Yeah, I Know What I'm Doing
Arrived in Hamburg yesterday and made it to the office without any trouble. The cab driver was astonished when I gave him a 40% tip, though, so maybe that's not done here. (I was feeling a bit generous because he'd made such a great effort to chat with me after stating up front that his English was nicht gut.) I dropped my tip to 30% for the ride from the office to the hotel at the end of the day, but when the driver practically jumped out and kissed my hand, I decided that perhaps 30% was also on the high side.
Unfortunately the internet connection in the hotel was down, and I wasn't able to connect via wireless from the lounge, so my plan to send a number of e-mails, upload photos, video chat with Al and the Beaner, and, most importantly, get information about how to navigate the subway here were totally shot.
I now realize what a sissy I've been, traveling mostly to countries where English is the native language. Knowing a little bit of German from college doesn't help much when you're trying to figure out (a) where the subway is, (b) where to buy a ticket for it, and (c) what kind of ticket you need. Even once I found the button on the ticket machine that switched from German to English, I was lost; the instructions converted to English, but the ticket names did not, and subtle differences between them were not explained. I knew that one was a 6-hour ticket for 1 adult and up to three children, one was a 9-hour ticket, another was a 3-day ticket, and so on. I basically just pressed random buttons to see how much I would be charged for each option and figured that anything over a couple Euros couldn't be right.
I finally settled on a short-haul ticket that cost €1,30 and made my way down to the subway platform for the second time. (The first time I went down I assumed there would be a way to buy a ticket on the platform, but a policeman who knew a little English pointed me back up the stairs.) I thought I did a rather good job of figuring out which side of the platform to stand on, but I won't give myself too much credit for getting on the right train since all the trains that stop at Haupbahnhof go to Landungsbrücken (my stop).
I was two or three deep waiting to board, but finding a seat wasn't difficult. At the next two stops several people crowded the doors to get off, but at Landungsbrücken I was the only one getting off. I got out of my seat before the actual stop and stood by the door. When we pulled into the station, I waited for the door to open, but it didn't. I figured the train just needed to inch forward a bit. Next thing I knew I heard the "door closing" sound coming from another car and frantically looked around for a button to push. There was one on either side of the door, but I only had time to push one, so I opted for the one on the left.
A woman in a seat adjacent to the door noticed my distress and said something to me in German—I'm assuming something along the lines of "you have to push the button to open the door," but she was pointing away from the button I'd just pushed.... and the train started to pull away from the station. At least this gave me a second to notice, at groin level, the button that actually opened the doors, which was on the door itself.
By the time we arrived at the next station, I'd figured out the system. I pressed the button, the doors opened, and I crossed to the other side of the platform. This time there was only one person in front of me waiting to board the train back to Landungsbrücken, and I saw him press a similar button on the outside of the door to open it. Good to know for next time.
Anyway, after a 15 minute walk in which I simply followed the Elbe so as not to get lost, I arrived at the office... around 10am. Not exactly bright and early, but hey, I made it!