This weekend I took a trip to Hamburg with Experiment. My host sister, Josie, came with me, which was really fun. We took the train to Hamburg on Friday night, which took about 2 and a half hours. When we arrived at the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (train station), I was somewhat surprised and overwhelmed. The train station was HUGE. Not only were there a lot of different platforms, but there were even food courts and stores. It was a bit confusing at first, but after pushing our way through the crowds of people, we were finally able to find where we needed to be. I realize looking back now that it was probably extra crowded because it was 5 o’clock on a Friday night, the time when literally everyone is trying to get home.
The trip was with all the exchange students that are part of Experiment, not just the Americans. It was really interesting to talk with all of the different students because we all had different backgrounds. There were people from Brazil, Mexico, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Australia, Thailand, and even one guy from New Zealand.
When we all finally made it to the hotel, we had dinner and were able to talk to each other. It was a really fascinating mix of people. When we got our room assignments, I found out that I was with my host sister and three other girls, one from Australia, one from Thailand, and one from Brazil. We shared stories about our exchange so far and what our lives are like back home.
On Saturday morning, we had to leave the hotel pretty early in order to take the train into the city center for our guided tour. Our tour lasted about an hour and it was ALL in German. I was actually really proud of myself because I understood almost everything our guide was telling us. She showed us the Rathaus, St. Nicholas’ Church, the Elbphilharmonie, and the Elbe River. After our tour, we were given free time to explore the city on our own. We split off into groups and started walking around to see what we could find. My group and I went back to the Rathaus to explore it some more. After that, we met up with Mariel and her host sister who took the train that morning to Hamburg on their own. We all got coffee together in a little café that looked out over the Elbe River. It was nice to be back in a large city.
We also went to a big mall, which was really fun. Malls aren’t as common in Germany as they are in the US; you only find them in big cities like Hamburg. Later in the day, we were walking through the city when we were suddenly caught in the middle of a protest. People with signs, banners, and speakers were walking all throughout the streets. It seemed to be a protest advocating for animal rights and veganism. It was really crowded and there were police officers everywhere, so we quickly walked through the crowd until we made it into the open street.
Once we were done shopping, walking around, and sightseeing, we met up with the rest of the Experiment group. We took the train to the Rollercoaster Restaurant, where we all had dinner together. The restaurant was really cool because (as you can guess from the name) there were elaborate “rollercoasters” all around the restaurant where your food and drinks would come sliding down to your table.
Even though we thought the day was done after dinner, the Experiment chaperones had a surprise in store for us. They told us we were taking a boat tour around Hamburg on the Elbe. It was 10:30 pm and freezing cold, but none the less, we were all excited. We all got on the boat and climbed to the top level, where it was wide open. The wind was so cold, but the view of the city was worth it. Everything was lit up and beautiful. Finally, at about 12 am, we got off of the boat. We were supposed to simply take the train back to where our hotel was, but everything didn’t really go as planned.
We got on the train, but it didn’t move. In fact, the doors didn’t even close. We were sitting there for a while, but we were all talking and joking around so we didn’t really notice anything. Then we saw a bunch of police officers running around the train station. The train on the platform across from us was then evacuated, which was kind of strange. Shortly after that, a man came over the loudspeaker and told us that we would have to sit and wait on the train for a bit longer. We had no idea what was going on, but after about 20 minutes, our train started to move. I still have absolutely no clue what happened, I’m just happy we were able to get back to our hotel.
On Sunday morning after breakfast, we took the train back into the center of the city and went to the Miniatur Wunderland. This place is so impressive. It’s basically a huge collection of miniature recreations of cities and places all over the world. We were able to see the streets of Rome and then walk to the next room and see Mount Rushmore. I loved seeing the miniature recreation of Denmark; there was even snow made out of tiny pieces of glass.
We all parted our separate ways after saying goodbye at the Miniatur Wunderland; it was time for us to go back to our hometowns. It was so fun meeting all the other exchange students and catching up with some of my American friends. I can honestly say that Hamburg is now one of my new favorite cities. Not only is it really beautiful, but there’s also so much history and so many things to do there.