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Hamburg by Night

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

Blog Post No.4 (14/09/2019) - Hafen in der Nacht

Some Context: Sometimes in life, you just get lucky. I don’t know if it was the hand of God or what that I happened to run into my friend Sawyer in Am Sande at 8 pm, but the odds were not in my favor. I was in the process of finishing an eight mile run that took my through der Altstadt Luneburg and out into the country, through the woods and fields to the village of Vogelsen. It was beautiful and I was taking my time. I thought that our train to Hamburg was leaving at 9pm and was therefore in no rush. Imagine my surprise when Sawyer said he was walking at that moment to board the train I needed to be on. But it all ended in a night to remember.

8:00 pm- Meeting in Am Sande. Sawyer and I by chance meet in the square, I had missed his messages online. He tells me I have less than thirty minutes to haul my sweat-drenched, hungry self onto that train that is ten minutes away from my house. No rush.

8:05- Back at my apartment. With a spring in my step and haste at my back, I quickly shower, get dressed up, get all the resources I need, throw together some dinner and get tickets.

8:17- Out the door. I’m walking quickly across der Altstadt towards the train station. Everyone must be wondering who’s in such a hurry at 8 on a Saturday night.

8:26- I arrive at the train station in good time, but the train is already there! I have to cross under the tracks to get to the right platform so there goes all pretense of cool and calm. I’m sprinting with my nice shoes and travel bag down the stairs and up the tunnel.

8:30- I slip in through the train doors just barely. As luck would also have it, I am in the same car as Sawyer! He is sitting alone and I expected others. He is as surprised to see me as I am to see him. The girls were sitting several rows ahead.

9:06- We get off the train and find ourselves in the Hauptbahnhof. There are four of us by now and we will meet Sawyer’s friend soon. We settle in at a Mcdonald’s (classy as ever) and wait for our supposed guide.

9:30- In the intervening time, a German seated to our right was listening in on our conversation over German social mores. For instance, Germany is a very safe place to be. We compared it to Italy, where our friends had dealt with pickpockets and molestation, or Paris which had similar issues. A German 5 year old can take the bus (full of strangers) to where he needs to go, but such independence would be child endangerment in the United States. This said German, stood behind Sawyer and grasped his shoulders firmly, saying that Germany was not like other places and therefore better.

9:40 We met up with Sawyer’s friend Adam and headed out. We were talking about Adam’s studies. He was not, as I and everyone but Sawyer had come to believe, a German. Sawyer said that he lived in the city. He actually happened to be ‘living’ in a hostel for a few days in Hamburg.

9:50 After a good ten minutes of waffling, it seems I know the most about the city after that hour and a half I spent on the streets one blog post ago. With me as a guide, we head off towards the Alsterfontäne. The streets are as grand as I remember them, a fine mix of modern hochauser and old peaked roofs. There are more canals here than Venice they say.

Die Alsterfontäne, image courtesy of Shanee

10:00 We arrive at the Alsterfontäne, a grand reservoir centered around a geyser of a fountain. The night air is cool and the atmosphere is lively. We spend turns riding a rentable scooter called ‘bird’. Common in some big cities, but not anywhere I have lived.

10:15 Our group pauses in front of the magnificent Rathaus. At last, I have made it here!

10:20 We make our winding way across the Speicherstadt. It appears my friend Shanee seems to have taken the tour I missed last Saturday and had some things to point out. She told me the history of various buildings, including a lovely opera house and some bridges.

10:33 Walking down by the canals. It’s beautiful at night, even at low tide.

10:50 We make our way out to the harbour at last. The lights were glorious. Every two years, for a couple nights they light up the entire harbour. And the harbour at Hamburg is the second largest in Europe. The blue lights are strung on every building and tower. My own photos cannot do it justice, so here’s a much better one.

All credit for this picture goes to Speicherstadt CBS Hamburg, 2017

11:30 We make our way to the Reeperbahn. We pass under the shadow of St. Michaels and two other beautiful churches.

11:45 The Reeperbahn feels essentially like a German version of Vegas. It buzzes with life, crowds and performers. The district also lives up to its infamy as ‘the mile of sin’, with gaudy imagery, glitzy lights and a carnivalesque reverie well and alive on a Saturday night.

11:55 As we wait to get into a Mat Hohenpa concert, I feel a tug on my bag and turn to face. One of the street performers had just put his hands on my bag and was just about to ruffle through. He has the appearance of a clown, festooned in frills and make-up. He waves his hands over my bag and makes a very unsettling smile that might have been equal parts an intimidating or a conciliatory gesture. We get into an unpleasant staring contest which I win. Clowns are strange.

12:20 We gave up trying to get into the discoteque with Mat Hohenpa because the line is too long. We instead visit another Discoteque that was quite crowded and I join a strange sort of techno line dance with some German guys. That was good fun until they played some of my favorite tracks. Then it was an even better time! I'll list the best here: ‘One More Time’, ‘Dance Til Your Dead’ and ‘What is Love’. What a roaring night.

2:10 Me and Shanee are enjoying ourselves so well that we see fit to visit an Irish pub together nearby. We are once more threading our ways through the careening crowds, past night clubs, bars and brothels.

2:30 The Irish Pub is a much more reserved atmosphere, very couple-oriented and somewhere that strikes a chord with my lonely study-abroad soul. The music was performed by a live band and the candle-lit venue felt spacious after the crowds outside. We danced to more than a few classic tunes, even some German rock songs I pretended to know.

3:10 I had known for some time that I wouldn’t be making church tomorrow, but I didn’t mean to spend the entire night in Hamburg. Shanee and I traced our long, footsore way back to the Hauptbahnhof.

"40,000 sons of this city lost their lives for you", courtesy of Shanee.

3:50 The Hauptbahnhof is nearly deserted. In the grand total 6 times I have been there, I have never seen anything but crowds. We nearly board the wrong train, but Shanee notice we're waiting in the wrong line at the last minute.

4:25 For the first time in Germany, I am truly cold as I cross over the Ilmenau river back into der Altstadt. The moon is somewhat shrouded over and mist-haunted. The black door at my apartment closes out the night.

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Janet Armstrong
Janet Armstrong

love the staring contest and line "clowns are strange"!

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