I don’t know what it is with this town but I keep on coming back and back and back!
At first glance, Hamburg does not feel like the second largest town in Germany, neither does it feel like a port town. If you arrive by train, you come out of the hauptbanhof to a melée of people that look like they are trying to get out of the place. At least, this was my impression when I visited the town for the first time.
It’s the year 2010. I suddenly find myself trapped in Bremen, thanks to an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano and it’s wonderfully thick ash. Why was I in Bremen, I hear you ask? Well, i was attending a gymnastics competition and, half way through it, we realised that we could not fly home.
Ever the resourceful (haha), I pulled a carpe diem and decided to make the most of it and visit other places in Germany, with Hamburg being one of them.
Let’s go back to when I actually got there. It took me a whole 5 minutes to fall in love with the town. Despite my terrible sense of direction (true story), we all managed to get towards the wonderful lake, the Binnenalster, with its wonderful fountain. What an absolute delight of a sight. This Alster is a square lake that used to be inside the city walls. Today, it is partly surrounded by magnificent white buildings and a couple of metro stations too. On the north part, you can also see the Rathaus (city hall) tower, crowning the beautiful view.
Just on that part, you could spend a good hour enjoying an ice cream, people watching or shopping. Yes, shopping. I’m sure are not surprised to hear that some of the upmarket shops are located there, right? Well, that and Nivea, which is from there. Did you know that they have their own scent in a perfume? I didn’t until the second time I was there and of course I had to get it. Am I the only one here that associates that smell with childhood?
Anyway, as you follow the lake into town, it spills into little canals that can lead to restaurants and bars. If you take a left into the Rathaus, however, and go into it, you will see on the prettiest sites in Hamburg: the Rathaus courtyard. It will take you a whole minute to see it, but it’s stunning. The fountain there is utterly beautiful and the contrast with the magnificence of the building is great in pictures. I only saw this for the first time yesterday in the year 2018. Yes, I know, embarrassing.
Something that I always go back to in Hamburg, is the Speicherstadt. This UNESCO site is a wonderful, industrial mace of terracotta warehouses standing on wooden foundations. I remember vividly seeing this for the first time: I had no idea what to make of it! Remember this is a number of years ago when 3G was not widely available, nor cheap. I literally stumbled upon it with my friends and we immediately started walking through it. I love industrial architecture, so for me this was definitely a treat. It is the one, single place in Hamburg that I always go back to. Even if there isn’t much to it, I still like “getting lost” in it.
But is Hamburg extremely majestic? Well, of course not. Hamburg has its “posh” view (lakes), its historical port town feel (the speicherstadt) and its seedy side too. I mean, all port towns had its naughty side in the past and Hamburg is no different. Widely glamourised thanks to a certain “Fab Four” from another port town (Liverpool), the Reeperbahn is the city’s red light district, with multiple dive bars, sex shops and questionable entertainment places. To be honest, not my cup of tea, but I did visit it on my second time to the city a couple of years ago.
When I left for the first time, I remember I made a mental note to come back. I have since been back twice and I’m certain I’ll be back again. This town is a perfect 1 or 2 night break, has great food, fab beer, people are lovely and it’s full of history. What’s not to like?
See you soon, Hamburg