As part of this study abroad program, students are required to go on a two-night, three-day excursion to another major city in Germany, and the city that we went to was Hamburg.
Hamburg is a large port city in the northern part of Germany, surrounded by large bodies of water (I have never been to a city that was surrounded by so much water before and this is coming from someone who lives in coastal New England), and is also known as the starting place for the Beatles before they became famous. But there is so much more to Hamburg than the Beatles. Hamburg is a beautiful coastal city with large canals and waterways with red brick buildings, many of whom were converted factory buildings. Even though a lot of the buildings are very old, they also have a newer section of the city.
This new section is a housing development project known as HafenCity, where it is a mixed community of subsidized and luxury housing and workplace spaces by the water. The intent of this development project is to increase the downtown of Hamburg by 40% and is expected to be completed by the year 2025.
I enjoyed HafenCity much more than I expected. I am generally not a huge fan of modern architecture but HafenCity was very well constructed. It did have a modern vibe to it, but it wasn’t completely futuristic or crazy looking, and it still maintained the character and the vibe of the old port city. Even better, it was also built with sustainability. For example, instead of using gas for air conditioning, they used the cold water from the ocean and they used solar panels for electricity. Additionally, there are no cars allowed in HafenCity. It is all pedestrianized.
Our RA took us to Miniature Wonderland, which is the biggest model railway exhibit in the world. They had realistic models of famous places in the world, such as the Alps in Switzerland, Scandinavia, Las Vegas, Neuswanstein Castle-Bavaria, and the Amalfi Coast in Italy. They had toy trains surrounding the landmarks, small figurines, and even occasionally dimmed the lights to represent nighttime in those places to make it feel even more realistic. It was absolutely incredible to look at, every detail was just unbelievable, it makes you realize and appreciate how artistically gifted some people are. From a tourism major perspective, not only is Miniature Wonderland great for the city of Hamburg, but it also great tourism promotion for those other places because it makes people want to visit those places even more. I know that it certainly made me want to see even more of the world.
Later on in the day, we took a harbor cruise throughout Hamburg. It was incredible, seeing the sights from a boat. We saw the section where wealthy people of Hamburg lived, with their large houses located across from the beach and we went past a cargo ship, with a lot of imported goods and some interesting cruise ships:
It was very relaxing and it made me realize how much I missed being near the water. It was definitely a wonderful oasis from the hustle and bustle of Hamburg, similar to what the green spaces and parks are like in Berlin. Lucky for the people that live there, the boats are a form of public transportation. How cool is to go to and from work or school on a river boat? In my opinion, that is a pretty sweet deal.
I also got to try some great German food in Hamburg. For lunch, I had locally grown white asparagus (a German specialty) and potatoes and for dinner, it was even better. I drank a German house beer and while I was there I had mashed-up ox with beets, gherkins, a fried egg, and two herring fillets fresh from the famous fish market in Hamburg. The herring came right off the coast of Hamburg, so it was local and fresh.
On Monday, our last day in Hamburg, we took a tour of a designer hotel, East Hotel. Our ethics professor arranged a tour for our class. It was a very modern and chic hotel despite it being a converted factory, with interesting and unique amenities such as a desk attached behind the bed and they compartmentalized the shower, the bathroom, and the closet into three separate rooms. They even had aqua beds on a particular floor of the hotel. Even though they are a successful hotel, 70% of their revenue comes from their restaurant.
In addition to the hotel, they have various restaurants, including a very successful sushi bar. It was definitely an informative experience for someone who is majoring in hospitality. All of their fruits and vegetables are locally grown and they even get their own honey from the beehive from the roof top, but their meat is imported from Spain, the U.S, and Argentina to save costs and because they believe that their consumers prefer meat that is more tender, which they get more of in those countries.
Even though I was in Hamburg for only three short days, I received a lot out of the experience and the visit made me realize that even though Hamburg is only less than two hours away from Berlin, it felt worlds apart, almost like I was in two different countries or in two states that were miles and miles apart. I didn’t expect Hamburg to be that different from Berlin since we were still in the same country and didn’t have to travel that far to get to Hamburg. As a matter of fact, our assistant academic director that went on the tour with us said that the differences between the states in Germany, were more distinguishable than the US. It made me appreciate the geographical diversity in the world. If someone were to ask me what city I like better, I would say neither. Berlin and Hamburg are such different cities with such different backgrounds that it is hard to compare to the two, they are both special and wonderful cities in their own right. Coming to Hamburg was truly a memorable experience that I will cherish throughout my lifetime and I hope to return to Hamburg and experience even more of what the city has to offer someday.
Learn more about JWU's study abroad opportunities.