I understand that on Saturday the weather in England was pretty stunning whilst in Paris its been so hot that its combined with exhaust emissions to cause an environmental hazard and the authorities to declare all public transport free. This was definitely not the case in Hamburg. Any pollution here would have been blown miles away (probably to Paris) due to the gale thats lasted all day, as it was rather than blowing pollution away it did on several occasions come quite close to getting rid of me, by blowing me into the river…( I considered entitling this blog post as “Getting blown in Hamburg” but thought that might give people the wrong idea…)
I had a night train to catch Saturday evening, so having packed up my bags and left them at the Hostel it was off to explore as much as I could in the time left. I definitely didn’t get to see everything but then its always nice to have a reason to come back to a place. My first stop was supposed to be the harbour museum, which is actually a bit of a trek out-of-town. A few stops on the S-Bahn and despite the absence of any signs the map suggested I was on the right track for getting there. Although just what was going to be there I was becoming increasingly uncertain off. There seemed to be an almost complete absence of traffic and the way to the museum seemed to be taking me across a massive and largely empty rail yard. Where were all the crowds of boat enthusiasts who should surely be descending on this museum on a Saturday morning? Well it turns out they were probably still in bed, as for some reason the museum only opens from April to October. Still, in the absence of anyone around there to say otherwise, there didn’t seem to be any reason to not have a look around the bits that were lying around outside. I imagine it would be quite an interesting place if it was open, as it was it was still quite fun, if slightly eery, wandering around a deserted dockside in between old cranes and railway wagons. It also offered a good view of the impressively huge modern container ships across the harbour that were being loaded up. The Atlantic Compass is truly massive, (57,225 gross tonnes apparently) although I was equally interested in the Grande Argentina next to it, owned by Grimaldi Lines (I thought they were a type of biscuit?) which was based in Gibraltar. Are the Argies claiming that as well?
I had better luck at the Emigration Museum nearby which was very much open, charting the histories of various people, from Germany, Austria and countries to the East, who chose to emigrate by taking passage on one of the many ocean liners sailing out of Hamburg in the 19th and early 20th Century to the Americas and South East Africa. Again usefully it had lots written up in English, (it doubtless gets a lot of visitors from the States keen to track their family histories) and offered a good insight into the part of the journey over the seas that’s probably least looked at. If you did have family who passed through Hamburg included in the admission was the ability to search through their databases to find details of when they passed through Hamburg’s emigration centres and the records left behind. The furthest afield that I’m aware of my family coming from however is Hereford so that wasn’t much use to me.
A quick bite for a late lunch and the afternoon was soon starting to run out. I’d hoped to have a look round a Soviet submarine docked up on the river but just missed closing time. Instead I took advantage of the fact that the Hamburg travel card includes the local river boat services (Boris take note) to see some more of Hamburg and its massive port facilities from the river. The one downside to this, was that with the wind really starting to take affect and me refusing to go inside for the whole of the trip and the return meant I was bl**dy cold by the end of it. Luckily the first kebab of my trip was soon on hand to warm me up. No photos of this however, it didn’t hang around long enough!
I suppose I can’t really leave Hamburg without mentioning its most famous district, the Reeperbahn. Now given that I’ve only been here two nights and have still been catching up on sleep from my draughty night-train on Wednesday I can only comment as someone who has only ever wandered around it relatively sober. Normally no one ever wants to hear the recollections of a party from the guy who didn’t get drunk, but here we go anyway. First things first, it does look like a fun place to out with a few mates, however that said, it didn’t look all that amazing. Yes there are one or two sleazy looking bars and strip joints, but the same street also houses the cities Opera House (did you know that Rocky the Musical is apparently an actual thing?) as well as banks and, of all things, a Lidl.
I also discovered when I went back to have a look round in daylight, that the whole thing is overlooked by a massive statue of a rather stern looking Bismark, who does not look like he approves of what’s going on down there. But then again I suppose he might actually be looking annoyed because the locals have covered his plinth in graffiti, or perhaps its because whoever built the thing seemed to think it would be a good idea to decorate the the plinth of this homage to the Iron Chancellor who forged a united Germany through blood and iron in the 1860’s and 70’s with various naked soldiers playing about with their shields in as camp a way as possible. Unlike the Mr Bismark, they looked like they would be very much at home in the bars of the Reeperbahn.
In addition to disapproving historical figures, the Reeperbahn unfortunately also appears to have an awful lot of homeless people about it. The homelessness issue isn’t confined to the Reeperbahn, and it’s not like it’s an issue just for Hamburg, but rather many cities world wide, but the number I’ve encountered in the few days in Hamburg does seem stand out from my experiences of other cities to date. I’m not sure I would necessarily be able to drink on an outside terrace on the Reeperbahn with guys bedding down on mattresses just outside without feeling incredibly guilty, however many seedy clubs were being advertised nearby to offer distraction. Which does bring me along to the point that I got the impression that these clubs could probably look to expand their lexicon somewhat if they really want to stand out from their competitors when describing their dancers.
Anyway in conclusion, I imagine it is indeed a fun place for a drink, I just feel perhaps its reputation is a little overblown – and having wandered around it twice sober, I think I’ve probably ruined it a bit for myself. Perhaps the lesson is just to get drunk and not look too much into things. After alI, I guess any place where the prostitutes seem to tout for business right outside of a police station is deserving of at least some sort of reputation…