I’ve been on the move a lot lately. After leaving Iceland on June 1, I landed in Hamburg, Germany. Why? Because it was a $77 flight from Iceland to Hamburg, the cheapest available (at least it would have been the cheapest available if I hadn’t rushed through the process and forgotten to add the baggage fee online instead of having to pay it at the counter – handy traveling tip).
Once there, I booked a hostel for two nights about 15 minutes walking from the city centre. Though I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by Hamburg in the way that many other places have struck me, it did have a unique beauty to it.
I spent my only full day there wandering, as I do, all around the city. From the red light district to the house the Beatles lived in when they played in Hamburg, to the botanic gardens and the harbour, I saw quite a few of the city’s best historic and architectural wonders.
The people in my hostel (which was very comfortable, by the way – almost hotel quality) were all friendly and though I didn’t get to hang out with them much, I had good conversation, especially with Michelle from Toronto. It’s amazing to me how consistently easy it is to meet pleasant people in any hostel in any country.
Anyway, here are a few pictures from my short stay in Hamburg:
I took a morning train to Copenhagen the day after walking ‘round Hamburg, which turned out to be quite hectic. My first train had mechanical problems that forced a stop in Flensburg and the conductor advised us to take a bus from there to Copenhagen. Luckily, I met Brad from Melbourne and Tascha from Arkansas who were both headed my direction and were on the same stalled train.
Brad figured out that we could just get on the next direct train through Flensburg to Copenhagen, rather than wait for a bus, which would likely have been even more uncomfortable. The three of us got our tickets (and a small refund…sweet!) and jumped on the new train, which made it the rest of the way to Copenhagen without any issues.
After some card-playing, cookie-eating and basketball-talking, I’d found a new travel mate in Brad (Tascha was finishing up a study abroad in Germany and got off the train about halfway – she’s probably back in Arkansas by now!). Brad and I agreed to meet up in Copenhagen the following day to wander the city and hit up some street food vendors we’d heard were both delicious, and most importantly, cheap.
I was met at the station by my couchsurfing host Emilie, who was quite friendly and led me on a long metro-walk combo back to her flat, which she shared with another Dane, Sandi, and an Australian named James. We stayed up and chatted for a while, but the three of them had work and/or school in the morning, so I gladly called it a night early and got some much-needed sleep.
The following day, I met up with Brad after he took part in a free walking tour of Copenhagen, and we went over to Christiana, which is a famous hippie free town in the middle of the city. It was like Berkeley, except even more hippie, and basically self-governed (including the fairly open trade of marijuana and whatever else). But the place had very cool art and architecture and was situated around a beautiful lake – it almost felt like we weren’t even in a big city while wandering through.
Starving at this point, Brad and I continued on to Papiroen (literally: “Paper Island”), which housed an Off the Grid-style gathering of international food trucks, right on the water. I got some kind of vegan Colombian dish with amazing fried plantains and a local beer to wash it down.
Afterwards, we headed over to the Little Mermaid statue, which had a heavy emphasis on the “Little,” but was very interesting nonetheless. Hans Christian Andersen is a huge deal in Copenhagen for his adaptation of The Little Mermaid, among other celebrated works. My favorite part of the Little Mermaid experience was actually the walk over, on which we saw a mini-changing of the guard at the royal palace and some crazy cool churches and fountains.
Finally, we finished the day by walking through Nyhavn (if you’ve seen pictures of Copenhagen, you’ve seen pictures of Nyhavn…see below) and split to go home for some sleep. Well, that was the plan anyway. I foolishly thought I could remember how to get back to my couchsurfing host’s flat by memory alone, and ended up overshooting it by about eight stops, which put me smack dab in the middle of the Copenhagen “ghetto.”
Okay, well, the guys I met at the train station who helped point me in the right direction (and excitedly talked hockey, Swedish girls and Distortion (a week-long electronic music festival on the streets of Copenhagen that had been raging for a few days)) said it was ghetto. But “ghetto” in Scandinavia sounds quite different from “ghetto” in the States.
Anyway, I finally made it home with my 10-pack of beer as a gift to my hosts and relaxed with them for a while before dozing off again. The next day, I took the free walking tour and had a grand time learning a lot of cool facts about Copenhagen. My favorite was at Hotel D’Angleterre, where we stopped at around the halfway point, in which our Canadian ex-pat tour guide Caroline explained that the Danish version of James Bond had nearly assassinated SS leader Heinrich Himmler during World War II.
After my tour, I met up with Brad again and we headed straight where our hearts and stomachs were telling us to go: back to the food trucks. This time, I had to try a couple of smorgasbord sandwiches, which are pretty traditional in Denmark. I got one with breaded fish fillet and the other with potatoes and crispy onion rings, both on rye bread, and both delicious.
I snagged a Kilkenny (my favorite beer!) in Nyhavn later and we climbed the tower of the Parliament building to get a breathtaking view of downtown Copenhagen. There are very few alcohol laws in Denmark, so Brad and I also grabbed a few beers and joined the locals in sitting on the sides of the canals throwing back beers and enjoying what was described as the first summer day of the year.
By the end of that day, I think Brad and I were both smitten with Copenhagen. It was an amazingly beautiful city full of extremely friendly people and seemingly endless things to do. We didn’t even make it to Tivoli Gardens, which is the second-oldest amusement park in the world (the oldest is also in Denmark!), and situated across the street from the central train station. For next time, I suppose.
Sadly, I packed up my stuff and headed back to the train to catch my first overnighter to Stockholm. I arrived, dazed and confused, at 6 a.m. the following day and was met by Dave Schardt (yes, those Schardt’s!) who lives with his wife and two of his three kids just outside the city centre of Stockholm.
Dave’s family was kind enough to let me crash at their really cool apartment for about six days, and even though I had a few lazy days catching up on sleep, work and general hygiene practices, I feel like I still got a great glimpse of what Stockholm has to offer. Frank, Dave’s son (who some of you may have met when he spent two years in Walnut Creek attending Las Lomas!), walked me through Gamla Stan, which is the Old Town district, and a ton of other cool spots in downtown Stockholm.
That night, while we fiddled with Frank’s turntable and waited for his friend (name withheld for future employment purposes) to return from his 10-minute paid striptease at a bachelorette party, we drank beer and wine and prepared for a night out. Frank’s friend Jacob led the group (now consisting of said striptease expert and Frank’s girlfriend, Artemis) to his university for a huge party in one of the buildings, which was basically sponsored by the faculty. Sidenote: Step up your game, American colleges.
We drank and danced and sang until about 3:30 in the morning, and then hit up a local park to watch the sunrise around 4. It was a perfect way to end my first day and night in Sweden. The next day, Dave excitedly woke me up and started gathering everyone to get dressed. He and Frank had invited me to join the same guys from the night before in attending (drumroll, please!) my first European football match!
YES! Truly a highlight of my entire trip thus far. The home team, Hammarby, had an incredibly passionate base of supporters, who still frantically chanted and cheered the whole game, despite a 1-0 defeat at the hands of league-leading Gothenburg (Hammarby totally outplayed them, and yes, now I’m totally a bandwagon Hammarby fan). Just like the college parties, this experience proved to me that Europe totally does things better than America. I actually had Jacob ask me why American sports fans are so boring and don’t seem to have fun at the games. Sidenote: Step up your game, American sports fans.
The rest of my time in Sweden was split between kicking Frank’s ass at Madden (if you’re reading this, I can handle a rematch anytime!), wandering downtown Stockholm, the University of Stockholm’s campus and some local botanic gardens, and finalizing some plans for my time in Spain.
These countries have provided a whirlwind of entertainment for me, and I’ve been extremely fortunate to have great situations with my couchsurfing hosts, hostels, and the incredible generosity of the Stockholm Schardt’s. I’m ready for the next step, which is Oslo, Norway. That will be followed closely by Amsterdam and Brussels, and then a few weeks in Spain and France.
Look for more to come soon, as I recap the next leg of my journey. Thanks for following!