We took a fast train from Valence for Hamburg, late one bright winter's day. It traversed Switzerland and made stops at Genève and Bâle, neither of which was in any way pleasant or welcoming. Food was atrocious in both places, but none available on the train. We were found by another Aussie onboard -- struth ! these people get around !
The centrefold of the "old" part of the city is the small Alster -- how could you not be joyful in a place like it ?! There are two parts to the Alster; the big part is a very large body of water indeed, where many MULTI-star hotels dot the margins. And between the two is a bridge that hides speakers producing the sounds of bygone river traffic -- it's lovely !
A noteable fact was our sole sighting of snow (sorry about the alliteration !) -- some thin stuff on the ground beside the tracks, as we zipped between the two towns. Well, if you call call that 'snow' ... maybe 'sleet' would be more correct ...
Upon checking in to the hotel we had reserved from Valence, the proprietress had a very long face; she said (in the faultless English that most Germans can speak) "I know you have come for Domingo in «Tosca» ..." and she seemed to be on the verge of tears. Our hearts stopped. He wasn't going to perform ... All this way, all the changes -- for nothing ... She finished her statement in anguish: "but he will not perform it. He doesn't like the staging. So they are going to do «La Bohème» instead." We looked at each other. A second's silence. Then loud cries of joy unbounded -- that is CS' *very favourite* of all the glorious Italian operas in existence !!
Overnight sleeper trains in Europe ? -- don't even go there ! We decided that lying down at high speed whilst being shaken from top to bottom then back again is one of the viler ways of spending a night.
But Hamburg ... Ahh, Hamburg ... there are not enough words to do it justice. It's just -- gorgeous ! It is, of course, new; the Allies razed it to the ground during WWII. The Germans rebuilt it as an exact replica of the original version, and it works. It even has that same sleazy "new" section that all the genuinely old cities have (we don't *think* this was intentional) !
(Note re favourite operas: mine is «Turandot» -- go figure, as they say you-know-where ... It's all a matter of what *moves* you, isn't it ? -- and I find a bit of every emotion in the music of «Turandot» ...)