Unfiltered dispatches by our vagabond intern, Andrew Santis, who is studying and working abroad.
The night before I got on the train to Hamburg, I was very excited about arriving at Germany’s famous port city. After two somewhat dull weeks in Frankfurt and Cologne, I anticipated there would be a very significant change of pace going forward from Hamburg.
I knew my week in Hamburg was going to be great just from the events that occurred on the day of my arrival. First, the train from Cologne to Hamburg-Altona station arrived right on schedule without any delay. (A relief because of my delay-plagued travels the two weeks prior.) Second, my host made me feel very welcome in her home. Third, I found out about a beach overlooking one of the ports and took an hour-long nap there. And finally, I found myself in the middle of the wild afterparty of Schlagermove, the world’s largest Schlagerparty, in Hamburg’s Red Light District on the (in)famous Reeperbahn street.
My second day in Hamburg was just as eventful. I (miraculously) woke up very early at 7:30am in order to make my way to the Saint Pauli Fischmarkt. The Saint Pauli Fischmarkt, opened only on Sundays from 5am to 9:30am, is the go-to place for tourists and Hamburgers (yes, that’s the name given to residents of Hamburg) to go bargain-hunting for clothes, antiques, or food. In the span of an hour and a half (I arrived a little after 8am), I witnessed: the liveliest auctions for flowers, fish, pasta, packaged snacks, and meat; had a fish sandwich for breakfast; tried a “flat croissant”; and walked through the dozens of stands selling an array of products. The market ends promptly at 9:30am with the sounding of an alarm and an announcement that is heard over loudspeakers set-up throughout the entire market. Following my pleasant morning at the Saint Pauli Fischmarkt, I: went for a round-trip walk through the Elbe Tunnel, which runs beneath the Elbe River; visited St. Michael’s Church; went for a walk through Planten un Blomen (which is where I had a health scare when my right knee began to hurt every time I took a step forward); went inside the Town Hall; walked on Hamburg’s main shopping street, Mönckebergstraße; navigated the old warehouse district; saw the bombed St. Nicholas Church; and ate currywurst for lunch while I waited for a rain shower to pass.
The days that followed were not so sightseeing-heavy like the weekend was, which gave me the chance to do a lot of work from home. I loved my Hamburg home. Not only was it in a beautiful neighborhood with a small patio, but also because my host, Brigitte, made sure there was love, care, and joy inside the home. In many ways I felt that Brigitte, a retired single-mother, was treating me more like a son than a guest. Not only did she tell me life stories, but she also did my laundry (for a small fee) and even baked me a piece of cake for breakfast on my last full day. In return, on my last day, I went out to buy Brigitte flowers at a nearby flower shop and left her a gift of €20. There are very few people like Brigitte in the world, and I’m glad I was fortunate to meet her.
The highlight of the week had to be my afternoon at Miniatur Wunderland. Basically, MW is an exhibition of small-scale European (and two American) cities and landscapes with model trains running around them. The current exhibition has replicas of the Swiss Alps, Hamburg, Vienna, Scandinavia, and Las Vegas. The amount of detail that goes into each city replica is ridiculous. From what I read in the pamphlet I got at the entrance, Rome, Paris, and London are the next cities to be added to the exhibition. I’d love to see how those turn out.
Overall, I got a good balance of sightseeing and work done in Hamburg. Compared to Frankfurt and Cologne, there is much more going on in Hamburg. I was surprised how ‘wild’ Hamburg really is when it comes to partying. According to Brigitte, Hamburgers find any excuse to have a party. The ports, Hamburg’s signature feature, are beautiful to look at, especially at night. I felt good about Hamburg even before I got there, and I leave Hamburg still feeling good about it.
See more photos of my journey on my Instagram account: https://instagram.com/andysanty94/