Hamburg, (Germany)

“Roman Treva”, “Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg”

Hamburg, Germany, July 2019

Again the finally well deserved time to come back to a city I have never returned since the first and only time 9 years ago, Hamburg. Why this long is easy to explain, basically being concentrated in visiting hundreds other cities across dozens of countries across the globe. In a lapse of 9 years I can easily count 90 countries and over 400 cities and places, most of which available here in my travel blog for anyone to enjoy a proper guide. No need to mention this is a great excuse for remaking this entire guide adding lots more to what was there already and bringing it a most up to day bump.

How a city can change in that many years is fascinating to be honest. Back then I remember a lot of cranes and construction going on. The second largest city in Germany was transforming and evolving itself, gentrification at its best and incredible projects coming out from the countless derelict areas around the former docks and factories. Restoring its heritage buildings while designing a proper 21st century city. Today, most of it is done, and new projects being drawn ever since. What has been a very industrial city, suffering from destruction during the WWII raids, the 1962 North Sea flooding, and then from the closure of dozens of factories, re-emerged  wealthier each time as a key tourist destination in Germany focusing in business, finance, media, research, education, science, arts and of course what it does best, a major shipping logistic and infrastructure.

Hamburg, together with its neighbouring trade alliance city of Lübeck merely 65 kilometres to the east marked at the brink of year 1241 the origin and core of the powerful Hanseatic League of trading cities; Lübeck itself becoming the capital of such vast network that extended all over the Baltic and benefiting Hamburg ever since in the riches and wealth from the trade.

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Malbork, (Poland)

“Civitas Beatae Virginis”, “Royal Prussia”

Malbork, Poland, September 2017

An unexpected visit to what’s been for a while in the back of our ears: Malbork and its fascinating Teutonic castle. The reason is simple, since we’ve pretty much been to almost every possible important and historic city and place in Poland, there are still just a small bunch in our agenda, one of them was this, and with a double reason, the other being completing a visit to another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s not a secret how passionate we are about visiting as many WHS in the world as possible, so this is always fun and excitement for being to another one. That’s close to 100 alone this year so far!

Then, unplanned visit because when we booked the tickets to Gdansk to visit our friend there, same as for the last time, we though we will be there around and that’s all, however we are very pleased she did plan this trip for us. Being that near Gdansk it was a great decision, and now I can strongly recommend should you be staying in Gdansk, (and nearby Sopot and Gdynia), to include Malbork in your plans. However visiting all these places in just a weekend, even if they are small, it’s almost impossible. So like it was for us, returning to this region was the best bet, yet it won’t be the last, it is always great to have some nice time with our great friend here, even if we are not travelling for sightseeing.

Malbork is very small, and other than its huge castle, there is not much more there to see and do. Considering it was a member of the Hanseatic League, it was very elegant, with very imposing buildings however after the destruction of WWII, the city was not rebuilt and its brick ruins were used to rebuild the old areas of Gdansk and Warsaw instead. Still, there are some buildings such as the neo-Gothic railway station and around the area at both banks of the Nogat River, but a half day visit is all you need to fully explore. (more…)

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Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia, (Poland)

“Neither rashly, nor timidly”, “The Tricity by the Baltic Sea”

A bit over 5 years have passed since our first and only time in this beautiful city by the Baltic Sea, now glad to return and enjoy the same or more than the first time. Not just the city but the great company of our Polish friend whom we came to visit once more time. What a better way to escape the horrible weather in London after all? Surprisingly, this was the end of September, however still a nicer weather over here bearing in mind it generally chills earlier than other places. A coincidental fact back in June 2012 it was the weekend of a Football Euro Cup semi-finals where Spain was playing against France. Definitely we are not football fans at all, but being Spanish and such a great ambience with all the terraces showing the game at the time we were in Sopot, made it for a great dinner time entertainment.

I take the chance to revamp this guide and further expand it in line to what I am generally doing for the past 4 years or so. While there is still a large number of travel guides from the beginning of times in my blog quite outdated or even poor comparing to what I now do, it’s great to see the speed in recreating them as I keep returning to such cities and places. It’s becoming more and more difficult anyway to get for a weekend trip to destinations we’ve not been before. It might sound silly, but yes, we are running out of flying routes with any airline within Europe!

Gdansk is the largest of the three cities, capital of the region and principal seaport of Poland. And also, one of the most beautiful cities in Poland, full of Medieval and Hanseatic buildings, remarkably well preserved even though many of these had to be painstakingly reconstructed after their destruction during WWII. All these facts, the history behind and the countless cultural places are one of the reasons for its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing.

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Stockholm, (Sweden)

“Venice of the North”, “City on the Water”, “The Oak”

Stockholm, Sweden, August 2015

I cannot believe it is that time of the year already when my family usually comes to London for a visit and we go somewhere on a family trip where they have not been before. It is no surprise I am like this, traveloholic; but my parents have been like me way many years before and continue to do so. As they keep telling me very often, it is a pity they missed the easiness of low cost airlines and such an unstoppable ever growing flying network that nowadays take you anywhere you want as the easiness of few clicks on a website.

It is for me a second time in this city, and I am glad it is so. The first time was almost 6 years ago! It would have been in September precisely 6 years, and that was back then a very short trip when the usual travelling gang we used to be “abused” on the super low Ryanair fares to everywhere we could find. It was just £2 return! Leaving on Saturday extremely early in the morning and returning the same day but already back in London way after midnight. Long and tiring happy days. Nowadays, circumstances have changed for all, and not only you can never find such air fare deals, but we rather spend the entire weekend leaving on Friday night to return Sunday night, or similar.

On the way in, the best I could find was the afternoon flight with Ryanair from Stansted to Skavsta Airport. This is almost 100 kilometers to the south of Stockholm itself, but the almost 2 hours bus journey to the centre of Stockholm is in fact also well invested and to be honest, part of the trip for the beautiful scenery you will pass and see along the way. (more…)

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Torun, (Poland)

“City of Copernicus”, “City of Angels”, “Gingerbread City”

Torun, Poland, July 2015

Our second stop over for this weekend brought us to the beautiful historical city of Toruń. Not only famously known to be the birthplace of astronomer Copernicus, but more important, it is the only example of perfectly preserved medieval and Gothic architecture that entirely survived during the war without any damage nor destruction; no wonder why the UNESCO included it in the list of World Heritage Sites.

Yet it’s true to city is very small, in the other hand it has a large old town core with plenty to see and do. Most tourists come here as part of a day trip from wherever their main city base is. In our example, we came from Poznan some 130 kilometres to the west of Toruń. But coming here was not just pure chance. Knowing myself and while preparing the information and guide needed for visiting Poznan is when I realised with a day would be more than enough to see everything. And then what? Trying to figure out an alternative plan for Sunday, which as usual rule of thumb I googled for UNESCO sites “nearby” and Toruń popped out to be the perfect candidate at a reasonable distance to Poznan airport which was our departure point.

This trip ended up in being a great choice! And it is the fact that both Poznan and Toruń are ranking among the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to Poland so far. (more…)

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Szczecin, (Poland)

“Latin Stetinum”, “Szczecin Jest Otwarty: Szczecin is Open”

Szczecin, Poland, June 2015

An irresistible flight deal on what would have been otherwise a weekend without any trip planned so far. We only booked those tickets 7 weeks before the actual flight, plus considering this was the last weekend of June, already high season; furthermore the flights at perfect times from Friday evening to Sunday evening, it came to only £40 return. Indeed, a temptation not to let it go. After all, finding an European destination not been before is becoming a challenging task. Of course, there are endless cities and places to visit, but there are not flights to every one of those destinations either.

Right after booking the flight and researching a bit on the city, this is a city that can easily be done and fully visited in a day and even less than that. The good news are the many nice places to the north and northwest, already in German soil. The city lies just few kilometers to the east from the German border that runs north to south. Therefore, the plan for this weekend was postponing the visit of Szczecin itself to the following day, while for today driving towards Swinoujscie, the last city in Poland before the German border through the Szczecin Lagoon, passing the beaches by the Baltic Sea, and continuing to the UNESCO World Heritage Site city of Stralsund in Germany.

Sparing Sunday to be in the city was a good decision. We had plenty of time, were relaxed since there was no need to drive anywhere, and took the time for quite a lazy visit. Why to rush when there is no need! Instead we took the time to get a really nice lunch, some Polish snacks, coffee here, cake there and enjoying a beer at one of the many terraces in the old town watching the live passing by. (more…)

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Stralsund, (Germany)

“Stralow: Polabian for Arrow”, “Our Town Stralow”, “Stralesund”

Stralsund, Germany, June 2015

And yet again back in Germany at only 6 days after the last time. On this occasion, our final destination was Szczecin, city we flew on Friday night but that we left for visiting on Sunday. Instead for today Saturday, we decided to enjoy a day trip towards the Baltic Coast of Poland, and crossing over to Germany which lies few kilometres from the border towards the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed city of Stralsund. One of the most beautiful and iconic Hanseatic cities, which together with its brother city of Wismar, shares the same UNESCO status listing.

Unfortunately due to the lack of time and because of the already far distance we had to drive to come here, it was physically impossible to fit this second city of Wismar, way much farther to the west. The easiest and fastest way for this one will be in the future, flying to Hamburg or Lübeck as those are the nearest airports and a short train or bus ride from there.

The way from Szczecin to the north is a fast and beautiful drive, in between lakes and nature, soon arriving to the Baltic Sea passing Swinoujscie. From here it is meters away from the German border which is a pretty straightforward crossing and without queues. There is a fee to cross over but that’s all. Probably they don’t even require you to hand over your ID/Passport either, since they are in the European Union and they run only spot checks at random.

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Luneburg, (Germany)

“Hanseatic Town of Lüneburg”, “Lunenburg”, “Salt Town”

Luneburg, Germany, June 2015

Continuing on our second part of this short but busy weekend trip and using the most of the day we can by waking up rather early, we drove from Bremen all the way heading towards the northeast, near the Baltic coast to one of the most beautiful Hanseatic cities in Germany, Luneburg. Likewise any of the cities that formed part of the Hanseatic League becoming wealthy and rich due to their trading, in Luneburg’s case was the result of mining the abundance of salt that was then traded across the Baltic and North Sea.

Mining of salt in fact ended quite recently here, in 1980; bus it was already in a steep decline the decades before. Nevertheless, it remained as an important port in the region and through the industrial era; reason why it was severely bombed and destroyed during WWII. Only the cities of Wismar and Stralsund escaped war with minimal damages, a luck that not even the Hanseatic League capital city, Lübeck, did not have, and so Hamburg and nearby Luneburg. Fortunately in the other hand, all those cities were immaculately preserved, with its historical core reconstructed and/or refurbished in an exemplary way following the principles of anastylosis by using as much of the original materials and fittings that were thankfully in place and stored back then for accomplishing reconstruction  in the years to follow.

It is quite surprising that the city has not been inscribed in the list of World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO! It is probably the only large Hanseatic city in northern Germany left without this title. Else Lübeck, Wismar and Stralsund are all World Heritage Site.

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