You know where is a lovely city to visit? Hamburg. Know when it’s an inconvenient time to visit? Right before the G20 summit. Whoops.
We’d heard from numerous people how much fun Hamburg was, with its rich downtown & various “up & coming” artsy areas. Its listed on a “go here - not there” type of review of major European cities. Plus, it was on our train route to Berlin so we decided to stop over for a few days. We seemed to neglect checking the world event calendar prior to booking.
If you haven’t heard of the G20 Summit, it is expected to cause quite the stir with numerous planned protests (several expected to be violent by nature) with thousands of participants & just a few “fairly well known” characters in the area. Once we realized the summit was happening, we made the decision to cut our trip a bit short, leaving the day prior to start, as we didn’t want to bail on seeing the city completely. Even so, there were plenty of protests beginning while we were there; businesses & neighborhoods began to brace for what could turn messy. Signs, like the one below, were noticeable around the streets in what we assume means they hope violent protesters and/or rioters may spare their stores if it comes to that.
Upon our arrival in town, we were met by a massive police presence along the lines that neither of us had ever seen; even when Ben traveled through Kashmir, militarily controlled, it seemed less tense. Chatting with several locals at the bars, everyone agreed it left a weird mood in the city. We made the decision to leave early the morning of the 6th, ahead of the “Welcome to Hell” protest beginning.
The timing really was a shame, even in the few short days we could appreciate that Hamburg is a unique city. The historical importance as a major port led to the impressive growth of the city but also made it a strategic target during WWII. As a port, many notable shipping companies still call the city home today, but probably my favorite story we heard along our walking tour was of The F. Laesiz Group. Carl Laesiz had a statue of a poodle (pudel) placed atop their main building & one of his flagships was christened “poodle” after his wife. Apparently, her hair resembled a poodle earning her the playful name. I suppose I would be flattered?
Unbeknownst to us, Hamburg apparently is the world’s 3rd largest “musical metropolis” after NY & London. The incredibly impressive Elbphilharmonie opened earlier this year & quickly became one of the worlds most sought after music venues. The most impressive of its 3 venues is the vineyard style Great Concert Hall. Apparently, there is also a beautiful plaza with great views of the city & beer tasting.
However, we were unable to actually visit the plaza or halls as it was closed in preparation of private showings for the G20…When we attempted to walk up we were yelled at by a very large German officer & barked at by his very big dog. Maybe next time.
One local attraction that was still open to the public & not yet affected by the summit was the Miniatur Wunderland (Miniature Wonderland); Ben was thrilled. It is the world’s largest miniature railway model & even named one of the top attractions in all of Germany. I will admit it was impressive - 15,400 meters of rail tracks, 9 completed exhibits, 260K+ figurines & over 50 computers to run it all. I was a bit overwhelmed, but I think Ben was completely in his element.
Amazingly well done miniature museum – yes it absolutely is. Really one of the top attractions in Hamburg & all of Germany? We decided to put it to a democratic vote:
Ben: Yes Rachelle: No
You can decide for yourself.
St. Pauli is home to Hamburg’s seedier areas & the infamous “red light district”. Don’t be turned off by this as in fact it’s a cool spot to walk around with a beer & do some people watching before grabbing a bite at a local restaurant or bar. Here we saw the heaviest amount of protest signage, preparation & gatherings, which was no surprise. We found a quieter spot in Clockers, a new but prospering cocktail bar with friendly & outgoing bar staff. It boasts a classy line up of cocktails & even their own house gin, which to be thorough I made sure to try & can report back that it is fantastic. Just look for building #27 down Paul-Roosen-Straße & slip in through their unmarked entrance.
By the posting date of this blog we know much of the outcomes of the protest. Unfortunately for parts of the city not all remained calm & peaceful.
Our visit to Hamburg was short & sweet. Though several locals we talked to wanted to know why we’d go to Hamburg & not other parts of Germany, I think once you’ve been here its’s easy to see its charm in the history & beauty mixed with its grungy, punk neighborhoods. For what its worth, we hope the city never loses too much of its raw appeal.