🍔 Hamburg: Miniatur Wunderland, Hamburger cuisine, and meeting Pauline 💜

This is the second in a series on a Europe trip that myself and my husband Nick took in 2019. The first is about Amsterdam, you can read that first if you like. If you’re new to my blog, welcome! You might also like to know that last year I started to limit photography to 50 images per travel post, as many blog posts out there can be overrun with a little too many photos for your 4G connection, and perhaps too many of the same thing 😉

Two women smiling, with their arms around each other. Both have dark hair. One is wearing a striped coloured top and a black jacket with a blue skirt, the other is wearing a light blue sweater with a black-and-white patterned skirt. They are in a street setting with a clock tower in the background.
Pauline and I met for the first time! More on that later in the post ✨

We spent two nights in Hamburg. It was a really short trip and we didn’t realise until we got there that the second day we were there was a public holiday in Germany. That didn’t get in our way too much – it just meant that quite a few places were closed and the city was dead quiet compared to the day before and the day after.

We arrived in Hamburg on the train from Amsterdam, arriving just after lunchtime. Growing up, it was amusing to see Hamburg printed on a map, because as a kid you’d automatically think “hamburger”. But we quickly learned that “Hamburger” is actually the term that Germans use to describe something that is from Hamburg (the same way you would describe something from Australia as being “Australian”).

A small bridge with arches on either side, as seen from across the road that is perpendicular to it. The sky shows it’s in the afternoon.
The Miniatur Wunderland is just over the bridge and on the right

Miniatur Wunderland

Our main reason for stopping by Hamburg was to visit the famous Miniatur Wunderland – the largest model railway in the world, spanning many rooms with intricate detail over one floor of a large building.

A miniature replica of a beach resort, as part of a model railway, with dozens of people and real water. There is exceptional detail.
Gotta show some beaches and sand in a world of miniature people!
Another miniature replica of a garden with green lawns and tiny colourful plants
This was the only garden of this detail that I really spotted in the Miniatur Wunderland!
The inside of a miniature-scale opera house, opened up so you can see the mulitple rooms and many figurines inside representing people doing different activities. There is a choir in the middle and deepest section
This miniature opera house was actually finished before the real one it’s a replica of (in Hamburg)

The railway emulates night-time and the rooms’ lights turn off automatically, and the lights on the buildings in the model railway gradually take their time to turn on as it gets dark. You can definitely spend days looking at all the people and scenarios – there are literally thousands. In twenty minutes you may not have even moved a metre if you look at and observe everything really close. There are extravagant replicas of the Swiss Alps, Las Vegas, and Hamburg itself, as well as a fully functioning airport with a detailed arrivals and departures board, petrol/gas prices that are updated in real-time, and boats that move on water. The replica of Hamburg even has the Miniatur Wunderland itself – and you can even see model trains inside the windows! There are even some slightly morbid scenes like people fighting, and a murder scene too.

A close-up view of a bridge with traffic running in both directions, that is part of a miniature model railway.
This bridge had a sign with a camera icon encouraging you to take a photo!
A close-up view of some black and white model cows on grass, part of a miniature model railway.
Not just people, but animals too
A model airport as part of an indoor model railway. The lights are off to simulate night-time
An actual, fully-functioning airport
A birds-eye view of figurines near railtracks, assembled with props like a murder scene
A suspicious murder scene…
Two figurines of nuns sitting at the edge of a landscape. Behind them is a figurine man dressed in black. There are trees behind them as well
Yep… this world is flat…
Miniature figurines in a scene – someone appears to be getting their hair cut while other figurines show housework or are just standing around.
Not sure what is going on here, but it was cute.
A miniature underground subway with miniature figurines waiting with baggage, and a LED board showing departure and arrival times
There’s a lot of detail in the underground subways too
Two guys starting a fight over… bicycles?
Miniature figurines assembled in a crowd like a festival crowd. There are some figurines carrying a portable toilet
It’s a big festival! And some people carrying a portable loo?!
Miniature figurines inside a glass-walled block called “Service WC”. There is a figurine man who seems to be dealing with a shelf of toilet paper
I really don’t know what is going on here. 🧻
Old Italian-style miniature houses with a long flight of stairs down the side. On the flight of stairs are many miniature seagulls/ducks with a figurine man taking a photo from the bottom of teh stairs.
That’s another weird one for today.

We also booked a behind-the-scenes tour in advance, and they squeezed in an English tour for us since they didn’t have one already scheduled on the day. It was only 15€, and we thought it was better than walking around and looking at the Wunderland ourselves! It was incredibly fascinating.

Miniature figurines in a scenario where a man is bending over looking at a dog lying in the snow
In the tour, we found out that it took them some time to get this kind of detail in the snow

As it was behind-the-scenes, we got a different view of the landscapes, and were able to see scenarios that you’d never see from the front. There are also many hidden scenarios of figurines engaging in sexual activities – though you can also spot less hidden ones when you look in some of the building windows.

Minature figurines dressed in black, near a black car, under a bridge. They are dragging what appears to be figurines wrapped in paper bag.
Miniature figurines romping in the grass, under the arches of a bridge
Just near the mafia… uh… some people doing some private stuff

They have some pretty incredible videos on the Miniatur Wunderland YouTube channel, which give some really awesome close-ups and overviews. 🚂

Hamburger dinner

Some large, multi-storey terrace-like houses on the bank of a river, as seen from a distance across the river. It is quite a cloudy day.
Your typical Hamburg-near-water view

That evening we had a Hamburger dinner at a restaurant in a small alleyway. Since we were really hungry, we had the four-course meal. The entree was a nice salad with fish, and then we had this amazing green soup with scallops (the scallops themselves were to die for), and then I chose the fish dish (cod) while Nick chose the meat one.

A white, flag-shaped plate on a dining table with salad, asparagus and fish served on it.
A really tasty entree
A small white crockery pot with two handles on either side, with green soup in it.
The most amazing scallop I’ve had – even though it was in a soup!
A round white plate with mashed potato, snow peas and fish served on it.
And the main meal 🐟

Hamburg is known for its seafood, so that’s why there was a lot of seafood! The last dish was dessert but I chose the cheese platter. I was really quite full by then and I have to admit that the cheese was really too strong in taste for my liking… and I love cheese. Also, Hamburg isn’t really known for its cheese the way other cities are. But overall it was a great dinner!

Bumping into Pauline 🙀

The next morning was the public holiday. We had no idea where to eat and most things around us were shut. Since we were rather central, we were able to walk to the town square and into a shopping centre nearby. We just stopped at a cafe called Scoom – it’s a franchise, but it had what we needed. A quick bakery-style snack and sweet coffee, then we were on our way. I had a pretzel, which would be my obsession over the next couple of weeks! 🥨😆

That whole morning, excitement had been building up inside me because later that evening we would be having dinner with Pauline, her boyfriend Matt, and their friend Darren. I have known Pauline as a fellow blogger since we were teenagers, yet I’ve never met her in person because we’re on opposite sides of the earth. Although Pauline lives in the UK, she was also travelling at the same time Nick and I were, so we planned to meet in Hamburg. If that doesn’t sound exciting to you, I don’t know what does. 🤪

“I bet if we were to bump into Pauline in the street, you’d be the first to notice her,” I said to Nick, knowing full well that he’s very observant and always hyper-aware of his surroundings. All the while I had been watching some of Pauline’s Instagram stories that morning and we had been chatting, too, so I knew she had plans to explore the city centre and was probably nearby.

Nick and I decided to walk to the Planten un Blomen park since it was only going to take about fifteen minutes, so we walked on the main road. I noticed the Apple store and I got out my phone to take a photo, then I heard Nick saying, “hey, hey”.

When I looked up, someone was bicycling in my general direction, so I moved out of their way, but when I really actually looked, Pauline and Matt and Darren were in front of me. 🙀 Pauline and I screamed in excitement and shock before we hugged and almost cried. I don’t think anything could have prepared us for seeing each other before we had planned to.

The two women from an earlier photo, in the same outfits, but a closer portrait-style shot

I wish we caught that on video somehow (CCTV Hamburg, holla @ ya grl). We had a chat, took dozens of photos, and I was so gehyped (“hyped” in German!) that I started bouncing and dancing and doing the floss dance. 🙈 Which then resulted in me showing Pauline how to do it. She totally had the swinging part right but found it tricky as soon as she had to move one hand behind her in each movement. 😆

Planten un Blomen

After we’d well and truly calmed down (but also contained enough excitement for dinner later), Nick and I continued on our way. The Planten un Blomen park had greenhouses in there which were insanely warm compared to the temperature outside. We took refuge in there from the cold. Thermometers inside showed that the temperature was ten degrees (Celsius) warmer!

The inside of a park, with a river in the foreground, and greenhouses in the background. There are many trees in the park
We stopped and had a look in those greenhouses for warmth.
A series of very tall traditional cacti inside a greenhouse. They are planted amongst yellow-coloured rocks with other succulents near them
Cacti thriving in the greenhouses

It was a pretty garden/park area, and you could see the Hamburg Hertz tower between the trees. I’m a sucker for views of tall towers between architecture or nature.

The Hamburg Hertz Tower in Hamburg, Germany. It’s a telecommunications tower as seen from between trees inside of a park. It’s a very cloudy day.
The Hertz Tower as seen from the Planten un Blomen

We weren’t there that long, and we caught the S-bahn to the Winterhude municipal park, which I thought was too far, but it was really only a handful of subway stops – not too inconvenient. Can I just say, also – we’ve been to three cities in Germany so far, as of writing this, and Hamburg was our first exposure to the S-bahn, and – I’m loving the subway system so much. Most transport systems we’ve seen shit all over Sydney’s, but, efficiency aside, I honestly just find the S-bahn kind of appealing in its own way.

Winterhude Municipal Park

Winterhude had a planetarium, which we planned to see, but what I truly didn’t expect was that the entire park was like a gargantuan forest. I almost died. Since I was young, nothing ever lived up to what I wanted a forest to be – the bullshit “forests” that are labelled in Australia are like bushland, really, and none of this lush green wilderness you could walk through that I had read about countless times in storybooks or seen in films. My boss Chris told me that you could see something like that if you drive some six hours up north of Sydney, but that, to anyone, is a bit of a trek. Travelling to Portland last year made my heart explode when I saw how green it truly was, and so to see Winterhude in all its beauty, and so similar to the greenness I had seen in Portland, made my heart melt.

A forest-like area, with tall trees defining the landscape. There is a dirt path providing a walkway through the trees.
A woman in a light blue sweater and black-and-white patterned layered skirt. She’s standing on a dirt path in a forest-like area with a lot of lush green trees.
I’ve been wearing this exact same outfit so many times on this trip because I packed light
The inside of a large garden. In the background is a large brown building, partially covered by trees in front of it. The trees have many leaves but their branches are still visible. A dirt path leads in the direction of the building. To the right of frame are some planted shrubs.
Deeper inside Winterhude, there is a planetarium

The photos I took don’t do the park justice. I could insert all the expletives here to describe how amazed I was. But I don’t have words, really.

We ended up not seeing the planetarium itself as it cost extra and it didn’t seem that interesting. There was a gallery of space photographs though, that we looked at, and when we walked outside we found so many people in groups playing music and barbecuing on a huge stretch of green lawn, celebrating their national holiday.

More exploring

Although there was more to the park, it was huge and we didn’t have time to see it all (we were also getting hungry). We took the S-bahn to the red light district, but there was not much going on there. I realise I hadn’t mentioned this in my Amsterdam post but we did go to the red light district there, and it’s really interesting compared to the red light districts of other cities, because sex workers are respected and prostitution is not “taboo” – it gives off a very different vibe. But yeah, in Hamburg there was really nothing happening since we were there during the day anyway.

Four outlined metal statue figurines in an open area of tiled concrete
The Beatles in artistic statue form at Beatlesplatz

We got kebabs for a really late lunch and then walked around the city centre. Not much was happening, again because it was a public holiday, but it gave us an opportunity to see the city when it was quiet. And cold, might I add. 🥶

A kebab sandwich filled with pieces of beef and cabbage, on a table with a colourful print
I’m used to kebabs at home being served in wraps, so this was different
A city square/plaza, with a covered area and a tower in the background behind some buildings
The centre of Hamburg

But! The highlight of the evening, was having dinner with Pauline, Matt, and Darren. I was so gehyped (still, even after that morning’s events) that I don’t think I even paid attention to my food. LOL. We had Italian food, which was pretty good, but with better company of course. ☺️ Pauline and I made sure we got several dozen photos in the quiet town square before we parted ways! I mean, it probably would have been busy and full of people and hard to get a good photo if it hadn’t been a public holiday!

Five people sitting around a long table in a restaurant, two on one side and three on the other. There are some glasses and cups on the table. Everyone is smiling
Italian for dinner 🍝
Two women smiling, with their arms around each other. Both have dark hair. One is wearing a striped coloured top and a black jacket with a blue skirt, the other is wearing a light blue sweater with a black-and-white patterned skirt. They are in a street setting in Hamburg, Germany
We got more photos before we parted ways!

The next morning we didn’t have to check out until later, and our train to Berlin was in the late morning, so we grabbed breakfast and hot chocolate at a nearby bakery and browsed the shops.

Thanks for tuning into this blog post about our 2019 Europe trip! You can follow the hashtag #cookesEU19 on Twitter or on Instagram – I’ve been keeping my Instagram Stories up to date, with my Twitter posts being summaries and my actual Instagram posts being visual highlights.

🇩🇪 We’ll see you next time for a blog post about Berlin!

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Comments on this post

I’m grinning my face off re-reading this. 💜It’s awesome reading this post, after experiencing it and actually living it out. I know that sounds weird because blogging about our lives is what we do, but being a part of it is honestly so surreal.

I’m still bummed out that I couldn’t catch you both in London (boo, sickness 🤧) but I am grateful for the time we did spend together in Hamburg. I’m going to relive the moments in my head until the next time we see each other (hopefully next year 🤞🏻), in the meantime, internet keep us connected 👯‍♀️

I can’t wait to read the rest of your travel posts – I’m particularly excited for Berlin, it’s always been a place I’ve wanted to visit! 👀

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