My holiday plans have been nothing but tentative. The first version was a two-week trip to the US. It didn’t work out because the fares have sky-rocketed by the time I got my visa. Plan B was basically a no-agenda option. Just stay in the western part of the continent and do a bit of traveling. However, I got stuck most of the time in Freiburg. Some time before the break started, I got an invitation to spend New Year’s in Hamburg, and why not? Scenes of the Reeperbahn and the harbor instantly clouded my mind, but I won’t go too far just yet. What a coincidence that I celebrated last New Year’s 2007 also on a port, that time in Antwerp.
I endured the almost six hour train ride from Freiburg to Hamburg by doing a bit of uni assignments that inevitably spilled over the holidays, and reading a book. I don’t really have qualms with long distance travels here in Germany. I just prepare myself for such by some things I can work on my teeny laptop. It would also help to choosing trips that have the least number of transfers. You will especially appreciate these direct train rides in winter when you wouldn’t want to be exposed to the freezing elements outside. Luckily, I got a direct trip to Hamburg ( and back where I started writing this post). I feel especially more mobile now that I availed of a BahnCard (Road Card) which I can use to buy tickets for train trips within Germany for half the price! Deutsche Bahn should sponsor me a one year free trip for this plug.
Hamburg and Hamburger
Two giant American burger chains, one on each side, greet everyone who reaches the Hamburg main train station. It sounds like a joke, but it is real. I did my a Wikipedia research on the relationship between the Hanseatic capital and the obesity-inducing fastfood. The popular food choice obviously got its name from Hamburg, but for some unexplained reason, a German version of the hamburger is not called such, but for some freaky reasons, it is called a Frikadelle! On my second day in the city, I probably ate the ultimate Hamburg food. I didn’t find itin some hidden local restaurant, but in the foodcourt in the main train station. I ordered a Lachsfrikadelle (Salmon burger) in a bun. Hamburg being a city connected to the Nordsee must have fresh fish, and what better way to prepare them but in the form of a hamburger.
Walking along this stretch is the ultimate test of one’s morality and the gateway to one’s deepest carnal fantasies. This might be the switchboard or the powerplant of all red light districts in the world. Shops, cinemas, and bars shout the word SEX. There are windows that display living manequins, and that gives an entirely new and most appropriate meaning to window shopping. And like in any dream, you forget most of its details, yet it leaves you grinning for most part after your waking hours. One of the big ironies of the decadent quarter is its name. Sankt Pauli must be lobbying in heaven to change the name of this sinful quarters that was named after him.
(You might be wondering where’s the pics? No, it wasn’t censored. I actually have a video but I’m having compatibility issues with the file of the clips and the video software- ed.)
At one point in their early musical and yet not-so-famous lives, the Beatles played in hole in the wall pubs near the Reeperbahn. In September of last year, a sculpture of The Beatles was installed in their honor in one spot along Reeperbahn. They played in Grosse Freiheit 36 along a street of the same name (meaning Big Freedom, and yes, there is a small road nearby called Kleine Freiheit, meaning Small Freedom). Along the same street is Gretel & Alfons where they also played. In this webpage you can find a journal of a tour of The Beatles in Hamburg. The same page directs you to another and more comprehensive webpage of the group’s stint in Hamburg.
The elaborate design and size of the Rathaus rivals some of churches I’ve seen in Germany. A short walk farther brings one to the tip of the Binnen Alster, one of the fine watering holes in the city. Here I saw a miracle performed by birds that walked on water. Across the Alster is an expansive expensive shopping district called Der Neue Wall. While walking on this strip, this was the time I realized I wasn’t dressed for the occasion. Hamburgers have a sense of sophistication. While most walked around clad in spiffy coats and jackets, I wore my ol’ reliable hiking jacket. They almost handed me a pair of hiking sticks to complete my get up.
Hamburg, a city-state, separates itself from other German cities with its coastal culture. It is the only German capital nestled near a body of water and takes advantage of it through its harbour. It is a respite to see a German city by the sea, a novel experience compared with other cities in semi-landlocked Germany. The pier extends for miless on end along the Elbe where ferries and ships dock before they travel around Hamburg, or out to the rest of the world.
The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg is the northernmost I’ve been on the planet. The temperature, landscape and architecture is so much different compared with down south in Freiburg. The red-bricked buildings that seem to float on the channels, wide and open roads of a big city that somehow reminds me of Manila. Like in any big city, the danger also multiplies as much as the fun does, from a close brush (too close his shoe hit mine) with a Neo-Nazi to walking uneasily along dark empty streets on New Year’s Day.
On my way back to Freiburg, I felt a sense of longing. The Black Forest’s presence assured me of safety and security. When I got off the train, I easily blended in the crowd of hiking jackets and trekking boots.