After Barry left us in Berlin, we had a week left in Germany. The majority of the rest of our time was going to be spent visiting Phi’s family and an exchange student that befriended the Sayre family in the early 2000s. We also got to drive on the autobahn and drink lots of tasty German beer.
Our first stop after leaving Berlin was Hamburg. Hamburg is the 2nd most populated city in Germany. To travel from Berlin to Hamburg, we used Blablacar for the 2nd time of our trip. Blablacar is essentially a ride sharing service where you can post available seats in your car. We had an amazing experience as this guy picked us up at our doorstep and dropped us off at our next doorstep. Phi and I both think this service may catch on one day in the United States.
The highlight of Hamburg was seeing FAMILY!! We dined with Phi’s cousin Will and his girlfriend, Anca. Phi hadn’t seen Will in person in over 15 years when he had visited her family in the U.S. so it was a real treat for her to see him again. Plus, we finally got to meet Anca! Together, we shared a yummy dim sum dinner and many laughs. We’re so happy we got to spend time with them!
Will’s parents live in Cologne (we’ll visit them on our next stop) but Phi has another maternal aunt who also lives in Hamburg with her family (husband + 2 high school aged children). Shelley (aka Momo or Phi’s Mom) has 7 siblings. Of the 7 siblings, 3 of the siblings immigrated to Germany in the 1980s. It was really great to get to know Phi’s maternal side of the family a little more. We had a blast talking with them and seeing the similarities between Momo and her sister.
In between visits, we spent a really nice day exploring Hamburg. Our first stop was to visit a cathedral that his 3 organs and listen to a free lunchtime recital. Afterwards, we walked along to harbor and had a fish lunch on the harbor. Next, we walked through an underwater tunnel over 100 years old that is used to transport cars and vehicles across the river. Cars have to use a lift to get down to the tunnel. After going below the city, our last stop was the brand new philharmonic theater to get a view from above. We went to the top and got some amazing views of the city. One last thing we snuck in was some light Beatles tourism- we visited Beatles-Platz, where the band had their first live performances.
To travel to Cologne, we rented a car in Hamburg. I wanted the experience of driving on the autobahn where there is frequently no speed limit. We rented a manual Fiat and it was an experience we’ll never forget. Normally, there were 3 lanes of traffic. If you were bold enough to get in the left lane, you better go at least 100 MPH or you’ll get honked at and practically run off the road. We’ll just say that I traveled at speeds I’ve never traveled at before.
Similar to Hamburg, the highlight of Cologne was visiting family and friends! We had dinner with Phi’s eldest maternal aunt and uncle (William’s parents) on our first night in Cologne. Parking was a bit of a disaster, but excluding that dinner was wonderful! We had a feast and had a lot of laughs comparing Momo to her sisters. They also shared stories about their visit to America over 15 years ago and memories of Phi’s dad.
Then, the next morning we met them at the main tourist attraction of Cologne. They showed us around the Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom). We’ve seen a lot of cathedrals since coming to Europe, but this one was perhaps the most majestic. Then, they treated us to lunch and we walked around Cologne for the afternoon.
Here are a few more images related to the Cathedral, but they just don’t do it justice!
That night, Phi and I visited with a German exchange student that befriended our family in the early 2000’s. They have a small child, so we had dinner at their home and visited until nearly midnight. It was really wonderful catching up with them and getting to know more of Phi’s family in Cologne.
Our last stop in Germany was a brief stop. In Munich, we spent a day exploring town. We went on a great morning run through the English Gardens, walked around city central and had some great German beer!! We stopped at the famous Hofbrahaus, which is a huge beer garden that is the most popular during Oktoberfest. We also visited an outdoor beer garden where Phi was introduced to a Radler, which is a combination of lemonade and beer.
Side note from Phi:
While Germany was great from a historical perspective, it also surprised me on a personal level. I ended up thinking a ton about my dad on this leg of trip between spending time with family (which he loved doing), hearing my family’s memories of him that I hadn’t heard before, taking a mini-stroll to Beatles-platz (one of his favorite bands) and enjoying German beer (the man loved beer). Our time spend here provided some moments of happy reflection and peace. And for that, I say danke to Germany.