Switzerland, Austria, Italy) and even a small section representing the United States. The scaled down version of Hamburg itself was pretty cool, you’re able to find the museum itself and I saw many familiar spots even having just been there a couple days. You could spend days exploring the details that were included throughout, I spent about two and a half hours there and feel like I only got an overview of the layout. I’ll have to go back next time I’m in town.

I may have gotten a bit carried away with the picture taking, over 400 more photos from Miniatur Wunderland here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157665685279559

October 31st is also Halloween. It’s a much bigger holiday in the United States than most other places, and over the past few years I’ve been traveling on Halloween more often than not so I often don’t get to properly celebrate. I wasn’t going to let this year get away from me though, so I booked morning tickets at The Hamburg Dungeon, conveniently located right next to Miniatur Wunderland. These dungeons are a chain, there’s even one in San Francisco, and the idea is that they hire actors to act out dramatized versions of some of the more gruesome history in their respective cities. It’s silly, but a lovely haunted house-like way to get a taste of Halloween as a solo tourist.

I then took a walk to find some food and ended up at Kartoffelkeller, potato cellar! So many potato dishes. It was good and I finally had a beer. Well-fed, I spent the rest of my late afternoon back at my hotel, 25hours Hotel Hamburg HafenCity, where they have ship cabin themed rooms and a whole floor dedicated to games and socializing, but for me made a great spot to get some writing done as I enjoyed the herbal tea they had available to guests. Yum. It was back to work and a detour off to Berlin, which I’ll write about soon, before I returned to Hamburg on Thursday evening for a Meetup.

Now, the other thing I learned about Hamburg during my visit was how water-centric the city is. I knew Hamburg was in the north of Germany, but I had never zoomed in on a map and noticed that it was connected to the North Sea by the huge Elbe River. This river not only winds its way through Hamburg (so many bridges!) but also creates a huge harbor that industry in the city appears to revolve around. Friday at lunchtime I went out with my colleague Jörg who took me up to the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall just a few blocks from the office. Every day you can get free timed tickets to take some very long escalators up into the concert hall to walk the perimeter and see some amazing views of Hamburg and the harbor.

Lots of water in Hamburg!

As work wound down on Friday I was able to make time to visit the International Maritime Museum, and even better, since they close at 6PM I learned that after 4:30PM the tickets are only €6! An hour and a half isn’t a lot of time to explore that museum, it’s several stories and takes you through about three thousand years of maritime history, but my visit was long enough for me to enjoy it. I will say that one of the most interesting things about this museum was how many ship models there were. The top floor was entirely made up of models, but every floor had models of varying scales and types, from boats and ships, to engines. I was starting to get the impression that Germans, at least those local to Hamburg, really like models.

The highlight of the museum for me was their display of Enigma machines. I’d seen an Engima machine before, but this was the first time I’d seen a pair in a museum in Germany. The visit to the museum was worth it just to see these.

It was a bit of a whirlwind visit, and I really didn’t get to see much of the city or explore the local cuisine much. Hopefully my work will bring me here again in the near future.

More photos from wandering around Hamburg here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157665634578459