Brunch on the Elbe River

“If someone falls overboard, please be sure to actively bring our attention to it,” our captain says. He’s not what I pictured he would look like – sunglasses, somewhat weatherbeaten, of course, a brick red woolen hat covering his head, no obvious uniform, both relaxed and business-like. We’re addressed with “Ihr” – the informal collective German “you”. The safety instructions relating to a possible sinking situation are new to me. “That thing with grabbing the life jacket collar before hitting the water so it won’t knock you out sounded a little complicated,” I remark to my friend. “We won’t need it,” she assures me. I need another sip of my sparkling wine.

Welcome to the Mare Frisium. The day turns gorgeous as we sail away from the Sandtorhöft dock, minutes away from Hamburg’s historical Speicherstadt (warehouse district) and the Elbphilharmonie concert house towering nearby. We all feel the shifting of the three-masted schooner underneath our feet as it glides along the Elbe river, and the floor actually still seems to be tilting underneath me as I type this. The Mare Frisium includes sleeping cabins and is used for events in Hamburg, as well as making appearances at annual events like the Hafengeburtstag (harbour birthday).

The vessel is beautiful and comfortable, with plenty of room for all those on board. The Elbe glittered in the spring sunshine, reflecting the blue of the sky above – a welcome break from April’s repeated icy rain showers and pellets of hail. Our route partly follows that of the traditional harbour boat trip, or even just that of the Hamburg transportation department’s ferry, so familiar sights popped up: Landungsbrücken, the harbour station and area; Elbstrand, the Elbe beach; Blankenese district and its own beach further along the river.

While the joys of contemplation and observation were part of the trip, the smell of fried bacon and scrambled eggs carried to us upon the fresh breeze did lead us to abandon them for a while in favour of the breakfast room on the lower deck. I immediately noticed cupcakes topped with swirly frosting I resolved to come back for later. Fresh bread, pain au chocolat, croissants, cheese, ham, various fried vegetables, smoked salmon, small boiled potatos, sausages, fried mushrooms in a creamy sauce, the aforementioned scrambled eggs and bacon – need I say more? I love a good buffet, but I love a good breakfast or brunch buffet even more.

Even though low-heeled, my ankle boots required slightly more careful navigation along the Mare Frisium, especially with a plate in my hand or on stairs. Sneakers next time. We ate outside, with attentive staff regularly passing by, fresh air being the best stimulant for a good appetite. I love brunch. Being a city person I do tend to sleep in during the weekend when I can, and then when I get up, I feel like eating a larger first meal than a typical breakfast, but still not in the direction of lunch, so brunch is the perfect solution, because it’s hearty enough to set you up for the rest of the day, but still lighter than a lunch might be. And I love breakfast food.

After the first food rush guests dispersed along the schooner, finding places to sit or lean against comfortably while watching green Hamburg shores pass by. Speed would occasionally pick up and we’d be roused from our slightly sleepy selves. The four hours of the trip felt like a week-long vacation.

The floor is still tilting, but in general I think I’ve got rather good sea legs. At least for a river ride. And if I get fed. Prost!

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