Europe Day 2 – Hamburg Messe & COTECA 2010

We woke up to brand new day and was met once again with glorious sunshine and blue skies. As breakfast isn’t included in our room rate, we took the opportunity to explore the neighbourhood cafes for our morning meal. A short walk to Ganemarkt and we found ourselves in a Campus Suite Coffee House, which seems to be a predominant coffee house chain in Hamburg. After some pastries, croissants and hot coffee, we made our way along Valentinskamp to walk towards Hamburg Messe. On our way, we passed by the Hamburgisches Verfassungsgericht or the Hamburg Constitutional Courthouse.

Hamburgisches Verfassungsgericht
Hamburgisches Verfassungsgericht

From the courthouse, we could immediately the TV Tower or Fernsehturm of Hamburg. The Hamburg Messe or Exhibition Hall is just beside the TV Tower. The trade we were attending is for businesses dealing in the coffee, tea and cocoa trade. Hence the name COTECA for the trade show. Though it has to be noted, more than half of the exhibitors in the show was dealing with the coffee business. It was a good opportunity to understand the market dynamics of the coffee business in Europe and get to know the trends of coffee drinkers. I would have to admit Europeans are some of the most avid drinkers of coffee with a strong preference for small roasters while in Asia, most would be happy to stick with big coffee chains like Starbucks, Spinelli, Coffee Bean etc. Personally, while I enjoy some of the flavoured offerings from Starbucks (like their Caramel Macchiatto), the best cup of coffee I have enjoyed so far comes from Nespresso. Because unlike Starbucks, where I have tasted very bad plain coffee from, a cup of coffee brewed from a Nespresso machine never fails to tantalize and invigorate my taste buds. Another lesson learnt was that some people do actually enjoy the acidity of the coffee which means they like that extreme ‘zing’ in the flavour. Acidity or sour taste in coffee is something I have detested in my daily cup. I find it spoils the bitterness that I sometimes want. This is precisely why Starbucks doesn’t make the cut for the most avid coffee drinkers.

Hamburg Messe Interior
Inside the Hamburg Messe

The first half of the day was spent mainly in the exhibition centre for the official opening of the exhibition booth, as well as visiting the booths of interest. Slightly before lunch time, I took a break and got myself a wurst or sausage from the cafetaria within the exhibition hall. Suprisingly, the sausage, at least in my opinion was better than the one I had the previous day. Perhaps it could be due to the fact that its just sausage and mustard, without any curry gravy. On top of the snack, one interesting observation was that most of the exhibiting booths had a small bowl of sweets/candies and most of the time it’s chocolate bars which was excellent as well. Dark chocolates always go well with coffee, and in this respect, I can’t agree more with the Europeans. At around 1.30pm, we decided to leave the trade show for some lunch. Due to the snack plus chocolates, I wasn’t that hungry. Nonetheless, we headed out via subway to Hauptbahnhof Nord, the U-Bahn station underneath the central railway station of Hamburg.

COTECA 2010
Overview of the exhibition floor at COTECA 2010
Inside Hamburg Hauptbahnhof
Inside Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, the Central Railway Station

It was there that I found the pulse of the city radiates from central railway station for there was a large crowd, and the large atrium of the railway station was a hive of activity with tourists exchanging currencies, businessmen rushing for their train, students on the way home, retirees having a drink at the cafe, and a shops selling books to food. Due to the crowd and having found nothing that we fancy here, we walked across to Spitalerstrasse which is basically a pedestrian shopping street. At the end where this street meets Monckerbergstrasse is an Italian restaurant called Prego. For the 3 of us, we had a Belvedere pizza which contains ham, paprika, egg, tomato and mozzarella and an additional order of Thai wok pasta with chicken strips and paprika on coconut curry sauce. Both dishes were not bad and it was nice to have the Asian style pasta which suits my parent’s palate. With lunch wrapped up, we took a walk along Monckerbergstrasse which is another shopping area, though cars are able to travel across this road. It was however sealed off due to an ongoing protests by the Muslim community in Hamburg with regards to the actions by Israel against the humanitarian aid boats in Palestine. It was a peaceful protest with the presence of police. A great example of liberal policy at work in the city. Furthermore, it has to be noted that the upmarket Park Hyatt Hotel in Hamburg is located just along this street. With fatigue kicking in, we headed back to the hotel after some light window shopping.

Park Hyatt at Hamburg
Facade of the Park Hyatt Hamburg

Unlike cities in Asia, the subway system in Hamburg is open which means one need not slot in his ticket into the gantry for there isn’t one in the first place. Yes, tickets are necessary so as tourists, we did the right thing by getting a 3-day pass for a group of 5 persons which allows unlimited travel on buses, subways and trains within the Hamburg Metropolitan Area. The reason for getting the pass for 5 persons was because it was more economical compared to getting 3 times of the 3-day passes. The drawback though is that all of us have to travel as a group and not deviate in travel plans. Upon exiting at Gansemarkt, we took a short while to explore a shopping mall in the area and got ourselves some gelato in the mall! It is summer after all in Europe!

Hauptbahnhof Nord U-Bahn
Hauptbahnhof Nord U-Bahn station

With the temperatures cooled, we got some groceries like fruits and mineral water at a store just outside the U-Bahn station at Gansemarkt. Carrying the purchases back into the hotel room, we took a shower and got a short respite in the comfort of our room before heading out again for dinner. Having consulted the guidebook and maps, I decided on venturing to the Binnenalster Area for dinner. Taking the U-Bahn again it was just a stop away before we exited at Jungfernstieg. Jungfernstieg also serves as an interchange between the S-Bahn and U-Bahn in the city. That said, the area around Jungfernstieg is one of the most beautiful in Hamburg with 3 rows of colonial stone style buildings fronting the lake from which a magnificent fountain of water sprouts out. Under the setting sun, it was even more beautiful with the lights of the buildings switched on. It is also along this waterfront that one can find the grand dame of Hamburg, the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten. This hotel used to be managed under the Raffles brand until the Singapore-based hotel chain got acquired.

Gansemarkt
Crowds at Gansemarkt

Initially we wanted to try this Japanese restaurant the corner on Jungfernstieg, but they seemed to just serve sushi and sashimi. Due to the limited choices, we walked further down closer to the Rathaus, which is German for City Hall, and found this restaurant called Cafe Melange, where I ordered a mixed salad with vegetable dressing for my mum, rump steak with potatoes, mushrooms and red wine sauce for dad, and Wiener Schnitzel with pickled cucumber and fried potatoes. The third dish which I ordered is actually a dish commonly found in northern Germany and has Austrian origins. In simple english, it basically is a thin fillet of pork chop that is breaded and deep-fried. I do find the dish a bit salty for my liking, and it was good a light mixed salad was on the side to soothe the palate. After dinner, it was close to nightfall and the Rathaus was beautifully lit up with lights. Unlike the Hamburg Constitutional Court Building close the Messe, the Rathaus in Hamburg is designed in a more medieval style and is richly decorated with sculptures. Since I did not bring my DSLR camera, I didn’t take much shots that day. I did however return there on the 3rd day to capture the splendour of this building.

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