On Wednesday last week, I had to get up two hours earlier than usual (5.00 instead of 7.00), in order to catch my flight to Hamburg, where I was going to visit a trade show for the day.
It was not the first time I did that, but it was the first time I was able to combine work and play: I arranged to meet up with a friend of mine who, some years ago, moved to a small town near Hamburg for love.
Nici is a journalist and, like me, works from home; she lives right on the rim of a lake and goes for a swim every morning when it is warm enough. In the winter, she goes ice-skating instead. There are many interesting stories she can tell, and since we go back a long way (I think we've known each other since the mid-1990s), there is always lots we can talk about, people we both know, what is happening in our lives, and so on.
In previous years, when I went to that particular fair, it was always either with a colleague, or my flights were scheduled so that I didn't have time for anything else.
So, I really welcomed the chance to see Nici; we had not met since December 2010, when she came to the South for a few days and was here for our traditional Schrottwichteln (I wrote about that here).
The flight from Stuttgart to Hamburg is little more than a hop across the country; it takes just about an hour, and by the time the flight attendants have handed out coffee and a roll, the plane is already in descent for landing.
From the airport to the fair, no direct train line exists; something I find rather impractical and don't understand - it is the same in Frankfurt, where huge international fairs (among others, the Frankfurt Book Fair) are held almost all year round. Why can't those responsible for public transport find a way to make a direct line from airport to fair, via the main station? It is possible in Stuttgart, and probably in many other cities, so why not in Hamburg and Frankfurt?
Anyway, I had enough time to get there, and it was not difficult to find one's way around with the help of the maps at the station, even if, like me, you do that only once a year.
I spent the day at the fair, talking to my customers, having the occasional coffee or other drink with them, but it was a different atmosphere from how I remember previous years. Everyone seemed to be very tired, and only a few of our dealers sounded really positive about the fair's outcome. Maybe it had to do with the general mood in economics, what with the Euro crisis and all that, or people were just exhausted because this was the fourth show in the space of about a month for some of them, or it was a combination of both.
Still, it wasn't a waste of time, and I am now following up on the things we discussed.
Nici met me at the exit, and we walked around for a little bit. Hamburg is actually quite a beautiful city, with elegant buildings, and there is always that closeness to the North Sea, with seagulls visible and audible everywhere, plus the wind to match. I took this picture of the Rathaus (it hasn't got anything to do with rats, it simply means townhall in German):
And a close-up of one of the golden ships on top of the poles erected at both sides of the Rathaus:
I had not eaten anything since the roll on the plane in the morning, and so we went to have an early dinner.
Nici lead me to a place I liked very much, it is called Café Paris, not far from the Rathaus.
You can see pictures of the beautiful rooms on their website. Make sure you go to "Unsere Räume" and there, click on the photos to view the slide show.
The menue there is typical French, and I went on a mini-time travel by ordering Menthe à L'Eau, which I used to love when I was a kid and we spent our holidays in France. We had a salad each, and talked about anything and everything, until it was time for me to get on the train back to the airport. Now that we were in the town centre already, I was able to take a direct train and did not have to change again.
The plane landed in Stuttgart about 20 minutes earlier than scheduled, and I only had to wait 10 minutes for the train home. At 11.00 pm, I opened the door to my flat (it was odd coming home with no cat waiting for me behind the door). It had been a long day, but a good one.A la vôtre!