The first thing that hit me was the smell of fried fish in the air, the second, how the wind was relentlessly blowing. Third, I noticed that people seem to be, on average, much taller than in other cities. Fourth, that these dudes never apologise as they bang into you (and it happens, for God knows what reason, very often), at the same time, they cannot hold themselves back from starting a random informal friendly chat with a complete stranger…
… Welome to H A M B U R G Leute!
Days spent: 5 (3 alone, 2 with Isa, who reached me over for the weekend)
Days recommended: 5 are fine if a couple day trips are included.
Where to sleep: bed in a design magazine worth dorm at “Pyjiama Park at Schansenviertel” for the first 3 nights. Airbnb private room for the weekend.
What to eat: fish, fish and fish. Of course we’re talking about a big city where you can find whichever food you fancy (between my personal picks: a lemongrass thai soup, a pasteis de nata based portuguese breakfast, a Belgian fries and mustard bratwurst midnight snack…). However, it would be kinda silly not to make the most of this fishy chance. I gave to Hamburger’s traditional herrings and pickles breakfast a chance (ok, probably this was a bit hardcore), treated myself with one of most delicious fish&chips at the ever so popular KaroFish and devoured a fish roll at Altona Fish Market right before dawn (that’s a must guys!). Also, make the most of Hamburg’s hip cafes culture. I personally loved my americano at Less Political/Hermetic Coffee Roasters (in Sternschanze), the cakes at Milch (Portugiesenviertel) and sunday brunch at Oma’s Apotheke (Sternschanze)
How I travelled: 3 hours bus ride (Flixbus from Berlin) at a super convenient return price (something like 14 euros!). Once in Hamburg you can easily explore the city by foot, and, if you get tired, take the u-bahn or a ferry (the ticket is the same one).
Km walked: 94! Wow, I’m surprised as you are!
How Hamburg affected my wallet: the prices of food and public transports are very similar to Berlin’s. The accommodation were definitely more expensive. My advice to keep it cheaper would be to get in touch with the Finnish Church and check their room availability (unfortunately I found out about this option too late).
Issues encountered: for being August, it was frigging cold! if you can call this an issue…
Would I recommend it? I perfectly remember walking from Hamburg Hauptbahnhof to my hostel in Sternschanze (on what it was meant to be a 40 min walk, which actually took me 90. There’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to sense of direction) and repeating to myself “Why the hell have I waited so long to come over here?”. Somehow this city manages to put Berlin’s quirkiness, Amsterdam’s brass, Stockholm’s northern magnificence together and be, at the same time, one of a kind. So YES, I would definitely recommend it.
What to do:
- Let Sternschanze steal your heart. I cannot even think of which hour of the day or time of the week is better to explore the hipster neighbourhood. I loved it at Feierabend (the few hours of chill that follow the end of a working day) when everybody meets up for a drink in front of an open air folk gig. I loved it in the morning, when the city is still sleepy, the artsy small cafes start to open and the air smells like brewed coffee and freshly baked buttery treats. I loved it when it gets dark, when the streets become the meeting point of countless noisy crowds of young creative people. I loved it by night, when you get to explore its underground clubbing scene (the dj set we came across at Waagenbau was quite epic). I loved it in the weekend, when the Flohschanze flea market’s on and electronic music mixes with vintage atmospheres.
- take shelter from a sudden storm and get warm and cozy at the Finnische Seemanskirche’ sauna (Portugiesenviertel). In real Finnish tradition, grab a bunch of ice cold beers (of course one has to come with you in the sauna) and get social. There I spent the whole evening chatting to Hannes and Leon, and went from initial simple chitchats to more meaningful and deep talks. By the end it felt like we were old time friends! Also got invited to join the Finnish sauna gang the evening after for a sauna, sausage and beer night.
- Do some savage pub-crawl in flashy Reeperbahn and discover its shady reputation. After going there on my own and being stopped by a ridiculous amount of prostitutes offering their best deals (I will never forget the one that candidly answered me, after I turned her offer down: “I just want to mess up with your c###, not with your heart”), I returned with Isa for a pre-clubbing pub crawl session (avoid the main touristic road and move few blocks away to be where the locals are). Weapon of choice: mexicaner! For those who wonder what that is (non Germans, I guess…) a mexicaner is a shot made of vodka/tequila/korn, tabasco, salt, pepper and tomato juice. And in Hamburg you can have one for 70 cents! Reeperbahn can also be good fun during the day for some erotic shops window-shopping.
- A day trip to the fairytale-like Lübeck, also known as marzipan’s homeland. Easily reached on a train in only 40 minutes, Lübeck is the kind of place that my parents would love to get lost in, but really didn’t have the same kind of impact on me. On my diary I scribbled my first impressions and defined it as a not so successful remake of Oxford, Norwich or Bruges. After I swiftly strolled around the city centre, I picked the off the beaten track and ventured those alleys that nobody seemed to care about. That’s the part I really appreciated and where I finally felt like taking a few snaps. When tired of walking, take a break in the chilled courtyard of the Neue Rösterei and try their incredible blueberry pancakes. Also, don’t leave the city without some marzipan supplies…
- Find out that playing tourists is not always such a shameful thing. Hamburg’s touristic spots are quite to die for. My absolute favourite: Speicherstadt (“city of warehouses”), right by the harbour, the largest warehouse district in the whole world and UNESCO world heritage site. I explored it on a foggy eerie evening, and immediately made me think of Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd. I really appreciated its austere gothic uniqueness and the almost total lack of other people around. To reach the Landungsbrücken from the Speicherstadt you will walk past the marvellous Elbphilarmonie (you can actually visit the top and marvel at the view). The St. Pauli Landungsbrücken (landing stages) are also peculiar. This huge set of piers is perfect for a meditative sunset stroll, when the seagulls take over the place, the sky turns purple and the silhouettes of the Hamburg harbour’s cranes and containers on the other side of the Elbe look at their best. Most of the tourists will be busy stuffing their faces, totally unaware of what they’re missing. From the Landungsbrücken you can also access to the old Elbe tunnel, a massive pedestrian and vehicle underwater tunnel which connects the the two river banks. Jungfernstieg, the city centre by the Alster (Hamburg second most important river), is a more commercial area with a hint of posh. Still worth to be checked out. For amusement park lovers, the Hamburg DOM is almost as good as Vienna’s Prater. I’m really not a fan of places packed with yelling and hyper kids on sugar rush, so I took my chance to sneak a peek of the park in the morning, long before the party started. If you miss the green and need a bit of a break from the city buzz, head straight to the Japanese garden in Planten und Blumen. Last but not least, take a ferry on the Elbe making the most of that U-bahn ticket!
- Put your Sunday clothes on and walk along Ovalgönne out of time promenade. It really felt like a throw back to my Isle of Wight days, sudden shower included.
- get inspired by a group of visually impaired people who will show you how it feels like to live in a pitch dark world. This humbling experience is made possible at “Dialog im Dunkeln” (/dialogue in the dark), where you’ll be guided through a circuit in the dark and will have to rely on all your other senses.
Who deserves a big thank you: Ailina and Willie, for giving me the best piece of advice ever and for making all of this possible! Hannes and Leon for saving my evening and making it super memorable.
Olympus OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Fuji Superia 200 / Agfa CT Precisa (35)
16-20/08/2017, Hamburg and Lübeck (Germany)