Even though I was in Europe for less than 2 weeks, I decided to go out on a limb and take a solo trip to the beautiful city of Hamburg! Unfortunately, my trip had to be cut short, because Air France went on strike during my time there, so my 5-day stay pretty much turned into a 3-day one, which was not enough to see all that the city has to offer. I still tried to make the best of it, and here are some stories and photos:
1. The Reeperbahn Festival – I was missing Canada a little bit, and oddly enough, flying to Germany brought me close to some west coast sounds. I saw some of my favourite Vancouver and Calgary bands play, and was super stoked to see Brian work his magic on the cello! There is something about seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar place that makes a city feel both brand new and like a place that’s recognizable.
The Reeperbahn is a street filled with bars, strip clubs, and other questionable things, and it’s famous for having Hamburg’s Red Light District. It was super cool to see the whole area turned into a festival for concerts, film, art, spoken word and other creative ventures. I should have made better use of my ticket, but the time that I spent wandering in and out of venues seeing artists from all over the world was incredible. The air was electric, and in every corner (and even underground), there were bands playing from every genre. It’s crazy that all these people come to see artists they’ve never heard of and are completely receptive to it. A lot of the bars were jam-packed, and for one of Jordan Klassen’s shows, there were listeners lined up outside the window just to catch a few hints of melody. Not to mention, it was so great that even in a foreign city, there was a group of Canadians belting out the lyrics to all of We Are The City’s songs, and it all felt like an extended deja vu – the kind of “I’ve seen this before” that is good and familiar.
2. One of my favourite areas that I explored was Sternschanze. My friend Anna wrote me a guide to Hamburg before I left, and she described it as, “the place where all the hipsters live,” haha. There’s a dreamy coffee shop there called Kaffee Elbgold, and tons of cute little boutiques and unique stores that specialize in things like cabinet knobs and buttons.
3. If you ever want to meet one of the most genuine human beings in the world, you should meet Max! He and his family hosted me for the weekend, and I was blown away by what Germany hospitality looks like. I was so well taken care of this week, and my heart is full of gratitude. There were so many mishaps like empty bike racks, broken elevators, and endless ways fate was being unkind to us, but we kept telling ourselves to look at the bright side, and it still ended up being the best day with the best beer and the best food. It was not enough time to look at everything in depth, but if you only have a short glance at a city, it’s always good to have someone by your side who looks at his home through rose coloured glasses (meant in the best way possible!) and used to study some history. We went through HafenCity using every means of transportation possible – we biked, we drove, we walked, we bussed, we trained, and we took a boat, and I think a day in Hamburg with someone so positive, sacrificial, and has a heart of gold is better than a week there alone.
4. It’s hard not to fall in love with a city with so much water in it. All of Hamburg is laced with rivers and revolves around the Alster Lake, and Max told me that it’s the city that has the most bridges in the world (this still needs to be fact checked). I really believe that cities like this aren’t built; they’re grown from the bottom up.
5. “If you had a boat, what would you name it?”
“What does that mean?”
“You know the feeling of being homesick? It’s the opposite of that.”
6. I ask to stop while we are riding to try to snap the red brick walls and glowing waters of Speicherstadt, but my hands are too shaky to capture the light. A passing by photographer lends me his tripod, and I try over and over again, but it still doesn’t look right. We walk away and Max says to me, “It’s okay, we’ll just save a photograph in our minds.” And I think about how it feels like a well-kept secret that only we know what this place looked like at this specific time. Sometimes there are better places to store images than memory cards, and sometimes our hands are too clumsy to catch the light, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to do it.