What to do on a rather rainy day in summer when you get bored in your hometown? Right, why not opt for a little city trip?
A place that is always worth visiting, very central in Europe and very beautiful is Germany’s second biggest city, Hamburg. Too often compared to Berlin, seemingly far off track if you live in the South, and sometimes annoyingly hyped as “the most beautiful German city” by its own citizens.
What is for sure is that Hamburg makes for a perfect destination of a hitchhiking trip from anywhere in Western or Central Europe. We took our chance from Enschede, the Netherlands.
Read about how to hitchhike yourself and why!
After two annoying hours in the cold at the entrance to the highway where those few who stopped for us were not going far enough, we were about to give up. We headed back to the bus stop, looking forward to at least a soothing restaurant visit at our favourite Carlina’s, but were mostly frustrated and annoyed by our failure.
A last chance was what we needed and got: A forlorn driver at the gas station next to the bus stop took us along and three hours later (all our four cars were fancy company cars driving 160 km/h on average…), we arrived in Hamburg!
As I had never visited the city before and had some time to explore it on my own, I retried my proven method of exploring a little of the beaten track: I started interviewing random ‘Hamburgers’, as I had already done during my visit in Deventer. This is what came out of it:
All alone in Hamburg for the very first time, a good idea is to start exploring the city from the harbour. It is a good spot for basic orientation on the city and simply a beautiful view. Walking along the waterline of the river Elbe, the industrial skyline with the hundreds and thousands of containers is very impressive.
In case you see people in fancy clothes, get ready to become jealous: They are probably about to board one of the special ferries taking them to the musicals on the other side of the river, such as the permanent show “The Lion King”. Something to keep in mind for next time!
Continuing to stroll left, Speicherstadt, the cities warehouse district, emerges. It has just been awarded with the status of UNESCO World Heritage on July 5th, which does not come as a surprise. Even on foot and during the day, the district is very beautiful with the red tile houses that seemingly emerge directly out of the water.
Iris Zimmermann, an older lady running a café in the district, explains that the best way to see it however is a trip on a small boat which glides along the narrow waterways of the HafenCity district.
Iris was born in Hamburg and never wanted to leave. She now lives in the countryside close to the city because her house was too small for children. “The city is perfect because everything is very close together”, she says. “The only thing bad about Hamburg is the limited amount of parking spots”, she remarks.
This is also one of the reasons why Iris would like Hamburg to become the Olympic City 2024. In November this year, the citizens will decide in a referendum if Hamburg will become the German Applicant City, which, according to Iris, would lead to a better parking situation.
Another ‘Hamburger’ in the warehouse district is 21-year old Mara who works at the tourist information and studies in Hamburg. She tells that she has always wanted to live there, since she fell in love with the city in her childhood. What impresses her most is how close the beach is to the city – also the place that she would most suggest to Hamburg newbies when the weather is good.
Asked about what to do in Hamburg on a less sunny day, she needs time to think. “There are so many things to do that I cannot even name them”, she laughs. “If I were here for the first time, I would simply visit everything. Jungfernstieg, Schanze, Reeperbahn, doing a classical Kiez-Tour. But after you have been here several times, you should simply find a nice café and relax!”
Taking her advice several hours later, I meet Lynn who is 27 and works as a waitress in one of the countless cafés at the Schanze district where Hamburg’s alternative and left scene resides. She personally loves the harbour the most and suggests some other places to go to. Over a delicious Chai Latte, I can go through my experiences of the day and realize that I have seen all of Lynn’s tips!
After a delicious Turkish breakfast at Pamukkale, our friend Yasar who moved to Hamburg for his studies gave me a tour around the Karolinenviertel and the Reeperbahn.
The latter is not so interesting by day, coming back at night for a drink is the plan. Yasar especially likes about Hamburg that the diverse city centre can be easily accessed. “Altona, Kiez, Schanze, Jungfernstieg and Eimsbüttel are so different but you can easily get from A to B with your bike“, he says. “This is what makes Hamburg worth living in.”
After my explorations of the warehouse district and the harbour, another peak of my day was a trip with the ferry to Finkenwerder – a cheap alternative to the classical harbour tour. The ferry moves you past the fascinating industry and also the beach that Mara spoke of.
At the end of this exploration day, I stroll through all the wonderful shops at the Schanze district, enjoy some great Sushi and then head for drinks. Cheers to one of the most beautiful cities in Germany!