25 Hours and Hamburg

I’m pretty much at ease being naked. In a sauna. And as long as everyone is following the unwritten social rules I’m used to living by in Finland. But Germany stepped up the “nakedness” protocol to a new level, in a slightly uncomfortable way even for a Finn.

Very excited, as sauna is the number one thing I miss from back home in Finland, I picked up my 10 euros worth of sauna package from the hotel reception at 25hours hotel Hafencity in Hamburg, and headed up to the sixth and top floor for a sauna reconnaissance mission with my camera. All was well, I was quite taken by the combination of industrial design, cool views over the city, refreshing drizzle of rain trickling in through the gaps in the window panes and the “convertible” roof, and the hotness of the sauna itself. There was even a bucket full of water and ladle ready to be used to toss scoops of water on the hot stones of the “kiuas”, as any proper sauna should have. I was about to head back to my room to drop off the camera when a German couple entered the showering area ready to go in the sauna. I have to admit, I stalled a little, curious to see what the protocol here was with the “sauna outfits”. Maybe a swimming costume, maybe a towel, I thought. But no, they were butt-naked.

25hours hotel hafencity I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

25hours hotel hafencity I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Now, as much as I do think nakedness and sauna go hand in hand, here I was fretting away feeling very uncomfortable about the thought of entering a mixed gender sauna naked. And so I retired to my room and reclined on the bed with a book for a while, before I dared to make the trip upstairs again to the sauna, with my swimming costume on…

But sauna was not the main reason to write this post, although it was one of the reasons why I loved this hotel I stayed in on a recent trip to Hamburg. Decent saunas are not easy to come by after all, even here in Norway, which is in a close proximity to my home country both in distance and some what in cultural sense too. And as the combination of words “hotel” and “review” bring a cringe to my face when you add the words “travel blog” in the same sentence, I leave the reviewing to others and let the pictures combined with a few words give an idea why I thought this was such a great spot.

25hours hotel hafencity I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Free bikes for guests to use. With pink baskets. While I would not go on a long cycle tour with these bikes, they were perfect for discovering the city by bike.

25hours hotel hafencity I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Lounge with unlimited selection of tea. And good tea, that is!

25hours hotel hafencity I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Comfortable room that is more than just a standard affair when it comes to a hotel room, with personal touches that make it cozy and comfortable.

25hours hotel hafencity I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Restaurant where you actually do want to sit down and eat in, instead of the “I’m too tired to go anywhere, got to stay here” alternative.

Even though I’ve always been slightly wary of Germany as a travel destination (Hamburg did do a good job in changing that though!), I would not mind checking out the other 25hours hotels in Hamburg, Berlin or Frankfurt, as they are all unique and bring something from their local surroundings into their design and concept.

But while I’m plotting the next weekend getaway and bigger adventures for this year, I’m also trying to figure out how to fit it all in just 24 hours a day…

Happy New Year everyone, hope 2016 is a good one! <3

The trip to Hamburg was part of a collaborative campaign between Nordic Travel Bloggers and Hamburg Tourismus. However, I decided on my own itinerary & activities and have full liberty to choose what I portray from the trip.

Hamburg and Formula for Weekend Getaways

Plenty of outdoors with bit of indoors. That seems to be the winning combination for making the best out of a weekend in a city for me, but after New York I did plan to stay put at home and explore our backyard. If even that. This autumn has been hectic to say the least and the idea of home, fireplace, cup of tea and a book have never sounded better. But then came the invitation to come to Hamburg and Germany, and you know the story of  a rubber arm…

Biking in Hamburg I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

And the possibility of exploring new city on a bike.

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And good soul food on a rainy day. Eating out outside the borders Norway is a pleasure, especially when the bill comes. It is all so cheap…

I could not resist.

Me and Germany don’t really have a thing going on. I’ve visited Bavaria and Berlin several times and liked both, but the rest of it? Drive-through country. Hence the idea of a weekend in Hamburg, getting to know the place and just sitting in the cafes, biking leisurely along the streets and lounging on a hotel bed was irresistible.

UNESCO Hamburg I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

And so was Hamburg.

Earlier this year “Speicherstadt”, the historical district of red-brick warehouses connected by canals and bridges was granted UNESCO world heritage status, and the buildings that once stored coffee, spices and tobacco and still partly do so now also host museums, Persian carpet stores, new innovative businesses and even one hotel. Once upon time there were approximately 20,000 people living in this area and that in mind the district now was almost eerily empty of regular daily life, but beautiful nevertheless in the autumn sun. And got to admit it, Speicherstadt was pretty even in the pouring rain.

UNESCO Hamburg I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

UNESCO Hamburg I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

UNESCO Hamburg I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

One of the new residents of the district is Kaffeemuseum of Burg, the Museum of Coffee which is not only a museum, but a place where you can get a real taste of what coffee tasting is about. I didn’t quite master it, although the coffee mix I prepared as a souvenir for my other half was marvellous. So I say, before anyone tastes it…

Kaffeemuseum Burg I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Kaffeemuseum Burg I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

For someone who’s not into running from one attraction to another with a guidebook (=me), Hamburg was perfect. Especially after New York, the lack of high rises meant that Germany’s 2nd largest city with almost 2 million inhabitants felt small and approachable, and when not biking, the metro system was easy as. And when it started pouring, I found few possible ways to spend the day, besides those cafes or the ever-calling quietness of my hotel room.

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Hiding from the rain underground in the Old Elbe Tunnel is kind of cool for anyone interested in photography, and with a tripod. Other than that it is a handy 426m underway to cross from St.Pauli Piers over to Steinwerder, and originally it was built for the dock workers to get across. You can either take the steps or lift down, and there is even a lift for cars, although how often there is other than pedestrian traffic or cyclists, I don’t know.

Harbour Boat Trip Hamburg I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

You’d think that the best time to join a harbour cruise would be when the weather is good, and that’s probably right, but this was not a bad way to spend an hour with a refreshment, mainly staying indoors and watching the harbour views go by. That one time I ventured out, I got soaked. So did my camera.

Markzeit in Hamburg I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Saving the best till the last, the market or markzeit in Fabrik was just what the doctor ordered for someone wanting a taste of ethnic food. They had it all. I wouldn’t trek all the way there for souvenirs, but for good food in funky surroundings and with bit of live music to wash the food down, this was perfect.

Autumnal Hamburg I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

So New York versus Hamburg. Got to admit, for bit of city life, quirky shopping and excellent food, there is no need to go all the way to New York. Hamburg for me is only 1,5 hours plane ride away and it had it all, in a smaller package! And when it comes to Germany in general, I have to admit, I was positively surprised how not everything was as orderly and organised as one would have thought going by the reputation.

And so be it. I could do more of this. City breaks with biking, good food and a cool hotel. The hotel was actually so cool that it requires its own post, but until then, I’m going to get that fire going, boil the kettle for a cup of tea and fetch the next Jussi Adler-Olsen Department Q Novel. For anyone into Scandinavian crime fiction, highly recommend!

The trip to Hamburg was part of a collaborative campaign between Nordic Travel Bloggers and Hamburg Tourismus. However, I decided on my own itinerary & activities and have full liberty to choose what I portray from the trip. 

On New York, Hamburg and New Era of City Breaks

“City break” is not a term that has often made its appearance in my vocabulary although I do get the rough idea of what these entail. Holidays in cities.

“Why on earth” I have wondered…

But then came New York.

Highline New York I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

And with New York came jet lag induced early mornings lugging my camera equipment along the old railway line wanting to experience it all, but desperately looking for a stop in a cafeteria to get some feeling in my chilled fingers again.

New York by Citibike I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Arriving in New York wasn’t about yellow cabs or getting lost in the maze of subway lines and bus connections. It was about trying to find another Citi Bike spot before my “free” thirty minutes were up. These bike rental spots are literally all over the Manhattan, except when you need one.

Manhattan Waterfront Greenway I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Although I was told the Central Park was the place to be if you want to get outdoors in NYC, I opted for the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway instead. And not only because it was more convenient for the hotel I stayed in. I had forgotten how the early morning sun only highlights the top of the highrises in cities the size of New York, and instead of finding cover in the greenery of the Park, I found these sunny, crispy mornings by the water soothing.

Highline New York I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

It might have been that New York only got its chance because I was in the city on business, combined with a couple of days for own exploration, but I think this might have kicked off a new era of city breaks for me: quick getaways with outdoors in a city enjoying excellent food and lots of sleep. I leave the partying to others for now, until the two under 4-year olds in our household let me catch up with, well, four years worth of sleep…

Visit Hamburg I @ Visit Hamburg

The next city brake is already literally at the door, as I head to Hamburg in Germany on Friday with four other Scandinavian bloggers. Follow along as each one of us discovers the city in our own way. For me it is going to be an exciting mix of cycling, UNESCO sites, culture, cool cafes and bit of shopping. Do follow along virtually in Instagram, Facebook and Twitter over the weekend! For all of our updates see #HamburgWinterSeason and #UnescoHamburg and check out what my fellow travellers are up to in Hamburg: Sophie at Sophie’s World, Alex at Virtual Wayfarer, Caroline at Love, Live Travel and Helena at Oh Darling, Let’s be Adventurous.

For those who might be as clueless about New York as I was, read on for some outdoors influenced tips for the city. And for the others, see you in Hamburg!?

OUTDOORSY TIPS FOR NEW YORK

  • Citi Bikes. Handy way to get around the city. For about $10 you get access to the bikes for 24 hours, and as long as you return them within 30 minutes, there is no extra charge. More info: Citi Bikes New York
  • Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. Perfect for strolling, biking, watching fishermen or just eating ice cream on one of the many benches. Check out the map for the Greenway here.
  • High Line. Much appraised urban park build on old railway tracks. Highly recommend in the early morning hours! See more information and what’s happening along the High Line here.
  • REI. One got to do some shopping while in New York. If you’d rather do than shop, REI has a whole host of cool activities and courses too (click click). I almost went for the compass and map reading workshop. Guess why??
  • Central Park. Park of all parks I hear. I need to go back and see what it really is all about. All I got was this one Instagram shot

Disclosure: I’m heading to Hamburg as part of a campaign between Hamburg Tourism and Nordic Travel Bloggers. What I write/photograph from this trip is as always up to me.

Hamburg Images: Visit Hamburg & www.mediaserver.hamburg.de

Ten Days, Nine Flights

Life has kicked onto a whole new gear.

My other half has been criss-crossing Europe in his van and ten or so kayaks on top for the last few weeks. “Mummi” i.e. the Finnish granny picked up the kids from Oslo, Norway and shuttled them to Finland for a break. And I have been flying, flying and flying. Norway, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Denmark and Finland.

Due to next to no internet in the last week even my Instagram account has been strangely quiet, and hence I thought I’d give a sneak peak to my new, possibly “one of the absolute favourites” travel destinations. Meet Greenland through Visit Greenland!

 

Now it is time to take a deep breath, sit back and enjoy few weeks with the family, until it’s time to go again. New York here we come!

I’d love to hear in the comments if you have any tips for NY! It’s almost 20 years since my last visit…

It’s been ages since I last participated in Instagram Travel Thursday here on the blog. If you want to join in too check out how to go on about it on Skimbaco Lifestyle and see below for more travel & Instagram related inspiration! 



Momentarily displaced: Hiking in the Faroe Islands

Mykines on Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

I seemed to be fine as long as I kept moving. Up the steep cliffs, down the boggy paths. Almost every day a new cliff or top to reach. Strong legs, my whole being full of energy. Now that I’m back home though, my legs are aching and back is protesting. Although I have no scientific proof, it might have something to do with the sudden inactivity in a horizontal position on the couch, with glass of wine and box of chocolates. Maybe.

Before I get moving again I thought I’d sit down just long enough to share few memories and images from the hikes in Faroe Islands. That was the main reason we were there after all besides biking, which never happened in the end. We got too wrapped in finding new tops and cliffs to reach by foot that the biking has to wait till the next time.

Hiking in the Faroe Islands I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Mykines on Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

Hiking in the Faroe Islands I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

The great thing about hiking in the Faroes is that you can pretty much walk anywhere and everywhere, just pick your spot and head up or down. There is no threatening wildlife to watch out for, although one ram especially did cause us elevated heart rate and probably few laughs among the locals as us three women, of which one positively round with 6-months of a pregnant belly on her, sprinted across the fields and over the fences on Fugloy, one of the outer northern islands.

“The sheep are just fine, they never attack anyone” we got told afterwards. Yeah right. Although the truth to be told, that ram probably never even came after us. We were too busy trying to get out of there to check.

The not so great thing about hiking in the Faroes is the fog. Which means you might end up in a bog. And hopefully finally out of the fog and the bog again without falling off a cliff. The fog may come unannounced, although often it lingers on top of the mountains or just around the corner, teasing and almost disappearing at times, before gathering its force and enveloping everything in white. The weather, and the fog can also be very different from island to island, or even from one side of an island to another. And all this in a very small place where you can never really drive longer than two hours from point A to B.

Hiking in fog in Faroe Islands I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

“We’ll keep this height and don’t enter the fog if we don’t see exactly where the cairns go”

Famous, almost last words. We did keep the height, and then went even higher. And we entered the fog with no clue where the cairns where.

“It’s just up here and down again on the other side, anyway”

Which it was, kind of. The fog has its way of disturbing sense of direction and all the suddenly, when we got just a moment of clarity, we saw the steep cliffs. In a direction we had not intended to go towards.

So you see. The fog might become an issue. If you are heading this way bring a map, compass, and learn to use them even if you think the route is pretty straightforward. Funnily enough, quite often it wasn’t. We might have had to even google “how to use compass in the fog” after our first foggy encounter.

Hiking in the Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

Hiking in the Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

Hiking in the Faroe Islands I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

The absolutely best thing about the outdoors in the Faroes, at least in late August and early September is that there is not many people around in the mountains, if any. Just sheep, ram and more sheep. On some hikes you can follow the cairns, but quite often not. And even if you try to follow the cairns on lesser trodden paths it is possible to unintentionally lose them, meaning that you can pretend to become a true explorer before finding your way again.

It is also very easy to get around with public transport, the network of buses, ferries and helicopters take you to most places, at least once or twice a day, and if you miss your ride, it is very possible that a friendly local takes you home instead. Although English is spoken by pretty much everyone, I never thought my work-in-progress Norwegian would come handy outside the borders of Norway. Hence it felt like we were very much at home, although quite a lot of the time, momentarily displaced, usually in the fog!

Ever thought about hiking in the Faroes yourself? Read on.

Couldn’t be less interested? Adios for now, I’ll come up with something non-hiking related for the next time!

Hiking in the Faroe Islands I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Hiking in the Faroe Islands I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Map Reading Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

TIPS FOR HIKING IN THE FAROE ISLANDS

  • Fog: watch out for it and be prepared. Know where you are going, or where you came from. If you can’t see the next cairn (given that you are actually on a marked path) stay put, cover up and eat chocolate.
  • Come prepared: these are small mountains with bit of fight in them. Have extra snacks, warm layers and water-proof gear with you without forgetting compass and a map. It is also useful to learn how to use both of those before starting your journey. Just saying. Possibly from own experience…
  • Bring snacks. You will not find a store, kiosk or petrol station at short intervals. To put it into perspective, Faroes is a small place where the 2nd biggest “city” Klaksvík, has only about 5,000 inhabitants. Just imagine what it is like in the even smaller villages out there along or in the end of your hiking route.
  • Hiking times: If you read about hiking times in any booklets (for example this one on Visit Faroe Islands site), remember that these times are pretty spot on without any photography/snack brakes unlike in most places I’ve been to. Hence if you are planning to catch a bus back from your destination, allow plenty of time.
  • More resources: Visit Faroe Islands have just come out with this brand new guide for walking on the Faroes, take a look!

Sudoroy on Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

Tea brake on Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

Helicopter ride on Faroe Islands I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

HIKING IN THE FAROE ISLANDS – THE FAVOURITES

  • Mykines. See these photos for yourself. Mykines can be very touristy in the peak season, but if you opt to stay for the night, you might be lucky enough to watch the sunset without crowds.
  • From Saksun to Tjørnuvík on Streymoy island. This in a way is “the hike that got away”, i.e. the hike I’d love to do again with more time. How to do it? Get a ride or taxi to Saksun, preferably during low tide so you can follow the small inlet out to the sea. Hike up the mountain, try to follow the cairns and back down again to Tjørnuvík, but allow enough time to sit down and stare at the sea by the beautiful sandy beach. We ran for the bus, hence there was no staring going on what so ever. This image on Instagram though gives you an idea what it was like.
  • Suðuroy island. I wrote a whole post about Suðuroy. We saw some fantastic views, found the scariest bridge ever (a lot scarier than Carrick-a-Rede in Ireland), and saw no other people on the hikes. That seems to be the running theme here! And even still, apparently we missed the most amazing views on the west side of Beinisvørð and the western cliffs right by it. Next time.
  • Gjógv on Eysturoy island. As tiny a village Gjógv is with less than 50 inhabitants, it can get busy because of the village’s popular Gjáargarður guest house. There is a nice hike just behind the guest house for both those who want to stretch their legs just a little, and for those who want to make it a 4-5 hour adventure.
  • From Hattarvik to Kirkja on Fugloy island. This is not for the hike itself which was easy and straight-forward, but the DKK 110 helicopter ride back was priceless. Perfect for a day excursion, take the bus from Klaksvík to Hvannasund, and ferry from there to Hattarvik. From Hattarvik you can hike in leisurely pace over to Kirkja and return with the ferry again or even better, by helicopter (note that the Helicopter has to be pre-booked and it doesn’t fly everyday. See timetables here)
  • From Miðvágur to Bøsdalafossur on Vágar island. Easy day trip from Tórshavn, the capital, or from the airport. This hike borders Faroes’ largest lake Leitisvatn and it is super easy, especially if you follow the lake all the way down to the Ocean, and back. This is another one I’d love to go to with good weather and more time, the views you can get of both the lake and ocean are amazing. See this one for example!

Images: Kate Cornfield & Satu Vänskä-Westgarth

Visit Faroe Islands kindly flew myself, Kate and Anne Marit to the Faroes and then back again for our hiking adventure, and armed us with public transportation cards and three nights of accommodation. Rest was for us to discover, which we did, fog or not!