This is my sixteenth (P) entry for the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.
I hadn’t been to Germany in many years, and in Germany I had never been to Hamburg, but I decided to use the nice 4 day break we got at work for Eid (the holiday at the end of Ramadan – I get the Muslim holidays off here in Dubai of course) and fly to Hamburg, a city I had heard many good things about. I’ll preface this by saying I’ve never not had a good time in Germany. I find the people really friendly, and that old joke about them not having a sense of humour is pretty much false. I mean, they are crazy proud of David Hasselhoff’s music over there – that’s pretty funny, right?
I was staying near the harbour, well within walking distance of the train, many bars and restaurants, and Hamburg’s famous Reeperbahn – the street to hang out on if you want a little or a lot of fun. Especially when the sun goes down, if you know what I mean. But I had plans for my trip. Hamburg also has some amazing history, some wonderful parks, and a world renowned zoo that leads the way in conservation for many species of animals. This would be more of a cultural break than anything.
I would use my first full day in Hamburg to visit Neuengamme, a concentration camp just outside the city. Throughout World War II it housed as many as 106,000 inmates (I use the term they use), of which, 42,900 are confirmed to have died. I believe we need a sober reminder of just what we, as humans, are capable of doing to each other. And it is something we should never forget has happened, no matter how barbaric it was.
I would also visit the Hamburg Dungeon for a bit of fun, walk around the warehouse district and art district, check out a couple of cathedrals, go to Planten un Blomen (the botanical gardens – who knew I was cultured), and of course go to the zoo. And there may been one visit to the Reeperbahn on Friday night to see what all the fuss was. Anyone interested in hearing some highlights? Good. I’ll carry on then.On my first night I did a tour of the harbour. Looking back, I should have taken a tripod. I obviously learned nothing from my trip to Stockholm the year before. I managed to capture a few shots of the city all lit up as I floated on the harbour and one of the many canals that feed into Hamburg. Going in July as I did, meant the days we really long and it stayed light until past 10 pm, so walking around was easier as well. I would stroll up the harbour promenade repeatedly during my time there, opting to stop at the same pretzel stand each day to buy a plate of pretzels and warm pork sausages. I thought this was the perfect lunch in Hamburg. Normally I like to mix things up and not eat the same thing twice; but I made exceptions for German pork sausages and soft pretzels. Coupled with a nice amber ale and you’re on to a winner. Well, just my opinion. One early evening I decided to hop on a boat and tour Lake Alster, the large lake within Hamburg’s centre. We would cruise onto one of the many canals and return via the same one, making a loop somewhere miles away. I stood on the back platform, sun shining, watching as locals and tourists alike lined the river banks with picnic baskets enjoying the first day of pure sunshine since I had been there. Seeing a new city or place by boat is great, as it gives you a different perspective on things. After I had returned to land, it was back to my hotel to shower and change and hit the Reeperbahn to see what all the fuss was about. I immediately struck up a friendship with a couple of young German lads who had just moved to Hamburg. They both worked in the gaming industry. After stopping in a shop to buy a half litre bottle of beer, we continued walking up and down the main street, slipping into the side streets to check out the bars and clubs, and repeating the circle once again. Prostitution is legal in Hamburg, but it still feels odd when one of them approaches you right in front of the police station. My two German friends were seriously thinking about it, and I told them to hold off. The sun was still out after all. If they hadn’t managed to talk to a girl by midnight, by all mean, spend your money any way you see fit. But at least wait until sun down. They did take me down this side street, barricaded by wooden doors, that is for men only. Rumour has it that women who enter this street will have urine tossed at them, but since I saw no women venture down this street, I cannot verify this. There were rows of windows on either side of the street, each one hosting its own girl in various items of lingerie. I suppose this is what real window shopping is like. See a girl you like, talk to her, find out how much of your family’s fortune you’ll have to spend, and join her upstairs. The world’s oldest profession is pretty accessible to all. I’m a frugal traveller so if I wanted food for the next year, I would not be stopping in this street for long. The next day the rain returned, in sporadic amounts, but I still ventured to the botanical gardens as it was recommended to me (thanks TripAdvisor). There was some teenage goth fashion shoot going on (sadly I couldn’t sneak any photos to show you how awesome it was), but I still managed to work on some macro photography and some of the photos actually turned out well. And no trip to a city with a zoo is a trip unless I go to the zoo. All in all, I really like Hamburg. It has a big city mentality with a small city feel. There are enough parks, lakes, and green spaces to make you forget about the high rises and concrete buildings. Hamburg is artistic and creative, playful and academic, but serious and proud and somewhat ashamed of its history too. Even for a weekend getaway, Hamburg would be an ideal place. But don’t take my word for it – the Beatles loved it too.