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Herbstferien (Autumn School Holidays)

Ever visit friends’ new house and feel completely at home?

I have recently experienced that once again when we went to Hamburg and stayed over at our friends’ new-ish place.

Sascha, and his wife Mariya, have been friends with my husband, Tobi for a number of years. Sascha and Tobi worked together in Luxembourg before moving together to Switzerland in 2016 for jobs in the same company. Last year, Sascha got a new job in Hamburg and packed up his family (they have 2 boys) and moved.

While they were still in Switzerland, we saw each other often, and Becca was close friends with their youngest son who is almost a year younger than her.

We haven’t seen them in over a year, but staying with them felt so normal, the kids just picked up and started playing together. Even Sarah, who was less than 2 years old when they moved, just felt immediately at home with Mariya and the boys. She was still very wary of Sascha though.

Hagenbeck Zoo*
Hamburg port with the family*
Kite flying at the beach; right, Sarah pulled on a wagon by her Papa*

Hamburg was a stop-over between our holidays in Cadzand-Bad, the Netherlands, and staying with my in-laws before driving back to Switzerland.

We had 4 days at the beach in the Netherlands with my in-laws. The beach. In autumn.

My first visit to the North Sea in autumn was 4 years ago, and I was also not convinced that it was a good idea. We Filipinos are used to going to the seaside to take a dip in the sea, but the Germans (the visitors at that Dutch resort where we stayed at were roughly 90% Germans) love going to the beach all year round. In autumn, they fly kites, play in the sand, and collect sea shells, which is what we did. And this year, we had the sun shine most days that it wasn’t that cold.

On our way to Hamburg, we had the most horrible traffic. What should have taken 7 hours, with a stop-over in between took 10 hours. Luckily the girls behaved, happy to be allowed to play games on the phone and watch endless amounts of videos.

It was our first time in Hamburg, and after living in Luxembourg and Biel (imagine Bacolod, that’s how small they are), the big city was a lot! There were subways, trams and buses zipping around, in addition to the thousands of cars on confusing roads.  I was very content to be a passenger, not the driver.

As we had 4 kids between us, we went to the zoo first. Hagenbeck Zoo was big! They had a good selection of animals, but my favorites were the Humboldt penguins and the various flamingos. The flamingos are just such graceful birds and it is a joy to watch them move.

The next day, we HAD to visit the Port of Hamburg. It was splendid.

We first visited the Speicherstadt, literally translated as City of Warehouses. It is the world’s largest compound of warehouses. It was built in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s as a free economic trade zone for goods. The warehouses are made of brick and they were built on thousands of oak poles.

We then walked along the Elbe River to see the relatively new Elbphilharmonie Hamburg concert hall up close, cruise ships and other water vehicles. We had to keep a close eye on the kids as there was a lot of foot traffic! We didn’t do any other touristy stuff as we needed more than 2 full days, but at least we got an overview. 

After a very late lunch the kids NEEDED ice cream. Never mind that it was a cold blustery day. They got their ice cream.

But I wanted hot chocolate! And I remembered my favorite homemade hot chocolate mix, that can also be given as a fun gift for Christmas!

HOMEMADE HOT CHOCOLATE MIX

Enough for 9 cups

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

½ c sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

85 g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

½ c cocoa powder

¼ tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients in a food processor until it becomes fine powder. If you don’t have one, grate the chocolate and mix well with the other ingredients. Transfer to a jar or another airtight container and use within 2 months.

To make 1 serving of hot chocolate, heat 1 cup of milk over medium heat and add 3 tbsp of the chocolate mix. Whisk until all the chocolate is melted. Pour into a cup and enjoy!*

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