Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany, and the second-largest active port in Europe. I could probably just end the post there. It is not really a tourist city, save for its red-light district in St. Pauli – the Reeperbahn. Consequently, during the day I spent most of my time wandering around looking for things to see.
The Hamburg Rathaus is one of the most impressive buildings in the city (certainly better than Berlin’s Rotes Rathaus), and it was good to finally see water that wasn’t falling from the sky. Unfortunately, I missed the fish markets on the Sunday morning, which are apparently chaotic. Then again, if one of your city’s tourist attractions is your fish market, you really need to reconsider your definition of tourism.
Although being stuck for things to see in the city, I met an Australian in the hostel, and we took a sightseeing tour by bus. I had hopes that they would show me something I a) had not already seen; or b) could visit again properly. Well, the bus was good, in a way – it confirmed my suspicions that there really is not much in Hamburg as a tourist. That being said, I didn’t mind wandering around, as there were enough shops to poke around in, and there weren’t churches on every street corner. The long walk along the main harbour was also good, and something different from the other cities I’d already visited.
On one of the evenings we did manage to visit the Reeperbahn, though. I had an image in my mind of “seedy” and attached St. Pauli to this image, but it couldn’t compare to what it was actually like. Every ten shops or so weren’t sex shops or strip clubs, and homeless people littered the streets like cigarette butts. Groups of punks were throwing up in the gutter out the front of super markets, and creepy fat guys were slurring out invitations to the “life shows” (sic) going on inside their club of employment. I fully expected the median age of the visitors to be something around 20-25, but in reality it was more like 50-55. It’s as if all that was dodgy about Hamburg was distilled and poured between the suburban borders of St. Pauli. It was great. The place had a disgusting character about it that was charming and hilarious, and it’s no wonder it attracts so many people in what is an otherwise boring city.
Highlight: The Reeperbahn. It’s practically the only thing with a pulse in the city, and although the beer was expensive and the food crap, I didn’t get VD from stepping onto the street.