As a regular visitor to Hamburg, I am always looking for the local recommendations for one-day trips. After I've been to Lüneburg a couple of years ago - and really enjoyed it - this time I finally have the chance to make the one-hour trip with S-Bahn to the colourful city of Stade.
It is a lovely sunny Indian summer day, and like in Hamburg, everyone is out enjoying, everyone's its own way. And abilities. Paddling is one of it, but if you are into romantic tours, you can even have your own gondola for a water tour. I am skipping those experiences for this time though.
I've been told a lot by my friends about the classical red-bricked buildings and Hanseatic style of Stade, but during my first minutes here I am having a look at the street art instead, done on a so-called 'legal wall' - the only urban space where the street artists are allowed to display their art skills. It looks moderately fine.
The day is busy not only on the waters, but also outdoors. It's a city festival taking place and some of the old buildings are obstructed by colourful panels offering entertainment for children.
With so many events taking place, the central area of Pferdemarkt is crowded with stalls offering various local treats and entertainment. However, the side streets like Poststraße are so quiet that you can hear your steps on the cobblestone. The predominant colour of the buildings is red, and the bricks were aimed to diminish the risk of fire that consumed parts of the city more than once.
The late Renaissance entry of the City Hall on Hökerstraße is a representative construction for Stade. It was built in the second half of the 17th century, on the ruins of the previous 13th century building, and rather looks like a local middle class palace than an administrative building.
As it is weekend, I cannot visit the interior, with its wooden staircases and the stained glass windows. Maybe a next time.
Meanwhile, I have plenty of time to stroll the narrow streets with the shops and small restaurants hosted at the ground level of half-timbered houses. There are plenty of local products and vintage stores and some small art galleries too. At Stader FachMarkt on Große Schmiedestraße I chat shortly with the owners about the selection of local products: among others, apple curry, cider and honey. Apple is a staple in the area of Alte Land, surrounding Stade, which are the main ingredients not only of various types of local cakes and jams, but also of brandies or even soups. On my to-eat list for a next visit.
But before I am finding a place to eat - get ready with cash, as I tried at least seven places and cards were always forbidden fruits - I am enjoying a bit more the sun blessings. Finding a free place on Fishmarkt is mission impossible so I prefer to keep exploring more side streets.
And I am hardly disappointed, as I have always a weakness for colourful doors.
On the other side of the old city, the clean geometry of the modern buildings guarded by elegant boats is reflected into the water.
Although I am a big lover of everything modern architecture, this time I am more into discovering the old spirit of this Hanseatic little town, with its tradesmen houses.
And some hidden symbols displayed at the entrances, whose meaning I am too much in a hurry to decipher. Looks like a good beginning of a novel in Dan Brown' style.
Personally, I am more keen to decipher the beautiful combination of seasonal vegetables in my lasagna I am treating myself at Cafe im Goebenhaus, considered among Germany's best eateries. My order, a choice from a handwritten menu, is taken fast, and brought even faster, the meal is well balanced and genuinely tasty and the lemonade is one of the best I've had in Germany - which means still far from my standards.
But Stade has more than nice foodie places and colourful doors. There is also a museum to see, Schwedenspeiche, a former warehouse used by the Swedish Army during the 30 years war in the 17th century. Swedish nostalgics can also have a Swedish meal at the Saltkran, a pretty eatery in the old city area.
Still, with the warm season at the very deadly end, I prefer to stay as much as possible outdoors, enjoying the views of just another pair of colourful doors...
...or some beautiful Baroque-style light orange building.
When the intensive noise of the bells announces me it is a quarter before...my train is leaving the station, I feel that I would love to spend more time here. I wanted so long to meet Stade and was happy for the encounter. From now on, I know where I can go when I am spending just another long weekend in my lovely Hamburg.