As I’ve said before, here and in real life, the majority of cities do not appeal to me. Where ever I have traveled, I have that almost without exception, I have enjoyed smaller cities and rural areas more that the hustle and bustle of the big city. Hamburg once again proved this point. Now, I’m not saying that I didn’t like Hamburg – just that I preferred other places to being there. Pretty much anywhere, in fact.
I think one of the reasons I don’t like to stay in cities and one of the reasons I didn’t like Hamburg is that it could be any city anywhere in the world. Besides the length of the words on the windows and the occasional snippet of overheard German, I could have been anywhere in the U.S.
I will admit that much of my dislike of Hamburg is seasonal. I mean this in two ways: the weather and the New Year’s Eve season. Granted, traveling to northern Europe in late December means cold weather, but the weather in Hamburg was a whole new level of miserable. The whole time we were there, it was misting or outright raining, and 30-something degrees. This wasn’t the picturesque snow of postcards, but the wet cold slop that is decidedly unpicturesque.
Hamburg’s other big problem was that it was dirty. Like really dirty. Even between our hotel and the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) we passed through a dark and slightly sketchy area, littered with, well, litter. On New Year’s Day, as I wandered through the streets of a mostly deserted Hamburg, I was disgusted by the sheer amount of trash that was EVERYWHERE. The night before’s mass fireworks display didn’t seem as charming the next day with every spare corner of grass or open area covered in fireworks debris and empty bottles. Combined with the gloomy, misty weather, it seemed especially grim.
I spent the majority of the day on New Year’s Day walking around Hamburg by myself after my mom came down with a nasty cold. I started from our hotel and walked to the Chilehaus, built in the 1920s to look like a ship. While not especially tall, it is a truly unique building. I then headed up the Hamburg Rathaus or city hall. This building is huge and impressive, built in the late 19th century and still home to the city’s government. I saw several churches, including the impressive St. Michael’s Church and the bombed-out shell of St. Nicholas. The tower of this church still stands, but the rest of the church was destroyed in a 1943 bombing. The tower appeared to be under renovation, and with the holiday the adjoining museum was not open.
I continued my wanderings down along the Elbe River and the St. Pauli District, home to the city’s fleet of tourist boats. I then crossed over to the park where the large statue of Otto von Bismack is located. This statue is very imposing, and according to Wikipedia, it is the world’s largest Bismarck memorial at 115 feet tall and weighing 600 tons. It was finished in 1906 and like much of Hamburg, is covered in graffiti.
I headed down the street to the infamous (and imfamous) Reeperbahn. The Reeperbahn is Hamburg’s red light district, a street full of bars, strip clubs, sex lounges, and now, souvenior shops. One of the Reeperbahn’s claims to fame is that it is where the Beatles got their start, playing in the now-defunct Star Club. The Star Club has now been replaced by another club that still hosts concerts of new and established performers. The Beatles’ time in Hamburg is commemorated at the Beatles Platz, with metal outlines of the Beatles.
I decided that was enough of a walking tour of Hamburg and took the subway back to the main train station and headed back to the hotel for a beer and a chance to warm up.