April 18, 2005

I'm In Hamburg!

(Click on any of the pictures for a larger version of that image.)

I'm back in Hamburg! My "stay up until I crash on the day of arrival and then wake up the next morning, perfectly acclimatized" plan has hit a snag I got the "stay up until I crash" part down just fine, but then I woke up at 5 AM this morning. So now I'm doing some insomniac typing. I haven't figured out the hotel's Internet access yet (and, given its cost, I'm not sure I want to); this entry will sit around inside my laptop until I make it in to the office and get a chance to upload everything.

The flight over was very uneventful. I transferred to my Hamburg flight at Heathrow, shopping paradise of the international jetset. Heathrow doesn't assign connecting flights a gate until the very last minute, so you spend your waiting time in a bank of seats surrounded by a square of duty-free shops of every description. I picked up a few select items of British food for Shelby, but that was the limit of my shopping. Some people are really into the duty-free thing, but not me; for one, very little of it is anything I'd ordinarily buy (giant bottles of Scotch, anyone? cartons of cigarettes? perfume?), and even if I did, "25% off of high street prices!!" isn't a great enticement when those prices are in British pounds and I'm shopping with my damn-George-Bush weak dollar.

Bathroom, Park Hyatt Hamburg.I arrived at Hamburg airport and survived my first all-German-speaking interaction, with the immigration officer at passport control. I thought that the guy in front of me was going to get deported; not only was he a pretty grungy-looking dude, but he also lacked convincing answers for any of the questions that they asked him (in English) where are you staying? "Ummmmmm ... with friends." What are your friends' names? "Ummmmmmm ... one of them is named Klaus." Where do your friends live? "Ummmmmmm ... in Hamburg, but I don't remember where, exactly."

But he survived, too. After I picked up my luggage, the first thing that struck me were the dogs; in addition to the usual giant crowd of people waiting for returned travellers, there were two or three dogs in the crowd too, wagging away for their soon-to-be-returned people. I haven't just come back to the land of public smoking and no drinking fountains, I've returned to the land of public dogs!

I made it into the city and checked into my hotel, the Park Hyatt Hamburg. The hotel alone is a significant fringe benefit for travelling to Hamburg on company business; it's one of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed in, even including some five-star splurges we've made in the past. The bathroom, in particular, is something that people always rave over; if I could find some way to justify dropping a carbon copy of this wood-and-marble-and-glass modernist wonder into our 1900s-era house, I would.

(Back in the go-go dotcom days of 1999, I made a monthlong stay at a different Hamburg hotel. Afterwards, they talked about bringing me back for another month but this time living in one of the apartments on the Hyatt's top floor! Sadly, that never happened, because I ended up coming back for my first longterm stay in Hamburg five months later. If only!)

Mysterious door, Valentinskamp.After unpacking and a brief nap, I made my way over to the Hamburger DOM. Since I had time to waste and was feeling twinges of nostalgia, I decided to walk over, so that I could pass through through our old neighborhood. Unsurprisingly, not much had changed on Valentinskamp in the nine months since we'd left. There was still the mysterious storefront packed full with junk, lit by a purplish light that is never turned off. (Note the poster from 2000 that's taped to the door.) There were still the handful of art galleries (maybe "art spaces" or "art happenings" would be a better term), some of which still had the same art in the front window. The restaurant-space-formerly-known-as-Valentino's at the bottom floor of our apartment building at last had a new tenant, some kind of dinner theater.Art on display, Valentinskamp.

Then over to the DOM. I rode the Ferris wheel and the Wild Maus roller coaster. I visited the Mouse Circus. (The best fun that you can have at the DOM for Euro 1.50!) I had my usual bad-for-you festival food, a bratwurst and beer, and then I had a crepe with Snickers-sauce filling in Shelby's honor. The woman making the crepe didn't do a very good job it was the last night of the DOM, so perhaps her heart wasn't in it and my crepe soon suffered a total filling-containment failure, squirting caramel-y stuff all down my shirtfront and onto my shoes. Oops. (Fortunately, it later all washed out.)

Midway, Hamburger DOM.Outside a "casino", Hamburger DOM."Geister Tempel" (Ghost Temple) ride, Hamburger DOM.
We are making money and having fun.Most of the other haunted house-style rides have facades that are even larger and even more over-the-top than this one.

And today it's shower, breakfast, and off to work. This week may turn out to be much more of an English-speaking week than I'd thought; besides me, there'll be a number of other Americans, some of them relative corporate bigwigs, turning out for our planning and strategy sessions. This may mean a life of ease for me; besides the English-speaking, I can likely piggyback onto this group for such things as taxi rides and trips to good restaurants. Since I'm travelling on business, it's not like I can't ride in taxis or go to those places anyway our travel guidelines allow for some ridiculously high amount for food each day but when I'm left to myself, I tend to forget and live like a monk, riding the S-Bahn and grabbing a bratwurst from some random Imbiss. I'm a corporate accountant's dream, the frugal expense-account traveller.

Posted by Kevin at April 18, 2005 12:44 AM