Despite being the second best Hamburg in the world (the first one is in upstate NY! haiii Natey poo), I still had a great time in the city. The weather was shit most of the time (of course it got sunny the day i left) but i made the best out of it, eating lots of fresh seafood (no more pork yay!), exploring its unique neighborhoods including Reeperbahn, the red light district, and of course, drinking with a very delicious HAMBURGER who was sososososo yummy (HAHAHA. OKAY I’LL STOP WITH MY TERRIBLE JOKES!)
I arrived in Hamburg on Monday after the long train ride from Munich. I was planning on skipping the city, but after meeting a ton of Germans who told me it was their favorite city in their country, I decided to go up North instead of going down south to Freiburg, which is another city by the Black Forest. Since it was kind of a last minute decision, I didn’t book a hostel, but luckily on the metro, I heard some Americans and followed them to their place, which turned out to be pretty nice and central... and cheap! They were all going out that night but since i’m an old fart bag, I thought it would be best to take it easy.. saving up all my energy for Berlin!
The next day I woke up and explored different parts of the city. Hamburg is known as the Gateway to the World because of its large port (it’s the second busiest in Europe) and diverse population (It’s Germany's second largest city with a population of over 1.8 million, 15% of whom are foreign born). Parts of the city reminded me of New York because it has a gritty and urban feel with its subway system and street art, which has made me both happy and homesick!
The city has an interesting history. It was destroyed multiple times due to a massive fire, a cholera epidemic, and an intense WWII bombing known as Operation Gomorrah and yet, it’s always managed to rebuild and remain a powerhouse. It's one of Germany’s richest cities, which means it’s attracting a lot of new people seeking out opportunities, which in turn, has caused a rapid rise in construction and rent cost.
One of the most interesting places I visited was HafenCity, a long derelict port that is being turned into a showcase of postmodern architecture. There's a visual juxtaposition between the ornate, classic architecture right across the street from very minimalist new buildings. The place is not without controversy, since construction is causing rents in the area to increase and the delays are costing taxpayers a ton of money.
Sternschanze, which is another popular neighborhood (and my personal favorite because it reminds me of the East Village) is also experiencing gentrification. There’s an influx of young people moving in since it’s a lively neighborhood filled with cute shops, nice restaurants, cool bars, and live music spaces… as well as a colorful building called Rote Flora, which has been squatted in since 1989.. which was the year I was born.
The front part of the building still serves as a space for political, often very subjective and propagandistic, messages. Political issues include immigration, nationalism in Germany and privatisation of public space. It hosts exhibitions by artists from all over the world, organises flea markets, parties and cultural events regularly and also serves as a meeting point for left-wing movements.
The neighborhood has a ton of cool street art as well by some famous artists including Push, El Bocho, etc. Like the stuff I saw in Bogota, some of it is political by nature and reflects the changing socioeconomics of the neighborhood, while others are there to put a smile on your face.
Along with cool street art and awesome architecture, Hamburg has a ton of pretty canals and bridges… It’s a very picturesque place (don’t want you to think it’s dirty and tagged up and what nottt.) The Elbe and Alster river go through the city’s center, creating its gorgeous maritime flair. The city has more bridges crossing canals and streams than Amsterdam and Venice together :) #themoreyouknow
I took the public ferry around the port, which cost me about 3 Euros. It was pretty fucking cold that day, but still totally worth doing. I also visited the Alter Elbtunnel that connects the port to the city. The handsome Hamburger, Philip) also brought me to a GERMAN beach… I emphasize German because it was pretty fucking chilly... but also nice and relaxing! We enjoyed a few drinks at a couple of the bars on the waterfront and hung out the rest of the night.
Overall Hamburg was a fun and beautiful place. I’m really sad that I’m not staying for the weekend, since that’s when things get more lively, but I wanted to take it easy because next up is Berlin. And i’m totally pumped but also a tad bit terrified for my life :)