Saturday, December 1
Alsterdorf, Hamburg, 14:35
I slept all night without waking once, until I opened my eyes and sat up at about 7:25. Once again I got up, got dressed, and went for an early breakfast.
I had the room to myself, and added muesli and yogurt to my diet.
After this I realised that I had a problem. I had almost ten hours in Hamburg, and a cursory look out of my window showed me a sheet of unappealing drizzle. I read the news and showered. Then I packed, and then I sat and read until 11:00 when I had to blance the books for the mini-bar and check out.
The drizzle had stopped and the sky had begun to show patches of blue. I checked Google maps and found that I could walk to a U-Bahn station in eight minutes, where I could get a twenty minute train ride to the airport. I decided to go and look. I got there and decided to explore. After another ten minutes walk I found a large international book shop.
When I had finished there I carried on walking and found myself at the coffee shop we had sat in yesterday. I went in. Checking Google maps again I found that I could walk to the airport from the station in one hour thirty eight minutes. Allowing for the fact that I have a suitcase to pull I estimated a two hour walk.
One white chocolate mocca later I set off.
I walk over bridges at regular intervals. Either Hamburg has a lot of rivers or it has one river that winds snake-like through the city. I pass a large theatre, a long road full of embassies, several industrial areas, blocks of apartments of various ages, and a kilometre of car showrooms punctuated by a Lidl and a drive-thru Burger King where everything cost half what it costs in Helsinki.
A King Box, containing a cheeseburger, a chicken burger, fries, nuggets, and a regular Coke, costs 4.99. Do I want one? No I don’t!
As I walk out of the city I will pass a kilometre or more of what I initially think of as allotments. I will notice that very few of them have anything growing, and that all the huts seem exceedingly well kept. I will decide that they serve as a kind of summer house. I will spot a dinghy and some canoes against the side of one of the cottages. Finally I will suspect I have spotted something distinctly German. I will see some people clearing their gardens, and an elderly couple barbecuing. I will notice a river behind them.
Ah ha, I will think, some Germans living in the city have weekend cottages where they can come and canoe and possibly canoodle.
I will enter the airport slightly more than two hours after I started. I will feel like sitting down.
Germans, I will discover, do not buy, sell or use advent calendars, even for children. I will read and chat with Irma on WhatsApp until she has to go off and do something and I have to get ready to board.
The 55 minute flight to Amsterdam will include a cheese and tomato sandwich, a jam-filled waffle biscuit, a glass of white wine and some packaged water. I like KLM.
The Dutch do know about advent calendars. I grab one that Irma hasn’t got from the Rituals… shop as I race the fifteen kilometres from Terminal B to Terminal D. D82, since you ask.
The longer flight to Helsinki will start with rice and vegetables, with water and wine, served ten minutes after we take off. I definitely like KLM.
We will land sixteen minutes early. Irma will collect me from what we used to know as the Teddy Bear car park.
I will like everything about sitting at home, late at night, talking.