Writing and photography by Pigalle, originally published for The Fabulous Times.
City of Water
I was very excited to be sent by The Fabulous Times to the Reeperbahn Festival, and discover the latest up and coming unsigned music talents. In between catching acts, I also had the chance to explore Hamburg, the second largest city in Germany, with the third largest port in the world.
Hamburg is widely known as the City of Water, thanks to being surrounded almost all sides by the North Sea and the Baltic, and as the locals affectionately like to point out, usually raining down from above. The bustling harbour and waterways define the city’s identity, lending it a maritime flavour. The city is overflowing with an abundance of water, with more canals than Amsterdam and Venice combined, and the highest number of bridges within its city limits than any other city in the world.
St Pauli District: Hamburg effortlessly combines historical monuments, with green-rusted Gothic church spires dominating the horizon, alongside distinctive, futuristic architecture. It is also infamous for its red light district, the Reeperbahn, based in the district of St Pauli. Emerging from its run down and salubrious past, St Pauli is now a haven for hip cats swinging to the beat in the numerous bars and cool dives clustered around the Reeperbahn, with graffiti and urban art flourishing across its walls.
A short saunter down from the Reeperbahn leads me to the port, to catch a public ferry from St. Pauli Landungsbrücken. There are six public lines serving the harbour, with numerous stops along the River Elbe. I board the ferry and watch cruise liners glide past, while a St Louis-styled steam boat paddles away, and as industrial freights laden with shipping containers slowly inch in to dock. We pass the Fischmarkt quay, where between 5 and 9am on Sundays an open air market trades in fresh seafood, exotic fruits, flowers and teas from all over the world. Popular with night club kings and queens, they descend from the Reeperbahn as part of the dawn chorus, hungry for the market’s traditional fish buns.
The Waterfront: Steel, zinc and glass edifices line the waterfront, interspersed between traditional red brick buildings from the previous century, with the Dockland Office as the most impressive. Perched atop a constructed spit of land, as a dramatic leaning rhomboid, it commands attention as we sail past. I disembark at Museumshafens Oevelgönne, and am greeted by lovingly restored brigantine sail boats, leading me to expect drawn sails, topped off with pirate flags. Hamburgers, as the locals are named, are lulled into easy comfort by the laid back atmosphere, lolling languidly on the port walls.
Seagulls swoop down greedily to snatch titbits from proffered hands, as rays of sunlight twinkle against the refracted waves and sparkle between boat masts. I am surprised to find a stretch of sand hugging the riverside, following it till I come across Strandperle restaurant. With its open decking and chairs on the beach front, it proves to be the perfect pitstop to watch lovers converse and craggy bearded seafarers idle time away.
Unable top resist the siren call to water on my final morning, I walk towards Außenalster (outer Alster) and Binnenalster (inner Alster). These are two man-made lakes in the heart of Hamburg, surrounded by leafy parks and circled by pristine white mansions known as The Jugendstil Villas, the most expensive properties in the city. I come across Bodo´s Bootsteg, an outdoor cafe with convenient moorings for arriving row boats. Passersby slow their pace and join me on the jetty, taking in the glistening panoramic city views, as I wave goodbye and set off back home.
“It is not the going out of port, but the coming in, that determines the success of a voyage”– Henry Ward Beecher