Thursday, March 20, 2014


Last weekend, I took a trip with my friend Natalie up to Hamburg.  I didn't know much about the city before we went there, but essentially it is the anti-Frankfurt.  Where Frankfurt is clean and upper middle class.  Hamburg is dirty and gritty and full of music and laborers.

Hamburg Rathaus (City Hall)

Hamburg Church

Counting house built by shipping barons

Another counting house, this one built to look like a ship

The Speicherstadt or warehouse city.  The city built this to unload cargo shortly before the invention of container ships, so it was never really used very much.  Today it houses cool museums and restaurants and stuff.


One of the highlights of Hamburg is Miniature Wonderland - a 3 story museum filled with the world's largest model train collection.  This doesn't sound awesome, but it is.  These super detailed dioramas showcase different countries and cities.  My favorite was this scale model working airport with planes that land and take off, taxi, wait at the terminal and then depart again.  

I believe this was in Austria

Here was Las Vegas - the one scene I knew well enough to check accuracy.  Everyone knows that the Luxor is not across the street from Treasure Island, so this model is crap.

We went on a pub crawl in the red light district and ended our evening at this awesome Irish pub.

Every Sunday morning, Hamburg wakes up with the Fish Market where vendors hawk their wares - most commonly fruit baskets for 10 Euro.  At one end of the market, there is a hall serving breakfast and beer and featuring a live band.  While most of the guests were fresh for the day, but there were definitely a few folks still going from Saturday night.

On the Hamburg Harbor

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Germany's version of Mardi Gras is called Fasching and is typically only celebrated in the southern and western parts of the country.  Specifically, the towns of Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Mainz are the big cities to celebrate the holiday.  The big day here is not Fat Tuesday, but rather Rosenmontag (or Red Monday).  One of the major differences from the US versions is that most of the crowds tend to dress up in costume.  I would estimate over 60% of the crowd was wearing costumes in Mainz.  We're talking Halloween style costumes, with elaborate group costumes (my favorite was probably The Three Little Pigs).  There were a preponderance of clowns and, oddly, farm animals.  I mean, at least 10-20% of the crowd was wearing some sort of animal costume.  And these are full body costumes, almost like the rabbit pajamas in A Christmas Story.

I went to two parades.  Frankfurt had its family friendly parade on Sunday.  The parade was really fairly similar to any parade I've seen in America.  Marching bands, some people no one knows in convertibles, and organizational floats tossing out candy.  There were even a number of old tractors to make me feel like I was back in Iowa.  Some of the floats, like the ones below, were more elaborate than what I would see in Iowa, but most of the floats were much less elaborate.

A court jester to lead off the parade

Struwwel Peter - a classic German children's story (think The Boy Who Cried Wolf)
about a boy who doesn't comb his hair or cut his fingernails.

Someone in a convertible

My favorite float of the weekend

Some of the bands wore elaborate costumes

Almost all the girls wore some version of this outfit with a short skirt and knee high socks.
Not sure if this is a Fasching outfit or a parade outfit.

On Monday, I went with my friend to Mainz for one of the big celebrations.  This was considerably less family friendly, although there were numerous children around.  Lots of drinking and when we got to town at 1030, I immediately felt sober.  To get into the spirit, we cracked open some drinks ourselves and joined the crowds headed to the parade.  This parade was a bit more elaborate than Frankfurt's parade.  But everyone's main objective seemed to be drinking.

Some acrobats in the parade

Another common costume is the revolutionary war era soldier outfits.
I can offer no explanation for this.

Another NSA-themed float.  There were some very elaborate political floats -
most of which are like 3D versions of political cartoons.

My friend decided to take a few pictures with some of the people in the parade

A Monsters University float

On the train ride home from Mainz