I am always pleasantly surprised at German cities. They are just how I love a city to be - cosmopolitan, compact, beautiful, efficient. I always thought that if I could speak German I'd relocate to Berlin in a heartbeat - but now I would have to strongly consider Hamburg.
We had a great long-weekend in Hamburg. We started out with a visit to the Eppendorf factory (the whole visit was courtesy of Eppendorf, the famous pipette manufacturer). Our family were treated as VIPs, down to giving small gifts to Hayden and a guided tour of every aspect of the company. I was intruiged to learn about Eppendorf's early history as a post-WWII manufacturer of medical devices, such as turning military sonar principles into a prototype ultrasound. In those days everything had to be done on minimal resources and maximal ingenuity.
Now the company is all German precision and efficiency. I was really surprised to see that the PCR machines were so lovingly put together by hand, more an engineering enterprise than a factory floor. The scale is still small enough that it doesn't make sense to automate, and the desire for quality drives the personal attention each gets. At the other end of the scale, the plastics factory was almost complete automation, constantly injection molding millions of tips and tubes. But even there the almost obsessive attention to quality was obvious - with most of the set-up dedicated to quality control. Everywhere we went there was a real pride in the company and in the quality of their work.
After seeing Eppendorf, we went to the dock district for a "Dialogue in the Dark". This was a fascinating experience were we were taken for a walk around a pretend city-scape - all in the dark, led by a blind guide. It is one of those cases where the tables are turned and you need help every step of the way by someone who lives in the dark constantly. It was also an interesting experience for Hayden - at times he got scared, but he pushed through it and I think the novelty of the experience was good for him.
The rest of the weekend was basically Hayden time. The Hamburg Zoo is excellent, very interactive. We feed the elephants, alpaccas and baboons:
Do we really want to encourage elephants to lean out over the moat?
But Hayden's favourite was probably the Guinea Pigs:
Followed up by a return visit to the Minatuur Wonderland. This huge minature train set has both amazing scale, and amazing detail, and is well worth a visit (or two).
And then several days of enjoying the parks and enormous playgrounds of such a beautiful city.