I’ve met a lot of Germans on my travels, especially when I was touring the US. I’d say the only other nationality I run into more often are Australians. At least, that’s from a backpacker standpoint and is based on observations of hostel life. Germany has obvious historical significance due to WWII, Cold War, and the Berlin Wall. It has become an economic leader in the European Union, and I knew I would make it to there to check out the capital, Berlin. I really wanted to visit another city, though, so I always surveyed the Germans I met to get their opinions, and on a few occasions, I ran into people from Hamburg. They all said it was a very interesting city in Germany to visit. It has a progressive culture, it’s growing fast and is a good representative of modern Germany. Since Hamburg was literally on the way to Berlin from Denmark, it made sense to stop so I did.
Hamburg turned out to be disappointing I’m afraid to say. Strange, because it’s a very affluent city, and actually felt closer to a major US city than any other place I’ve been in Europe, including London. Experiences really are determined by the people you’re around more than the place you find yourself. I found this very true in Hamburg as I wasn’t able to meet anyone through my normal channels of Couchsurfing meetups and hostels. I made the mistake of staying at a giant hostel that was more like a hotel. It was a great party hostel if you were there with friends, but terrible for solo backpackers. I didn’t meet anyone, and hardly spoke to a single person for my time there. I also just felt really out of place in Hamburg for some reason. The low point for me came when I was sitting in a crowded cafe and an older woman came up wanting to share my table since there was no more seating and I was by myself. I couldn’t tell exactly what she said, but when I responded with the only phrase I can say in German… “Sorry, I don’t speak German”, she rolled her eyes at me. Perhaps I was saying “I don’t speak to old people”.
That said, the history in Hamburg is fascinating. It was a major industrial city for Nazi Germany, and also one of its most active ports. In 1943, Allied forces targeted it with a massive bombing raid that lasted for days. The number of bombs dropped had the unintended consequence of creating an enormous firestorm. The streets literally caught on fire and a vacuum was created by air being sucked into the flames that swept thousand to their deaths. It was definitely a turning point in the war. Around 43,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were left homeless. One of the most recognizable pre-war structures still standing is St. Nicolas Church which at one point was the tallest building in Europe. It was gutted by the fire bombing, but instead of tearing it down or rebuilding, the church was left in ruins as a memorial to the citizens who died. It’s also considered a memorial against all war and a reminder of what fascism did to Germany. Just some other random photos around the city…
The very top photo in this blog post is of the Rathaus or city council building. The photo below is of the public square in front of the Rathaus.There’s this warehouse district that has been renovated. The buildings are all connected and it feel like a mile long. The photo below isn’t even one quarter of the whole thing.Hamburg is a really happening city. I found a lot of contemporary buildings and construction projects everywhere I went.
One of the other highlights of my stay was trying Germany’s national dish… currywurst. It’s pretty much what it sounds like, a type of sausage smothered in curry sauce. It sounded a bit gross to me at first, but it smelled good, and tasted even better. It’s an absolute must if you visit Germany. I went back a couple times over my four day stay.I will go back to my former veggie diet once I’m home, but for now, experiencing a culture involves experiencing its food in my opinion. You can’t go to Iceland and not try the lamb. You can’t go to England and not have fish-n-chips. And if your host in Denmark offers you a traditional roast with gravy, you can’t turn it down. In Germany, you really should try the wurst, especially street food wurst. Delicious every time I had it.
The only other news to report from Hamburg is that I picked up a German SIM card for my phone. I visited a few shops and found T-Mobile or Telekom.de to be the best for my planned two week stay in Germany. For 10 euros (About $12.50) I got 100 MB of data and probably more text messages than I could use in 2 weeks.
It was worth it, as once again, having data on my phone was nice. With my phone unlocked, It worked like you would expect… I simply took out my SIM card from the UK and popped the new one in, and in five minutes, I was getting text messages in German telling me I had service.
So, all in all, I probably won’t go back to Hamburg. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, and wished I’d left sooner. It’s probably a great city to live and work in, but not my cup of tea. It just didn’t seem that friendly to me and I didn’t have a good vibe there. Sorry if you’re reading this and live there or have a completely different opinion. I was only there four days so take that for what’s it worth.