Winsen (Lohe)

[**This is the first of a few posts that will come in the next few hours. They are relatively old. This is the Hamburg post and here are the dates of where I have been since. Hamburg 8th-10th, Paris 11th-13th, Barcelona 13th-15th, Zurich 15th-19th, Milan 19th-20th, Ferry ride to Patras, Greece 20th-21th, Patras 21th-22th, Athens 22th-25th, Thessaloniki 25th-29th. I know, it’s been a while. But to my defense, the posts have been written and it has just been a matter of a proper internet connection and time. So, without further ado, here are some time wasting travel stories!**]

Hamburg clock tower

What’s the best city I have visited so far you ask? Winsen! Or at least that’s what I was trained to say during my stay with friends of my aunt Laura who lived just outside of Hamburg in the 329th largest city in Germany, Winsen [note: it is Winsen (Lohe) as Olaf pointed out to me. Not any other Winsen that may reside in the area. That other Winsen is schizer!]. Let’s get some logistics out of the way here. I planned to stay in Hamburg for 2 nights. It turned into three. I stayed with the Frankemoeller’s Olaf and Susann and their 17 year-old daughter (and seemingly her boyfriend Kim too, haha) Lina and 14 year-old daughter Lara. They were all fantastic; a bodacious (one of the words I taught them along with hella and love handles) German family. I spent most of my time being toured around Hamburg and its surroundings by Olaf… on his Yamaha motorcycle… that he liked to drive… very fast. When I say very fast I mean we hit 275 km/h on the famed autobahn. You do the conversion (that’s 170mph… sorry, I couldn’t resist). The first couple days I was there Olaf and I basically spent all our time riding around. Or, I spent it riding while he spent it driving. He showed me everything going on in Hamburg and all with an experienced local touch. I don’t have much in the way of pictures because you can’t really nab pics with your DSLR while speeding down roads, but I must say Hamburg looked and felt fantastic from the bike. With more bridges than Venice, Hamburg felt like a cross between Boston and Chicago.

Nearby city of Lüneburg

It has two million people, so pretty big, and its harbor coast has a timeline of architecture running down it. Olaf said Hamburg is constantly changing faces. It’s definitely going through a change of face right now, undergoing massive land reclamation for high class residential, commercial, and entertainment buildings. Hamburg has everything: the good and the bad. Red light district, half standing war ravaged churches, beer, old buildings, new buildings, in between buildings, hard drugs, soft drugs, beer, and um, beer.

Olaf was a fantastic guide for multiple reasons. Let me give you a quick background on him. He works for the Hamburg prison network. He is a guard of sorts, but also trains German Shepherds for finding illicit materials. To put it bluntly, he’s a badass German. We did so much, and saw so much, it’s hard to put it all here. But he helped me cross a few important things off my “things to do in Germany” list, including drive way too fast on a highway (being on a motorcycle was just an incredible perk), see a concentration camp (it was actually located at one of his former places of work) and drink a seriously good local brew. Good, no?

Hamburg coastline

It was also very nice to share culture with Lina, Kim and Lara. Lina, Kim, Natacia (Kim’s sister) and I all got to go out on Sunday before I left for Paris to see a bit more of the area. I got to hear some German music, I shared some American music (most of which they’d already heard…), and they might have convinced me to break my golden rule of not eating McDonalds. In my defense, if I did break my own rule, a McRib might have been involved.

But anyway, the stay was one of my best so far and the food was again delicious with Susann preparing some really nice dishes and Olaf and I sharing a love for Doner Kebab. Of course, I also met their kind of crazy German Shepard Reiner, who should really join the dog Olympics after all the laps he makes himself run around his yard. But really, Winsen, the 329th largest city in Germany, was brilliant if not for its architectural, economic, or touristy areas, then most definitely for its fantastic people.

-Phil
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