Indeed, the northern German metropolis is mired in preconceptions. Us locals are said to be stiff, standoffish sou’wester and welly wearers who down liters of Astra beer and reek of fish. Well, that’s only true to some extent. To be honest, I have never once stumbled across a store selling sou’westers. I have come to believe that this handy rain repeller is nothing but a figment of British children’s book author Michael Bond’s imagination who used it to kit out his main character, Paddington Bear. London seems a more likely place for sou’wester lovers, anyway. After all, and despite any statements to the contrary, Hamburg is by no means the world’s rainiest city. Although people do love to talk about the weather – it is always present and different; on some days, it changes every few hours. Hamburgers, however, come well prepared. We do not whine, but simply reach for our umbrellas (always on hand thanks to clever canvas totes) or take off our parka to snatch a few rays of sun – without making a song and dance about it. Hamburg is a no-fuss city. That’s frowned upon and simply not in our nature.
And the city is beautiful. Aesthetes and connoisseurs are in for a treat. Hamburg is an architectural gem. Every once in a while, I take out my bike to explore new districts – districts where I don’t even know a friend or two – just to take in the stunning buildings of Gross-Flottbek, Blankenese, or Rotherbaum. Hamburg has boats and plenty of water, the city’s distinctive landmark – St. Michael’s church –, the yet unfinished Elbphilharmonie, the fish market, and plenty of pretty girls. 95 percent of Hamburg’s residents not only find the local deerns (northern German for girls), but their entire city attractive. More than 80 percent could not envisage slurping their coffee or Astra anywhere else. In short: people like living here for an entire armada of different reasons. The proximity to the sea (both Baltic and North Sea are within easy reach) and its port status lend Hamburg an inimitably lively and maritime flair. Well-defined neighborhoods and great infrastructure facilitate integration and ensure that newcomers quickly feel at home. Just keep in mind that long-standing natives are likely to “treat” you to the odd local wisdom on their city – unwanted and free of charge – at the nearest corner or kiosk. That’s the way it is. That’s home.
At the same time, those looking for constant reinvention and inspiration might be better off giving Hamburg a miss. The northern German metropolis does not chase the latest trends or adventures. It is no international beauty and in a different league from Berlin or New York’s buzzing madness. Those born here – or attracted by the city’s appeal – love Hamburg’s understated and down-to-earth nature. Sure, it might take a while to get used to this Nordic nonchalance. But once things have clicked … it tends to be forever, here in Hamburg. With heart, anchor, and everything else.
Text: Agi Habryka
Header image: dinxda / photocase.com