Free and Hanseatic Hamburg


There are many ‘Parkplatz’ along the Autobahn. Usually they are clean, well serviced and not a bad place to take a break or a nap. I was quite enthralled by the automatic toilet and touchless hand washing stand!

Reminds me that we are a bit behind in Canada. Most of our highway stops – even on the Trans Canada – do not have potable water, shelter, and a place to sit. And most often the only ‘service’ is provided by an outhouse.

German Country Side

The views are generally pretty nice too. While looking around the German country side presented to us at the Parkplatz, I found some ‘forget-me-nots’.

Forget-me-nots are the flower chosen by my family to memorialize my younger sister who passed in 1998. I like serendipitous stuff, so I decided this meant that Kate would be with us along our tour.

German Forget-Me-Nots

After all, while alive, she barely made it out of Ontario, Canada.

I thought the number of Europeans who were using the Parkplatz’s as ‘camping’ stops between countries was interesting, so I decided to converse with a few travellers. What I discovered is that yes, the stops are used for overnight sleeping.

There is essentially no such thing as a ‘no rest’ rest-stop (we have many of those in Canada). It is very common for families that travel to use the stops along the way for sleeping, showering (yes, many have showers!), eating (…and restaurants) and stretching.

They don’t ‘pitch tents’, rather they all sleep right in their cars. I guess this has a lot to do with distance. The countries in Europe are generally MUCH smaller than our States and Provinces here in North America.

Our drive from Vancouver to Quebec City took six days – five nights is a lot to spend sleeping upright and uncomfortably – for most people. Of course we were about to learn what we were capable of handling on this trip – which would end up being much more than five nights of upright fitful car sleep!

Industrial Hamburg

Hamburg (Formally Known as the ‘Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg‘) is not known for it’s beauty. As a matter of fact, by German standards, Hamburg is a gritty industrial town.

Though I could see a bit of grit, being from baby Canada I was still overwhelmed by the architecture. Like most European cities, Hamburg’s old town square had long been designated pedestrian only.

Cafes in Hamburg

The cobblestone streets – less narrow here than in many German cities – were well lit with lots of seating for some starry-eyed lingering.

After wandering around photographing old Hamburg, we made a stop in an unusual park filled with large plastic seat/skylight/light looking things across from an epic Church.

“On the night of the 29th of July 1943, 370 persons perished in the air-raid shelter on the Hamburgerstrasse in a bombing raid. Remember these dead. Never again fascism. Never again war”.

Following our reading of the park plaque, we realized that we were standing atop a very important WWII site where people were killed while escaping the bombing raids in a shelter.

For Those Who Died In WWII Bomb Shelters

The fires above ground – which created winds up to 250km per hour – were so fierce they sucked the air out of many bomb shelters, leaving those within to suffocate and perish. Even the harbours were alight with the fuel from ships and tankers. The city was entirely ablaze.

The Battle of Hamburg, codenamed Operation Gomorrah, was a campaign of air raids beginning 24 July 1943 for 8 days and 7 nights. It was at the time the heaviest assault in the history of aerial warfare and was later called the Hiroshima of Germany by British officials.

Sitting in the green park in the middle of an active, thriving downtown, it was hard to imagine a firestorm so fierce that it created tornadic conditions. It was even harder to imagine how anyone could have survived through a fire that literally ‘swept people up like dry leaves’.

Inconceivable – how did anyone manage to ‘live’ afterword? I would imagine that for many, the nightmares and fears left after such a horror, would be a real impediment to the act of ‘living life to it’s fullest’.

Additional photos in the slideshow.

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You can follow this trip by heading to the ‘8 Country EU Tour‘ section, or you can enjoy many more photos of Germany by heading to the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.


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