Monday, January 19, 2015

Part one of our Hamburger Saga...

Bill and I arrived home tonight at about 8:00pm.  I should probably just cool it and wait until tomorrow before I start writing up a storm.  But the dogs are still being boarded, so I have nothing to distract me.

Things got off to a somewhat rocky start on Friday morning as I was waking up.  I checked Facebook, as is my habit most mornings, and Stuttgart Friends was abuzz about the strike at the airport.  Bill and I knew nothing about this strike, which involved the security people.  I don't know what they were striking for, only that my fellow Americans who were also flying were talking about how backed up the airport was in getting through security.  Some people were reporting lines that were taking 3 hours to get through.


The security line from hell...


In the distance, you can see the flag waving strikers...

Bill and I gave some thought to canceling Hamburg and just driving somewhere.  I had purchased optional trip insurance and would have been allowed to change our plans.  But then we decided to tough it out and see how bad it was at the airport.  It turned out the lines were still pretty long when we got there, but as strikes go, the one on Friday was pretty civilized.  Airport employees were handing out free juice and water.  One guy was even given a chair to sit on.  And those who had flights that were about to board or small children were escorted to the front of the line.  Even still, we did hear of some people missing their flights.  It took us two hours to get through, though the process of getting through the line wasn't too bad.  People were mostly lighthearted about it.  Even the lady who screened me was nice when she realized I wasn't a German speaker (I'm working on it, though).


Bierzeit!



A handy stop in the Stuttgart Airport. 

It was good that we got to the airport when we did.  We allowed three hours and got through the security line in two.  By the time we were done with security, I was really hungry.  We had a snack of beer, a pretzel, and weiss sausages.  The sausages were very fresh, but kind of bland.  Still, I felt restored after our little repast.

Our flight to Hamburg on Air Berlin was supposed to be 75 minutes, but actually lasted less than an hour.  It was a very pleasant flight, if not a bit crowded.  No nickel and diming on luggage (one bag can be checked free) and a beverage and snack, even though the flight was very short.  And once we landed, I felt like I was back in Raleigh, North Carolina.  The Hamburg Airport, at first blush, reminded me a lot of RDU.

The cabbie who took us to the Sofitel Alter Wall was very friendly and talkative.  He was from Sicily and even showed us the beachside town where he came from as he was driving.  He held up an iPhone with a photo.  I was kind of glad Bill is such a safety fanatic, since the guy was talking on the phone and using an iPad while driving as well as showing us pictures of Italian beaches and playing U2's latest album and music by some Italian guy named Vasco Rossi.  Actually, I liked the music the cabbie was playing.  He had good taste.  His driving, though, was a little scary.

Check in at the Sofitel was a breeze.  We were given a room on the first floor, though it was actually on the second floor and was even numbered with a two.  Our room was very nice and I got it for a great price on Expedia.com.  Unfortunately, because I was so focused on the strike at the airport, I forgot to pack a bathing suit.  That was a real bummer, since the Sofitel in Hamburg has a really nice spa and indoor pool area.  Worse yet, Bill remembered his bathing suit.  Usually, he's the one who forgets.  Anyway, if we ever go back to Hamburg, I would happily stay at the Sofitel.  It's a very nice hotel and the employees are super nice and very professional.


Ponti...

We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant past the shopping district.  But before we got to the restaurant, we were accosted by a tall woman who asked in German if she could "ask us a question".  I got the heebie jeebies, especially since I don't really speak German and had only been in town for an hour.


Bill peruses the English menu...

Our entrance at "Ponti", the Italian place where we had dinner on Friday night, was memorable.  Somehow, we managed to knock both sets of silverware to our two-top onto the floor.  The ladies at the table next to us were amused and said something I didn't quite understand.  That's probably a blessing.  Ponti is in a charming old building and our waitress was very beautiful and friendly.  Her English was perfect, too.  I thought the food was pretty good, though I did notice they were turning people away for some strange reason.  Based on the way the waitresses were talking to people, I got the feeling maybe they ran out of something.  It looked like they were telling people something and they were deciding to leave, rather than being told they couldn't be seated.  But the issue didn't affect us, so we didn't ask about it.

Bill had penne pasta with mushrooms and chicken and I had cannelloni with spinach and cheese.

After dinner, we were tired and I was dying to try out the very nice rainfall shower in our room.  It was also very cold outside.  We made our way back to the hotel.  On the way there, we ran into another woman-- perhaps the same one who tried to talk to us before.  She had another woman with her and I got the sense that perhaps she was a prostitute, based on her aggressive behavior and the way she was dressed.

We got back to the room.  I took a shower; and then we collapsed into the very nice king sized bed.  One weird thing about the Sofitel was that there were colored "spotlights" over the bed.  There was also a photograph of a man and his toddler aged son posted in a frame on the left side of the headboard.  I have no idea who the guy was.  Maybe he's the Sofitel head honcho or something?  It was weird, though.  And so was the staff's insistence in greeting us in French and German.  The desk doubled as a vanity, too.  You could lift up the top of the desk and there was a mirror under it, as well as a bunch of German magazines and an ethernet cable in case you needed one.  WiFi is free, though they also have a paid Internet service that supposedly offered faster speeds.


Note the weird framed photo...


I liked that egg shaped ottoman thing... it was like a very firm pillow covered with felt.


Spotlights... and they put off red and pink lighting.


The TV welcomed me.  And the little drawer on the right had a split bottle of pinot noir in it... obviously way overpriced.  Leave it to Sofitel to make a special drawer for a bottle of wine.  The cabinet above it was the minibar.  


The rainfall shower rocked, though... once I figured out how to turn it on and adjust the temperature.


Nice tub.  We didn't use it.


And a nice sink with a cool trash can that folded out from under it.  


Near the Rathaus...




Click here for part two!

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