Our first of two days in Hamburg had already been a pretty full-on one, taking in street art in Sternschanze, eating in the sunshine and getting spooky with a haunted Hamburg tour. Waking up refreshed after a really good night’s sleep, we indulged in a bit of a lie-in before checking out, leaving our bags at the hotel and taking a walk along the river and docks area.
It was another chance to see more of Hamburg’s wonderful architecture – including St. Catherine’s Church, which we’d been told about on the previous night’s Haunted Hamburg tour. At the top, we could see the gold ring, made from actual gold that, according to legend, was acquired by Klaus Störtebeker, Hamburg’s most famous pirate.
The legend tells that when Störtebeker was captured, offered a chain of gold long enough to enclose the whole of Hamburg in exchange for his life and freedom. The mayor declined his request, so instead he made another offer – once he’d been executed, his body would stand up and walk. For every one of his crew his headless corpse walked past, they wouldn’t be executed. After he was beheaded, his body rose and walked 11 before the executioner tripped him. The 11 men were executed regardless, and the gold found in his ship was used to create the tip of the church.
Obviously, it’s just legend and hasn’t been historically proven – but it’s a pretty cool story, nonetheless!
We’d inadvertently found ourselves in what seemed to be a more upmarket district than we’d been exploring previously. I wanted to sit outside in the sunshine and have something tasty, a bit special and affordable. Y’know me, I’m easygoing like that. Upon discovering that it was going to be pretty tough to find all of those qualities. Because it seemed like a lot of places were closed, and others had things I didn’t really want that much for prices I didn’t want to pay. So I almost had a hunger-induced tantrum. I have those a lot…
We settled on popping in to a little cafe bar in the square called Erste Libre, grabbing some salami paninis to take away and sitting on some steps by the river. One thing I picked up on in Hamburg? They like their padlocks. We found them adorning lots of bridges and grates along the way. Who needs Paris?
Rumbling stomach focused tantrum averted, we walked over to St Michael’s Church, one of the best places to get views stretching out over the whole city. Handing over €5 each for access to the tower, we queued for the lift. At the top, we experienced the 360 degree views over the city, which are definitely worth the admission fee. Once we’d had our fill of panoramic Hamburg, we took the stairs back down through the interior of the spire, stopping to check out bells and clock workings along the way.
Another story we’d heard on the Haunted Hamburg tour was that of Domplatz – the site of St Mary’s Cathedral, which was demolished in the early 1800s. There are now white markers where the pillars would have been – showing off the sheer size of the cathedral.
It was also the site of a fortified church, which Vikings attached and Christians rebuilt on multiple occasions in the 800s. Sections of the fort’s rubble can actually still be seen in nearby bakery Dat Backhaus. The perfect place to enjoy a coffee and cake amongst pieces of ancient history!
On our first day in Hamburg, we’d taken the scenic route to get to our hotel. Taking a stroll past the Alster lakes, we noticed a small boat hire station that grabbed our interest – and on day two, we headed back and rented ourselves a pedalo type boat for an hour. Basically exercise, right? We loaded up the boat with our belongings and took a couple of beers as we made our way around the lake, dodging tour boats and ducks as we went.
The water was a bit on the choppy side as we got further out, but it was a really fun activity with great views of lakeside buildings. And surprinsingly less tough on the legs than we expected!
Ever since we’d arrived in Hamburg, someone had been nagging about having a kebab. Yep, we sometimes do daytime kebabs. Sue me.
Instead of going full on dirty kebab and picking one up at a kiosk, we decided to dive into a Turkish ‘kebab house’ restaurant opposite the hotel that seemed to be really popular. So popular in fact, that there weren’t enough free tables so we ended up awkwardly sitting next to a German family, with just a tiny gap between our tables. The dishes were delicious – and huge – with loads of meat, cheese and salad loaded up onto our plates.
Kebab ticket off the list, it was time for Conor to head back to London, while I continued my German adventure a little longer. I checked in at the Generator Hostel, where I’d booked a cheap bed in a female dorm for the night. The headspace in the beds is a bit smaller than in London’s Generator. But for a cheap place the lay my head, it did fine.
In the evening, I decided to take a St Pauli, Reeperbahn and Harbor walking tour. Although I hadn’t been enamoured by the area during the day, I imagined it’d be more interesting by night – and I was right. Although I barely took any photos on the tour, as I’d heard stories of the local ladies smashing cameras, so I didn’t want to accidentally catch them in shot…
Starting by the harbor, we grabbed ourselves a beer for the walk. Street drinking is cool in Hamburg – just make sure you put your bottle by the bin, not in it – there’s a recycling initiative where deposits can be collected on bottles, and homeless people collect discarded bottles. So putting it next to the bin = them not having to root around the rubbish for it.
Our guide, Kalvin, told us loads about the history of Hamburg and the area, including the city’s most famous police station, metal outline statues of The Beatles and a red light district street where women are actually banned. Winding up by the harbor where the weekly Fishmarkt (fish market, in case you didn’t guess) takes place, I felt like I’d learnt a lot about the area and the ‘seedier’ underbelly of Hamburg.
After the tour, I did the rock and roll thing and…went back to the hostel and to bed. Because the next morning’s plans involved a 7am wake up time to check out the infamous Hamburg Fishmarkt before heading to Berlin…
More from Hamburg: Two Days in Hamburg: Friday
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