Tall Ships, Jumbo Jets, and Friends – Oh my!
If there is one thing I can count on when I travel to Europe, it is rain. Such was the case on my recent trip to Hamburg, Germany to meet up with a group of about thirty other FlyerTalk members for the Hamburg Airbus, Port Festival, and Lufthansa Technik Do. This particular Do was based around the Jason Dahl Fundraiser where the winner was to receive a flight on a Lufthansa Junkers J52. Attending a FlyerTalk Do is always great fun. It is a chance to catch up with old friends and meet the people behind the handles on the forum.
Hamburg, Germany, holds one of the world’s largest Port Festivals each year and this year marked the 825th year since Hamburg was granted a charter allowing merchants to transport goods from the Elbe River to the North Sea without having to pay customs duties. The festival, which has been held on or about May 7th each year since 1977, consists of ship launchings, parades, fireworks and even a tugboat ballet and is quite a source of pride for the city. (I just wish it hadn’t rained so much and so hard while we were there!)
I was fortunate to find a great award ticket to and from Vienna on Austrian Airlines. After a day in Vienna, I flew on to Hamburg on Air Berlin. Arriving in Hamburg, I waited at the airport for a friend who was arriving shortly after me from the UK and we made our way into town via the S-Bahn, a direct train which took us straight to the Hauptbahnhof (Central Train Station) in just under 30 minutes. From there it was just a short walk to the Park Hyatt Hamburg.
On Friday evening we met and made our way to Schlachterbörse Restaurant which is located in the meatpacking district,. The building dates back to 1904 when it was used as a trading exchange at Hamburg’s slaughterhouse. In the early 1970’s the building was transformed into a restaurant and tavern. With its dark wood paneling, cozy atmosphere, and known for its incredible steaks, and vast variety of beer, Schlachterbörse is definitely a restaurant I would recommend if you are visiting Hamburg.
Saturday morning we were up bright and early for our bus trip out to Finkenwerder Airport, the headquarters for Airbus in Germany, for a two hour tour of the facility. Any tours of Airbus are facilitated by Globetrotter Tours and our tour guides were fantastic. We were divided into two groups partly because of the large number of people but also to accommodate both English and German speakers. Our tour guides were fantastic and possessed a wealth of knowledge and trivia about Airbus aviation.
After an introductory video, we were escorted around the structural assembly area and the final assembly area of the A318, A319, and A321. The A350 was not in attendance because it was in Florida for extreme weather evaluation at the US Air Force’s McKinley Laboratory located at Eglin AFB near Pensacola. We did, however, see (from afar) several aircraft ready for delivery to their prospective buyers. Final acceptance and delivery of A380’s for European and Middle Eastern customers takes place in Hamburg.
Picture taking was strictly ‘verboten’ therefore you will just have to take my word for it, that if you love anything aviation related, you will definitely appreciate the Airbus Tour in Hamburg.
We headed back into Hamburg for a few ‘on our own’ hours. Some people chose to head down to the waterfront to check out some of the tall ships. I strolled around the shopping area before heading back to my room for a quick nap.
Saturday evening found us making our way down to the waterfront. As it was raining, many of us borrowed umbrellas from the Hyatt making for quite an interesting little parade of our own through the streets of Hamburg.
We were heading to the Old Elbe Tunnel which serves as the connector between City Center and the Southern part of Hamburg. Simple, yet elegant in its design with white subway tiles and sculptured artwork on the walls, the tunnel is about a kilometer in length and while open to some vehicles, it is largely used by pedestrians and cyclists Access to the tunnel is either by huge elevators or steep multilevel winding stairs (which we took on the way over). Exiting the tunnel we were given a great view across the river of the City, the port and Steinwerder shipyard. I have to say… walking under a river is quite the experience!
We set off in search of the dock where we would be taking an evening cruise on the Morgenster (Morning Star), a beautiful twin-masted tall ship that first sailed as a logging ship on the Rhine River around 1920. After also serving as a fishing vessel for a while, the ship was then put into service as a charter for small group sailings and,as for this night of the Port Festival, dinner cruises. Incredibly, with our group and several other groups aboard, there must have been close to eighty or more people in addition to the crew. As it was raining, tarps had been strung across the main deck to help us stay dry. Although cancelled earlier in the day, by the time we boarded, the Junkers were flying again!
The crew welcomed us aboard with a glass of Prosecco and a few light hors d’oeuvres and we began our journey up and down the river while we waited for the evening’s fireworks. Dinner was buffet style and the food was absolutely delicious!
Several of the crew were musicians and treated us to rousing pub songs as well as some spirited violin playing. In spite of the dismal weather throughout most of the sailing, the rain magically stopped and we were all able to be out on the decks for the fireworks display. Thankfully, as we disembarked, there was a bus which took us back to the hotel.
Sunday was our last day in Hamburg and we were scheduled for a two hour tour at Lufthansa Technik at 11 a.m. As several of us had flights leaving between 2:30 and 4, we first checked our bags at the luggage service in Terminal 2 at Hamburg Airport. From there, it was a quick shuttle bus ride to the LH Technik Welcome Center.
Again, our tour started with a short film detailing the history and the purpose of Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg which happens to be the headquarters and control center of the approximately thirty or so facilities and affiliates located around the word in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Again, photography was forbidden because of security and protecting the privacy of its clients, but I do have to say that even with my limited technical knowledge of planes, I found everything extremely fascinating.
We toured the engine maintenance shop where jet engines are routinely taken completely apart and all components checked and tested for wear and stress. We were also able to view several privately owned 747’s that were being fitted with luxuries that most of us can only imagine actually being in an airplane. One little tidbit shared was the fact that even the most luxurious of jets are no longer allowed to have hot tubs… only showers (imagine).
I had to dash out of this last tour to catch my flight, but can say with all certainty, that if you ever get a chance to tour one of these facilities, you will have an incredible experience.
The weekend as a whole was just fantastic. Many thanks to our friends Oliver and all of the others who helped make this Hamburg Do a weekend I will never forget. Remember, get togethers such as these are often found on the FlyerTalk Community Buzz forum. If you ever want to meet and hang out with like-minded people, be sure to sign on for a Do! You won’t be disappointed.