Hamburg Day Off in the Time of Corona: Took the Ferry…

Well, before I took the ferry, I actually took the subway to get to the ferry. This is big. In fact, it’s enormous, or it certainly feels that way. I haven’t been on ANY kind of public transport since March. We were sent off to work from home, accompanied by regular reading of recommendations on the news of what not to do. Since I was lucky enough to be able to walk where I needed to in those months, for the first time ever in now over 11 years, I completely stayed away from what had been a constant companion in my Hamburg life, the local transportation network.

I’ve always been a walker and I’m incredibly fortunate in how Hamburg is built as a city in that respect. But this week the thought of getting on a train kept popping up, and finally I just knew I had to try it again. The main reasons are winning back my daily courage day by day and hopefully contributing to not being completely overwhelmed once it’s possible to travel safely again, whenever that may be. That said, it’s important to remember that in cases like these this is all a voluntary choice and you really have to listen to your feelings, sometimes even on the day, planning or no planning. Everyone is different. For some it’s no big deal. You just go. It’s not really so different from going grocery shopping, is it? Some didn’t get to choose. Still, for me, it’s definitely a leap.

Contrary to my expectations, my tension didn’t mount as I set off. In fact, the preliminary stage of deciding and waiting had been more intense, but once I was on my way, the process just got divided into tasks as I used to do during my travels. Walk down the street, put mask on before entering the train station. Notice with relief after careful scanning of the platform that everyone is standing at a distance and wearing masks with full nose and mouth coverage. Mentally pat myself for successful post-morning-rush timing. Get on the train. Reminders to keep the mask on during the whole ride are played on the loudspeaker at every stop. In German and English. Notice, incensed, the woman opposite reading a book with her mask pulled down from her nose. NO.

Get off at the Landungsbrücken station in the Port of Hamburg. Stare, because the station is cleaner than I’ve ever seen it. The usually present construction barriers are gone. Go down to the dock and board the local ferry, which basically also acts as a bus and is part of the city transport. Again gratefully notice that it’s not busy and people are following rules. Get a seat on a row on the outside deck and no one else sits there, hallelujah. Then see a group of six middle-aged men confidently making their way to the front of the deck, all of them laughing, clearly convinced of their coolness. The leader is wearing a leather jacket. They stop to take group selfies, which is when I see that leather jacket isn’t wearing a mask. Immediately a severe female voice demands he put one on, “…also for taking pictures”, or else he can disembark.

It’s wonderful to feel the wind from the Elbe river again and see the familiar landmarks along the way. My original tentative plan was to get out at Neumühlen/ Övelgönne and walk a while, but big rain clouds roll in and soon it starts to drizzle insistently. OK, that answers that question, though basically at that point it simply felt like a bit much to do. As we say in the family, not everything at once (не всё сразу in Russian). Somewhat reluctantly I change spaces to take shelter on the lower inside deck, where there’s still plenty of room. I just stay seated at the end stop. After a few minutes the ferry turns around and heads back to Landungsbrücken, so this is a great (and cheap!) alternative to booking an actual harbour boat trip with a company. It’s not raining anymore and the sun is shining again, so I gratefully go back up and once again get a good seat.

Even in these times, or precisely because, humans will still exhibit strange behavior. The maybe ten-year-old girl also sitting downstairs at first jumps up after the rain stopped, runs past me…and I notice she’s barefoot. She stays barefoot until we dock and, despite my optimistic hopes, disembarks still sockless and shoeless. I don’t see her anymore afterwards, because I concentrate on keeping my distance and making my way back to the subway.

That’s enough adventures for one day.

 

Oslo, Day 4. Oslofjord and Skybar

We made it back to town with time enough to run by the nearest 7-Eleven and grab a snack, which felt routine by now. Then we caught the last ferry from the B1 dock right opposite the City Hall. My friend had recommended doing this, as the ferry is included in the Oslo Pass transportation and it goes around several islands in the Oslofjord, providing stunning views everywhere you look. We sat outside, of course, with the fresh fjord winds blowing in our faces.

My guidebook mentioned this trip, saying taking it was like a refreshing morning shower. If you are slightly sleepy from the day’s activities (which we weren’t, I mean, vikings), this is the thing to do to wake up again before proceeding to the evening. Not a trace of the morning fog was to be seen. From this:

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To this:

Photo credit @juniperlu

Photo credit @juniperlu

We could not have asked for better conditions to be out on the water. Going out on a boat on a fjord is on the list of things to do when one is in Norway (so is swimming in one, just need to wait a few months). The round trip takes an hour and you find yourself completely submerged (pun!) in the stunning, raw beauty of the landscape around you. The air is so clear, you almost forget that you are travelling around a city, ducks and seagulls occasionally bob along the boat on the water, and the islands of the Oslofjord are dotted with the already mentioned colourful quintessentially Norwegian houses.

Cities built near the water certainly have an advantage, and with my love for Hamburg and its rivers already going strong, it was easy to open up my heart to Oslo too. Especially because Oslo, like Hamburg, is also a city with character and individuality. But the connection to water has always been a special thing for me. On and on we sailed, watching small waves splash upon the fjord. It was very peaceful and after the first stop there was just one other person on the top deck besides us.

By the end of the trip my fingers were stiff with cold despite gloves and I made dancing motions with my legs until we docked again by the City Hall. A very good tip for making a trip around the Oslofjord without paying additionally for a tour and with the added freedom of simply observing quietly as the ferry makes its way around the islands.

The low budget section of my guidebook listed one particularly intriguing item, which we left for the evening. A short walk brought us to the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel not far from the Central Station. As we approached it, we saw what we were looking for: a circular glass lift made its way up one side of the building, all the way to what I knew to be the 34th floor. After asking at reception where to go, we ended up using the normal lift (so ask how to find the glass one). It took us to the 33rd floor, but one short flight of stairs and a helpful sign later, et voilà, welcome to the Skybar.

We made our way across the cosy, dimly lit room, claimed some armchairs right by the enormous windows spanning the area, and just stopped to look. Because the nighttime view of Oslo from up there was indescribable. We just stared for a while, and all I could do was sigh. Besides armchairs, the windowsills are wide enough to sit on. The atmosphere was once again incredibly relaxed, as were the guests around us, and any small worries I had about dresscodes and such evaporated.

The drinks menu held some intriguing titles, and at first I went for a cocktail containing “traces of alcohol” called Smell of Flowers, which was fun to ask for, even if in the end my receipt said VIRGIN BREEZE. The drink was tasty and indeed flowery, and as I leaned back in my seat, cocktail glass in hand, drinking in (another pun) the view of Oslo and its diamond lights spread out below, I thought, wow, what an absolutely fantastic moment.

gatsby

After asking at the bar, we found the glass lift, and I was glad I had a drink before going on it, because I did have to close my eyes for the first few seconds during descent. After that we went up, as we had originally intended, and then back down again, and it was indeed worth it. A fitting end to our last evening in Oslo.