After a 24 hour flight from Sydney to Frankfurt, one stop over in Abu Dhabi, one security pat down, and a 4 hour train trip, we finally arrived in Hamburg.
I confess, I knew little about the second largest city of Germany before turning up on its doorstep. I arrived jet lagged, tired, and very keen to find the nearest comfy bed to lay on for an uninterrupted, oh say, four days. Five?
But what prevailed was my excitement at seeing my little brother, Harry. Following in his older sister’s footsteps (me!), he took part in a student exchange program to Germany when he was 16. Ever since, he has gone back and forth between Australia and Germany to visit his host family, friends, and for study. In 2010 he decided that he would like to make his stay in Germany a little more permanent, and moved there to find a job, which he did.
Consequently, it had been a while since I had seen him and I was excited.
I arrived at Hamburg station to see Harry waiting on the platform, waving a nicely sized German flag in one hand and in the other, holding a Hawaiin-style wreath of flowers to put around my neck on my arrival. I don’t know about your little siblings, but this is typical Harry behaviour and it was well-received.
It was then that I noticed it. The noise.
You see, what I have not yet mentioned is that we just so happened to arrive on New Years Eve. In Germany they have decided that fireworks are illegal, except for on New Years Eve. The result is many drunken people lighting fireworks pretty much EVERYWHERE, and not really knowing what they’re doing.
Naturally, we had to have a go.
So, after dropping off the suitcases, having a quick shower and promising the very enticing bed that I would be reuniting with it very soon, we set off. This was when Harry gave me a demonstration in the art of setting off fireworks.
He held that rocket high above his head and we admired from afar as it shot in the air and burst beautiful colours into the sky. Wow.
“What do I need to do?” I asked.
“Hold it straight up in the air and don’t look at it,” Harry replied as he passed me the stick with the rocket on the end, lit it for me and ran back to watch from afar with the others.
Now, I’m very good at following instructions. I held that thing so bloody straight in the air, and by jove did I not look at it.
What Harry forgot to mention was that when the firework starts to pull, um, apparently you have to let go.
I was concentrating so hard on holding that thing straight that by the time I heard the screams “LET GO!”, it was almost too late. At the last second I let go and it banged frighteningly close to my head.
Okay, so that is why fireworks are illegal. Because people, like me, have no idea what they’re doing and little brothers, like Harry, don’t know how to give a detailed instruction.
Thankfully I lived to tell the tale. I now know that the stick is part of the rocket (and actually meant to be stuck in the ground or in a bottle when setting them off) and while I was always told as a child not to play with fire, I probably should have learned instead not to play with fireworks.
I met my bed that night with welcome arms and missed the midnight fireworks by a couple of hours.
But to be honest, I think I’d had quite enough of fireworks for one evening.
The next day was spent sleeping and the following spent walking around the beautiful city, with Harry as our tour guide (While he may be a pretty average firework instructor, he’s a pretty damn good tour guide).
I admired the canals, which I had no idea existed beyond Venice and also went to the Miniatur Wunderland Modelleisenbahn, the largest (and most impressive) model train exhibition in the world.
The city itself is spacious, elegant and clean, lit at night by the Christmas lights and decorations that still remained post festive season. There were some impressive buildings, such as the Town Hall, as well as many beautiful statues and monuments dotted around the place.
Harry’s host family treated us to a traditional German meal and gave us a warm welcome to their country.
It was a quick stop over in Hamburg, and a slightly hazy one at that, what with the jet lag and the near death experience. But I had a glimpse of the sparkle that attracts people to the city, and can see exactly why Harry is so keen to stay.