So, we decided we should take a test trip, to see if it was possible to travel with small kids. We chose Hamburg, Germany, because it’s less than four hours from Næstved by train. We chose a very short window: leave on a Friday, come back on a Sunday. In total we weren’t even in Hamburg proper 48 hours, but this was an experiment after all. I was pretty nervous and my Dad had made a point of telling me that traveling with small children is a trip, not a vacation. Happily he was wrong.
The whole adventure was very relaxing. We got up bright and early and walked to the train station, me pushing the gigantic Thule Cross double stroller/bike trailer, Michael towing our carry on sized blue suitcase with our Tom Bin Aeronaut bag stuffed inside. It was the one with our actual clothes and whatnot. Aside from that all we had was a very capacious back pack. It was a short trip and it’s nice to travel light. Beatrix refused to ride in the stroller, clinging to my aching arms for the entire 20 minute walk, a pattern that would continue the whole trip, but aside from that it was quite easy. The train came on time, it was crowded, but we all found seats and off we went.
Michael was sitting in a nook across from the bathroom with all our luggage. Me and the kids were in a booth with two older Danish ladies who happily cooed at the kids. I talked to them enough to find out how to get discount train tickets for our next trip, because I hadn’t thought to buy in advance and the train cost much more than I had expected. However for the most part Walter was absorbed by his tablet infinite of amusement and Beatrix by her shoes. She has a thankfully long attention span for a toddler. The first leg of the train ride was an hour and a half, which Beatrix split between eating chips, putting chips back in the Pringles can, taking on and off her shoes and flirting with the older Danish ladies. We took several bridges, but at some point, hit the last island of Denmark and the train boarded a ferry to cross into Germany.
The ferry was awesome. We were required to disembark the train, which had just driven directly on. There were three floors of vehicles and two decks for humans, it included a duty free store, multiple dinning options, indoor and outdoor observation decks and a tiny playground. We explored the shops, got a typical Danish lunch of hotdogs and fries and sat by the play ground. Walter ate a hotdog bun and carrots. I had packed him a liter of soy shake and a large pack of snacking carrots since he’s such a picky little vegetarian. Beatrix, of course, ate what we did. The ferry was incredibly smooth, making me both nostalgic for my youth and disoriented by the subtlety of the waves.
The ride was only about 45 minutes and then we were in Germany. I assumed we’d be underway right away, but there were some sort of technical difficulties and we were stuck sitting around for about 30 minutes. By this point me and the kids had had to switch seats (our old ones had been reserved for the remainder of the trip) and were sitting across from a lady from Amsterdam. I passed the tedium of being stopped by horrifying her with stories about American culture like how schools now have shooter drills or the cost of preschool. The rest of the ride was uneventful. Unsurprisingly, northern Germany looks a lot like Denmark. I mean, for many years they were part of Denmark. Beatrix entertained herself by dumping biscuits on the floor and then reloading them into a box. Walter had his iPad. To be fair, he was in the midst of a fairly bad cold, he’d been home from børnehave for 3 days and was still kind of out of it.
Once we arrived in Hamburg, we spared no time exiting the train station and starting the walk to our AirBnB. Hamburg feels huge compared to Denmark. The population is roughly three times that of Copenhagen. I had been told Germany was very clean and very blonde, compared to Denmark it was neither of those things. It wasn’t dirty, it just wasn’t pristine and after more than a year in Denmark, seeing genuine homeless people was jarring. How quickly one gets used to the absence of poverty! Also surprising, while the population was multi-ethnic, it was much more European than Denmark and there was a marked lack of headscarves. In Denmark, probably half the women of non-native blood wear some type of hijab. Beatrix was riding in our arms again and Walter dozing in the stroller. It was about 35 minutes to our accommodations. There was a lockbox to the basement flat and it was a treat: a whole one bedroom apartment with a crib, pullout couch in the living/dinning room and an absolutely palatial bathroom with a heated floor. The renovation was rough, but they had used smart decorating choices to detracted from exposed wiring or brick. As promised, there was a bag of toys for the kids and even a high chair. Mike popped across the street to a kiosk for snacks and this is when we found out that many places don’t take credit cards, this was also quite the jolt after cashless Denmark. Luckily we’d brought 80 Euros and Germany did live up to its Danish reputation of being cheap. It’s easy to get used to 25% VAT and a steep sugar tax, as well as the effects of the going minimum wage being about 20 USD, so crossing the boarder to a country that had none of these things was exciting. Seriously, eating our way through Germany took on a whole new level of glee with everything seeming so darn cheap.
Anyway, we walked back into the center of town to the Apple store. Beatrix thankfully passed out in the stroller. We had hoped to trade in some old stuff for an Apple Watch, but Apple’s trade in deals aren’t that good and none of the stuff at the store would actually work in Denmark. So instead we wandered the shopping district. We got a pile of dirt cheap pastries that tasted ridiculously sweet, much more what I used to be accustomed to in the ‘states than Denmark. There were a lot of pastries with fruit, doughnuts, eggy treats and much to my delight lots of mohn sweets. Eating the cuisine, reading all these food words that sounded like Yiddish, it hit home how much Ashkanazi culture is Gernan culture. I don’t know, but would like to research how the Jews got to Germany in the first place.
We stopped in a outdoors store where Mike tried on fantastically expensive winter rain jackets, none of which he bought and I found myself a souvenir. It was a water repellent German made fabric tube for bikers that you could wear in a dozen different ways and is just perfect for bad weather riding. It’s the perfect thing I didn’t know I needed, but totally do and so gleefully purchased. No more went hair and frozen ears for me!
After we had our fill of shopping, window and otherwise, we found a burger place. We were in Hamburg after all! Walter had passed out and Beatrix was a perfect lady about dinning out, or at least well behaved aside from seeing if the people in the booth behind us would give her some of their burgers too. It was tasty and shockingly cheap. That was my biggest takeaway from Germany compared to Denmark, everything seemed so darn cheap.
After dining, even though it was still fairly early in the day, we went back to our little rental flat and crashed. Walter went down for the night even though it wasn’t yet 6PM. We watched videos on the iPad and Beatrix was out at her normal bed time. I took a luxurious bath in our rental tub and then joined the kids in slumber at 7PM.
I’m afraid this wasn’t as restful as you’d think. The bed had no box spring and so the mattress sunk low enough that you were hemmed in on all sides by sharp particle board. Maybe it’s age, but I can’t sleep in one position for long anymore without growing extremely stiff and so kept hitting the edges of the bed. I also was up at 8PM to put Beatrix in the crib, 9 PM to put Walter on the pull out couch in the living/dining room then at 2 AM to give Walter some soy shake, 4 AM when I gave Walter more soy shake and then 5:30 AM when they were both just awake for the day.