Hamburg Boat Show

Hamburg Boat Show 2015 — brochure

On the way back to Florida for another sunny boating season my mate and I stopped at the annual Hamburg Boat Show―the seventh largest boat exhibition in the world. Commercial trade shows have been held for the past 650 years at the North Sea Port of Hamburg. In the Middle Ages Hamburg became an important member of the Hanseatic Trade League in the North Sea and Baltic Sea region.

The comfortable overnight trip on a sleeper train car took ten hours from Munich in the Alpine south across the length of Germany to Hamburg on the North Sea coast.

It was a foggy, bone-chilling walk from the train station to the boat show. I felt like a wuss among the many hardy morning commuters on bikes. Most wore foul-weather gear and gloves but a surprising number were lightly dressed with hands in their pockets agilely peddling along narrow bike lanes in between pedestrians and cars. The city sidewalks are laid out with different colored stone patterns distinguishing walking and biking lanes. I nervously stayed on the right side of the walking lane as silent bikes with intensely bright lights whizzed by. Along the water I noticed a couple of hardy sailors hoisting sail in the cold, dense fog! A boating friend reminded me that locals may be hardy in cold climates but would quickly change to wilted wusses in Florida’s summer heat and humidity.

Once in the heated indoor show, we strolled comfortably through 7 cavernous exhibition halls gawking at all the new exotic boats and gear. Among the glamorous and gleaming high-end boat displays was a down-home charitable organization in a booth soliciting donations for the current boat migrant crisis on the Mediterranean Sea. The arresting display of a 30-foot rubber dinghy salvaged in a rescue operation, 25 miles off Libya, during which 121 migrant passengers were rescued, brought a sobering reality to the pleasure festival of boating. I could not stop thinking of boat salespeople at the boat show talking up their spacious luxury vessels with “cocktails for 12, dining for 8, and sleeps 4.”

Outdoors at the harbor, the in-water exhibition was disappointing for its few boats and bleak weather. Fortunately we found a wonderful sea-food restaurant in the waterfront area where the Beatles first shot to world fame in Hamburg. This was also the port from which millions of German migrated to a better life in America during the 19th century. I decided to honor the occasion with a delicious pretzel hamburger.

Our walks through the town center included the Turkish section near the train station where we enjoyed another luncheon delicacy of falafel and Turkish coffee. Close to a large and well-trafficked mosque, the restaurant felt authentic. The coffee was a bit strong for my taste, but the falafel reminded me of delicious street foods in the Middle East.

Crisscrossing town on foot in the damp fog was not only physically uncomfortable but made navigation by church and mosque steeples difficult. One saving grace was the popularity of Starbucks cafes. Their bright logo was everywhere. I enjoy walking in with my best American English ordering “A Tall Pike to-go with no-room, please.” I always get a smile from German baristas who obviously get trained from American playbooks. The to-go and no-room qualifiers are important in Germany where ceramic cups are favored and customers generally add milk or cream and sugar. The friendly atmosphere with upholstered easy chairs and coffee tables makes a great rest stop for urban hikers. The free wifi for a NY Times update or a quick email with the latest travel photo is just the right topping for a restful experience. A city Starbucks location map would be a great promotional handout for tourists.

The overnight sleeper car back to Munich was a comfortable time to reflect on the trip and dream of more sightseeing.

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