The Cheesy Side of Hamburg (Hamburg mit Käse)

This is the second and undoubtedly my favourite of my mop-up style posts on Hamburg. You all know I love a bit of cheese (or should I say käse?), and fortunately Hamburg was very rewarding on that score.

Three times a year, Hamburg hosts a month-long festival called Hamburger DOM, which is apparently the biggest public festival in Northern Germany. It is just a really big funfair/carnival in the middle of Hamburg (free to enter, though you have to pay for everything inside), and is worth mentioning here mainly on account of all the creepy anthropomorphic food adorning the stalls, as seen above and below.

I’m not super into rickety carnival style rides (though I would have happily gone on the dark ride if Marcus was brave enough to go with me), but I did use it as an opportunity to try a couple of local delicacies (though sadly not a pickle from one of the ubiquitous pickle stalls, because I hate them, though I was delighted to see that they’re a standard carnival food here) – spaghetti eis and schmalzkuchen.

Spaghetti eis is just ice cream pressed through a spaetzle press so it comes out looking like spaghetti, and is then topped with strawberry sauce and white chocolate for the sauce and cheese. I could have gotten it in probably any local ice cream shop, but eating it out of a cone was so fun it almost made up for the low quality ice cream (not really though. I am an ice cream snob). Schmalzkuchen are just little fried balls of dough with your choice of topping – I know schmalz usually refers to some type of animal fat, but I think these were just fried in vegetable oil, though I didn’t actually check. Bad vegetarian.

Wax museums are one of my favourite things on the planet, so of course I had to go to Panoptikum. It was only like €5 with the Hamburg Card, and I don’t think you can put a price on the amount of joy that creepy wax figures bring me. They had free audio guides, but we skipped them, which means I don’t know who most of the German celebrities in here were (and just to clarify, the guy on the right is an unfortunate-looking German celebrity, NOT Jimmy Saville), except for Lena (above left), because I also love Eurovision, and still find myself singing “Satellite,” her winning song from 2010.

But yeah, this wax museum was pretty great. They had the whole gamut, from political figures like Angela Merkel and (ugh) Donald Trump…

to historical figures like a wall of kings and a shelving unit full of famous historical heads (I guess they’re no longer famous enough to merit bodies)…

to a very un-PC (but entertaining) freak show/hall of horrors downstairs (Michael Jackson was here, appropriately enough, though I think he was technically in the musician section)…

and Robbie Williams circa 2006 and a German woman who appears to be famous solely for the size of her breasts. Fabulous.

Finally, we went to see Miniatur Wunderland, because not only is it the “world’s largest model railway,” it is also apparently Hamburg’s leading tourist attraction. This was a terrible mistake. We had to book in advance, because Miniatur Wunderland is inexplicably incredibly popular, so we did it as the last thing before we had to leave for the airport. The website recommends spending some stupid amount of time, like 3-4 hours here, but we figured we could do it in an hour, and we weren’t wrong.

Miniatur Wunderland is in this giant building filled with other tourist traps, and we had to walk up about a million flights of stairs to get there, presumably to build anticipation. It costs €15 to get in, though I think we only paid something like €12 with the Hamburg Card. Then you have to walk through two floors of shop to even get to the stupid entrance. We went at an off-peak time, and it was still the most crowded thing ever. You couldn’t even get a space to look at the miniature things at most of the tables, and the lights kept going on and off to simulate nighttime, but it just made it hard to find your way from room to room without bumping into people. Also, this super annoying German guy kept following me around and going, “Wow” at everything, but with a German accent. “Wow-uh!” I wanted to punch him.

In theory, there were buttons you could press in every display to make various bits and pieces move, but in practice, children would just sidle their way in front of you so you couldn’t get near them. I did queue at the end to press the Lindt factory button, which spit out a piece of chocolate, but I had to pretty much hold this Augustus Gloop looking kid back with my elbow until it fell out and I could grab it. Wait your turn, Augustus!

The impression I got before going was that they were supposed to have re-created most of the world in miniature, but all they have is Hamburg, the US (solely the bits out west), Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and bits of Italy. The only thing I was sort of looking forward to seeing was London, to see how it compared to the real thing, but they haven’t built it yet. Other than the display of miniature conspiracy theories that we had to wait about ten minutes to see, because some guy wouldn’t move his ass (that’s where the photo of Nessie comes from), and the piece of chocolate, I really hated this place. Don’t go unless you REALLY like miniature railways, and have a much higher tolerance level for annoying children than I do.

To end on a high note, because I did genuinely really like Hamburg, aside from Miniatur Wunderland, I will talk about franzbrotchen, as I promised to do some weeks ago. They are a sort-of flattened cinnamon roll that originated in Hamburg, and they are everywhere, although obviously some are better than others. They come in a number of variations, and I recommend the streusel, because streusel makes everything better (though if you don’t want to be laughed at, make sure to call it “STROI-sel” rather than “STROO-sel” as most Americans, myself included, say). I recommend Hamburg in general – there’s loads of museums, and a cool bleak maritime vibe, which made for a lot of excellent sailory souvenirs, if you’re into that kind of stuff (I totally am).

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12 comments

  1. You look genuinely terrified in that first picture! A bizarre collection altogether, and I love the antics the two of you got up to. I wouldn’t have guessed Robbie Williams, there’s something not quite right about him. Lack of cheeky grin maybe? Merkel is quite good, Trump isn’t ugly enough and most of the others I have no idea about.

    1. I think it was more feeling uncomfortable because so many people were staring at me when the gorilla picture was being taken.
      Robbie Williams was actually one of the better musicians they had – poor Ringo looked like a total doofus, to the extent that I wanted to take his wax figure home so I could protect him because he didn’t look like he could hack it alone in the world. I think the issue with Trump is more that he wasn’t fat enough, though he probably should have been uglier as well. I guess it’s hard to convey the ugliness of a soul in wax.

  2. I like your comment about Trump in your reply to Anabel!

    I would never last at any attraction with gibs of rude children. I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a wax museum, but you made it look interesting. The goodies you gobbled do look quite tempting!

    1. Thank you! I love wax museums, but I only tend to go to the slightly crappy ones. Madame Tussaud’s doesn’t really appeal, though that said, I have been to the one in Bangkok, and have been tempted by the London one on the Fourth of July, when Americans get free admission, but can’t quite bring myself to visit.

  3. I was wondering if you would post those crazy food sculptures (if that is the right word). They are just as good the second time around! I like your mop-up posts – full of the little things that don’t make the normal “to-do” lists, but end up making a trip memorable.

  4. Oh man, those anthropomorphic foods are something else. I love the potato by the Tornado Fries hut. I also love that they’re even called Tornado Fries.
    It cracked me up that the enormous-breasted woman is holding onto a handrail, like she needs it for support.
    Yeah, I like to think I can enjoy a good miniature scene as much as the next person, but 3 or 4 hours’ worth would give me the screaming meemies too.
    Augustus Gloop – hahaha!

    1. My favourite food hut actually didn’t make it into this post. It was a similar corn hut to the one that is here, but it was called Mr. Maiz, and Mr. Maiz himself was a portly, surly looking man.
      I bet she does need it for support! She must have terrible back pain! I don’t envy her.
      You can kind of see Augustus behind me in the picture where I’m holding the chocolate. He was not happy that I didn’t let him have my chocolate!

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