First destination(s) first post!
My trip started last thursday, the 15th of September. I booked a ride with Blablacar, a car sharing platform in Europe. A german guy, called Jan, would drop me at Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (central station), which became my first stopover. And Jan, after hearing my story, would become my first international follower. Three of my best friends in Antwerp dropped me off at the central station to say goodbye. It was weird to leave right away from the place I’ve been living for the last few years, instead of being dropped off at the airport and after saying goodbye, having to wait for 2 more hours before you actually leave… and then only a few hours later you arrive at the other side of the globe. This felt more natural to be honest. Getting in a car and start travelling slowly. Although, while we pulled over, I had this painful feeling in my chest (which felt a little like having a broken heart) I was mostly excited, instead of sad or scared. I would start my trip in Hamburg, Germany, Europe. I would be able to pay with the currency I knew, namely the euro, I knew it was a modern, organised country (I think more organised than Belgium to be honest) and I could even understand their language. Slowly I would work my way up towards Russia and in the mean time I would have time to adjust to travelling, and especially to the idea that I am not going to see my friends and family for a while.
I only had a few hours to spend in Hamburg, because my next ‘Blablacar’ to Copenhagen would depart at 2pm, well that’s what I thought. Anyways, I got up early in my hostel, so I could enjoy a bit of this harbour city. Hamburg is not that well know as an international tourist destination I think, and mostly visited by Germans. Except for the fact that I’ve never heard of people going on a citytrip to Hamburg, the tour guides I encountered all tried to convince me of doing some touristic thing in German, instead of English. I even almost got interviewed by ZDF (a German tv channel) because they thought I must have been a German, even if I was obviously a tourist: carrying my camera around my neck. But after wandering around for some hours, checking out ‘HafenCity’, the renewed area next to the harbour, the old harbour and some hipster streets with very nice street art and an amazing view over the city, I think that Hamburg should become more of an international tourist destination. The people are really nice and friendly, there is lots to see and to do, it is modern city but with old details, it is hipster and it is harbour (seriously, I think I’ve just made their new slogan).
Because of traffic jams my ride to Copenhagen was delayed. We had to make it on time for the ferry to Denmark though, which we booked upfront, and which would leave at 7pm. It was almost 5pm when we left Hamburg. Without traffic jams it would be a 2 hours drive. But it was friday 5pm, so yeah, this was going to be hard. Most parts we were driving around 140 or 150 kilometers per hour… But we made it!
In Copenhagen I stayed with a host I found on couchsurfing. My host was Raj, an Indian guy who travels lots and lots for his work. I cannot describe his hospitality. I arrived pretty late in the evening at his house. I directly got a glass of wine and at 1 am he suggested to go out. Why not. Saying ‘no’ is not something on my to-do list for the coming months anyway. We went out in the city centre of Copenhagen, which I had only seen by night yet. The city was lively, with a lot of young people going out. He paid the cab, the cover and we even went VIP where we had an open bar all night. Crazy first night, a night to remember. It was 6am when we got home. Of course, I wanted to explore the city the next day, and not lay in my bed. So I didn’t get much sleep.
Copenhagen is actually pretty small. I think you can see the highlights, which Raj had listed for me) in one day (Nyhavn, the Mermaid, Amalienborg Palace…) But it is a really lovely city. And I was lucky the weather was still okay, because it can get pretty cold up there. But the Danish have thought about the weather as an opportunity to create a lot of inside, cosy places, which make the city more vivid, even in winter. They have this indoor food(truck)markets, which are open all year. When the weather is good, the outside part at the waterside is packed. A Belgian girl I met there who moved to Copenhagen told me you can actually swim in the water at a lot of places!
Unfortunately, I arrived one day too late to try that. For the rest, I felt pretty at home in the Danish capital, with all the bikes! They have so many! I think cycling is even more a thing here then in most Dutch or Belgian cities, or at least, more organised (like everything is so organised in Denmark). The cycling paths are like cycling-highways, really wide and people are literally racing there. Cyclists get mad and frustrated if you walk on their highway. Which I do understand! I got so mad when pedestrians where walking on the cycling paths at first when I started living in Antwerp. But I have to admit that in Antwerp it is just really hard to tell where to walk and where to cycle. Sometimes the cycling path even just stops and you have to figure it out (and then even the police dares to fine people because of cycling on the footpath…) So they can learn a lot from Denmark here. And apart from the bikes, they also have another, kind of ‘Dutch’ policy in their city. It is called ‘Christiania’. It is a special ‘rule-free’ zone in an old military base. It is tolerated to buy and smoke weed or hashish there. There are bars and food stands all around and there is also a lake, where people chill and smoke around. Some people think of it as a dodgy place, because there are some junkies hanging around. I didn’t think about it like that when I saw it. I just saw young and old(er) people chilling, having a drink, chatting and playing games. Also, drinks were a little cheaper here than in the city centre I guess (which still is more expensive than in the Netherlands or in Belgium). Copenhagen is a really expensive city and I was really lucky to have found a host, because even an 8-bed-dorm in a hostel costs around 30 to 40 euros per night.
The cold wind arrived in Copenhagen and for me it was time to go. Off to Sweden!
Check out the slideshow below for the photos which fit the story!