Sat 9 Nov - Hamburg, Germany

Going small, very small... but not when it comes to pictures, lots and lots of them today. Our apologies.

We woke up to a cold and windy day so decided to explore Hamburg's number 1 thing to do according to Tripadvisor, "Minatur Wunderland" which is the world’s largest model train exhibit, and still growing with plans for future exhibits until 2020. And it has far more than just model trains...

Out in the cold we go...

Saturday mornings means markets are on at nearby Großmeumarket, which we passed this morning on our way to Hafen City where Minatur Wunderland is situated.

Hans is distracted by something other than markets...

Yes, Hans was fascinated by the scaffolders - working in the cold wind and just handing down the dismantled pieces to their colleagues underneath. And they were very speedy too... Amazing.

The traffic lights in Hamburg have been a bit of a mystery - why do they need 2 red men for "don't walk" and only 1 green walking man? We've played with different theories but are not yet satisfied with an answer.

As noted, our main destination for today was ModelEisenBahn Wunderland or Minatur Wunderland as it is also refered to, which is located on the top 3 floors of this warehouse.

To give you some sense of what we were about to see, below is a miniature replica of the same warehouse that is shown as part of the Hamburg display.

We were about to be amazed... It costs €12 each to get in and it was very much worth the money. 8 "lands" or districts / countries were featured.

First up were small dioramas on a lower level which showed some key events in German history, particularly the divided city of Berlin in historically significant blocks. The display showed how the same street corner looked like at various points from 1949, including the building and the demolishing of the Berlin Wall.

The final display below shows the euphoria of 1989...

Ok, we can't show you every section of all 8 "lands" but the photo below should give you some sense of the layout and detail. The place was enormous.

The displays are not geographically accurate - more a representation of each country or area with the trains, other transport, people and activities of the area.

We started with Switzerland, which because of the mountains spreads over 2 floors - you climb up through the display from level 3 to 4. Looking back down...

Nightime arrives every 12 minutes and lasts for about 2 minutes, with the lighting and activities changing to suit. For example, gondolas going up a mountain don't run at night but a party place may not be active during the day.


They've thought of everything. Here they a rock concert is, what a crowd... And including queues for the portaloos to the far right.

And a traffic accident on the way to the concert - with police and ambulance sorting it all out.

Of course it ends up all as a traffic jam...

You can watch so many things move and change that you can stand there for hours (and some nerds definitely do - more on this later).

This big head did not quite fit the minature world!

The trains require major signal switching and track controlling - and you can see it happen. Even down to the detail of traffic lights changing, boom gates coming down and vehicles indicating before making a turn!

Minatur Wunderland's latest section, opened late 2011, is the airport and this draws a crowd as it is modeled on Hamburg's Flughafen and is very accurate. First the car park and entrance driveways.

The gates and planes (lots of Lufthansa).

The main termimal, with the runaways behind and car parking out front.

The airport has a departure and arrival signboard so you can check the airport movements, although cargo planes are not shown and come from a different section of the airport.

Here is a cargo plane taking off...

Off the deck and flying into a storm... disappearing behind the cloth...

We spent ages checking out Hamburg's Airport as it was absolutely amazing, not something one usually can say about airports!

Moving right along, Austria included a landmark that strongly reminded us of Schönbrunn.

And the punters seemed to like it too.

And then we hit the ski slopes...with moving snowmobiles, gondolas and some skiers.

The real control centre for all this. We figure nerds volunteer in droves to work here as this is just super cool stuff.

Di was watching all the action. Real walkie talkies, chatting to other staff and sometimes they had to go and sort out a problem.

This is part of a technical workshop.

A selection of the fire vehicles used in the lands (there were as much again to the right). Each fire vehicle is accurate to the country.

Grown, serious looking men outnumber children here and many had very big expensive cameras or video equipment filming the action. Here's just one example... Nerds galore...

But girls are of course also allowed...and we did see some nerdy women with big cameras too (but not Di).

We stopped for a cuppa break after about 90 minutes and the cafeteria looked like a good option for lunch too. The seating supplied was old plane seats and were actually very comfortable.

After a quick refreshment, it was back to the action as we still had more to see...

The technicians and builders clearly want to test your eye for detail and included some unexpected fun stuff. Here are a few examples...

A car being winched from a river...

A corpse in another river with a crime scene crew...

What? Scuba diving cows in the sea between Denmark and Sweden? That's just silly (but made us laugh).

Naked lovers in a sunflower field in Austria also made us laugh although one woman nearby hurried her children along when she realized what was going on (whilst laughing too).

Every now and then we would spot a "behind the scenes" small tour group. Very funny to see heads pop up behind the hills and buildings.

This reminded us of last night's outing to Hamburger Dom.

Actually this one did...

Some recognizable landmarks in the section for Hamburg - Hauptbahnhof and the local telecom tower.

Literally down the road - Landungsbrucke where we caught the ferry a few days ago.

And our favourite local church - St Michel's.

Damn - we did not get to see a live football match here - but this certainly looked very realistic with a small TV screen replaying key action.

For some reason America already had a land (Italy, France, UK and Africa will be gradually constructed until 2020).

This freeway setup looked very familiar. Yep, we are in the US section.

Adobe buildings that were so common in the American southwest - we didn't realize how much we missed them until we saw this.

Viva Las Vegas. Of course they had to have a section from there.

Miami, and we presume South Beach, also featured in the American section.

Scandinavia was huge - lots of Denmark. And this representation of a big mining company LKAB in the far north of Sweden seemed accurate to Hans (although he has not been there or that far north).

The bus tour group exists in real life too...

Time for lunch and we headed back to the cafeteria for a meal.

Minatur Wonderland's cafeteria has a tip box for change and once you put in your coin it lands in the back of a truck and you then press a button to back it up and dump it on the pile. There goes Hans' 50 cents.

Today's special looked huge so we decided to share it - a stuffed cabbage roll, with minced pork inside, together with boiled potatoes, more cabbage and a fabulous bacon gravy. It was very tasty and for €6.50 we were full.

After lunch, we double checked that we had pretty much seen everything on offer at Minatur Wunderland and decided to call it quits, 3 hours somehow seemed quite enough.

We decided to perambulate a bit around Hafen City and here is another shot with the infamous ElbPhilharmonic building in the background.

Pretty much the whole of Hafen City is being redeveloped and looking at this picture of how it used to look like, that may be a good thing.

Electric cars are becoming more common in Europe and here is another place to "refuel".

There were still some old buildings around within Hafen City and didn't they just look good in the afternoon sunshine.

Looking along one of the many old shipping channels and warehouses in Hafen City.

The harbour area now referred to as Hafen City used to be a tax free zone and these were one set of gates towards greater Hamburg tightly controlling goods coming in and going out. You probably can't see it but where Di is looking behind the glass were two dummies dressed up as Zoll or customs officers.

The building to the left contains Hamburg's Zoll Museum, but we didn't venture in so cannot comment on it.

The bridge towards the free port area had statues of two very famous seafarers on either side, Christopher Columbus to the left and Vasco Da Gama to the right. We figure it could be because Hamburg benefited from the opened sea trading routes.

Our stroll took us towards the Rathausmarkt and around the shore of Binnenalster. Here we are looking west with the Alsterfontäne shooting up water.

Looking back to the Rathaus - a fellow tourist offered to take our photo if we returned the favour. We got something slightly better than we expected...but only just...
At this time, we decided to slowly take ourselves back to base with the afternoon getting cloudier and cooler. For something different we went via the Planten und Blumen park, entering via the far right on the map, which starts or ends just one block away from where we stay (to the far left).

Planten und Blumen turned out to be a local park with waterways and lots of paths, and yes, it was still a very chilly day...

A hill within the park had been used as bunkers during WWII, but they had since been filled in although we read that bats had found their way inside. This was one of several entrances / exits.

Suddenly there was pop music in the air and we thought at first that it came from the Hamburger Dom amusement park that we visited last night, but it turned out to be from this... a skating rink.

It did come as a surprise to us, although perhaps it shouldn't. We hadn't registered that there would be a skating rink inside of Planten und Blumen park, but there it was, and popular too.

There was even a zorb on the skating rink, with one punter at the time running within it from one side to the other. Not quite like the zorbs that we saw in New Zealand rolling down from hills.

Out of the park we realized we were about 300 metres from home.

After a bit of grocery shopping for a paella dinner we were back at base around 4pm, finding a note from Johannes telling us that he had gone to Berlin for the weekend, but that his girlfriend Daniella would stay the night here.

And five minutes after we arrived, Daniella arrived. She was just in for 10 minutes before leaving again, getting prepped for going out tonight.

We traded jokes with Daniella about how we may see each other tomorrow morning when she comes home after her partying as we were planning to go to Fischmarkt early. She agreed it was very possible...

Di cooked up yet another storm with a very delicious paella and with a couple of glasses of red wine, it was a wunderbar meal.

After dinner, she did a bit of blogging before having a nice hot bath while Hans took over the blogging.

Early evening for Di and not very late for Hans either as we have plans to check out early morning trading at the Fischmarkt tomorrow so for now, good night.


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