Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to Hamburg on a work assignment. I asked to be flown in there a day earlier, on Saturday, so I could explore on my own for a day before getting down to business. So one fine morning, half-asleep, with a cold to boot, I ventured to Heathrow to visit Germany for the first time in 2 years (after US, I think Germany has been the second most-visited country of mine).
One Lufthansa trip later (more on that in the next few posts), I got there. My first impression of Hamburg is excellent. The city is extremely clean, well-put together, lively but not overpowering, and has the overall air of undercover trendy. You gotta know places. The architecture is crisp – there are nods to the past, and pride in the future, a lot of new buildings. In fact, now that I think of it, it’s the lack of old builds (like in Brussels or Paris) that makes me think of Hamburg as a future-forward place.
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and sixth largest in Europe. It’s a media and industrial centre. Largest European publishing house and largest European copper recycler are established there. Hamburg is proud of its port, which the second largest in Europe. The city was one of the key centres of the Hanseatic League in the good ole days, and the references remain to this day. By the way, German airline Lufthansa is also a nod to the past (Luft + Hansa).
What did I do on my first day in Hamburg. From the Lindner Hotel, where I was staying, I wanted to walk to find Cafe Paris. I asked the concierge where it was, and she directed me to the Rathaus area, saying that it’s nearby… She didn’t specify where exactly it would be, however, so I kept wandering around hoping that my intuition would lead me to it. It didn’t.But I found the Rathaus.
After failing to find the elusive Cafe Paris (without a map or even a knowledge of the street it’s on), I gave up and went straight to Currypapa for some good ol’ currywurst, which I haven’t had since Berlin, 2011. Food chain or not, it was tasty
As I walked through the streets near the Rathaus square, I was happy to hear so many foreign languages. Lots of Russians and Spanish (again and again, on all my trips in the past half a year, there have been lots of Spanish and Russian). I seemed to wander around the shopping area even though I don’t like shopping. I thought that maybe Adidas originals would be cheaper in Germany, but no, they were not. Moreover, the selection was dysmal. I immeditely ran out of the shop.
Wi-fi barely exists in the publics pace in Hamburg. Beware! It’s generally a trend in Western Europe (Budapest, on the other hand, has wi-fi spots in almost every bar and restaurant). But if you like art? Boy, are you in a right place for art. I almost derailed from walking around the Old City and went into the Kunsthalle for Giacometti and retrospectives on a number of German artists. Save that for a rainy day. That being said, make sure you pop into Deichtorhallen for a peek at contemporary and international talents. It’s a beautiful building and an excellent collection of art. I enjoyed every single artists showing as part of the New Germany photography exhibit. And there was an Albert Watson retrospective.
At the end of my walking tour, I noticed Joe & The Juice coffee shop, of which I only heard and knew from the sticker that my ex-boyfriend stuck on a Polaroid camera that he took with him to Copenhagen in 2006. So although I knew about the coffee shop for ages, I’ve never been, so I popped in. Even coffee shops in Hamburg play excellent music. I was greeted with mellow house sounds of Cyril Hahn (never heard of him! But since the first encounter in Hamburg, he’s been popping up on my radar, and I’ll most likely see him at Parklife in Manchester). Good-looking barista turned up the music when he saw me wiggle a bit.
After a daytime walk, I returned to the hotel to prepare for dinner at Brachmanns Galeron in St Pauli with my colleague. My German friend who used to live in Hamburg describes the restaurant as the place where cool people go for dinner. Yelp describes the place as a contemporary German cuisine. Sounds good to me. The highlights of the meal was Gruner Veltliner by the glass and a legendary Käsespätzle. I can be seen hovering over the entree in the dark here:
My lovely collegue Anna-Lena took me around some bars in Reeperbahn and then St Pauli. While I did not particularly enjoy the former, I liked the later and in particular the Toast Bar with which we capped off the night.
Unfortunately my cold got worse the day after a Saturday outing and I spent all of the rainy Sunday trying to get better and preparing for my client presentation on Monday.