Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Love Letter to Hamburg


My dearest Hamburg,

I have known you all my life, you were my childhood sweetheart. Strolling along your harbour, visiting the zoo, seeing my very first musical - our story goes back a long way. Over the years, however, we lost sight of each other. Or at least me of you. Then our paths crossed again; I spent a lot of time with you, both privately and for work. And I fell for you head over heals - and now I love you more than ever.

I know, some may say you are no love material. You are loud, you can be stressful. Your rush hours are maddening, your inhabitants at times quite rude. Your traffic lights haven't yet turned fully green when a chorus of horns signal you that you should have really started your car half a second earlier - and it's not the Italian melodic kind of honking. Your rain and changing weather can drive me crazy. And you are expensive. However, none of that will ever keep me away from you. You are not perfect. There are areas of you I better keep my distance from. Yet I see behind your flaws and keep discovering places that make me love you even more.

Since I was a young girl, I have loved your harbour. Hearing the rattling and screeching from the shipyards and port across the Elbe river, seeing the ships with the exotic names arrive and leave - I dreamed of the places far away I wished and wish I will one day visit. They say you are the Gate to the World but somehow you are a world in your own. There are not many places else where you can visit Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish sailor's churches in the middle of the Portuguese quarter; not many places else where it's easier to find Eritrean spices, Syrian yogurt and Afghan clothes than a German curry wurst in a street just across the main station.

You are a true cosmopolitan. Every third of your inhabitants has migrant roots. Little Italy lies in St. Georg, Petite France across the Alster river in Rotherbaum and the Iranians have made posh Harvestehude their home. Yet it remains your harbour where your heart beats the strongest. The scent of the Elbe and the great wide world hang in the air. In the distance, I can see the Elbphilharmonie and HafenCity glisten in the sun. They are so new, not yet even finished. But every time I see them, I wonder whether there will be people in a hundred years from now who will wander the streets and marvel at the buildings as I do in so many of your other parts.

Not far away from this new world is one I like much better: Your city of warehouses, the Speicherstadt. Its brick houses built on timber-pile foundations are a testament of your former glory. A glory that still makes you the proudest of them all. The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. It is the water and your people who have given you this glory. The abundance of water is one of the reason I love you. Whether its the majestic Elbe river, the labyrinth of canals it divides into, the elegant lakes of the Alster river, or the nearby North and Baltic seas, the amount of water is only rivalled by your greenery.

You can be obvious: Planten un Blomen - plants and flowers, what else to call a park? Yet you can be full of surprises. Your Dom is not a church, your Schanze doesn't need a hill, the "Great Freedom" didn't get its name from the red light figures that have made the street their home - and just in case, you also have a "Small Freedom". 

They sing, "Hamburg, my pearl. You wonderful city" - you wonderful Hamburg, you are also my pearl. You have no castles yet you offer me almost everything I need: parks, rivers, lakes and beaches. You know a good party, a wild night out but also a quiet Sunday morning breakfast. Coffeehouses, bookshops, museums - and just about the right amount of distance. It's not easy to get to know your people but once you got one of them as your friend, you will have them for life. You are active and you keep evolving. With you, there is never the same day twice. You challenge me and you give me energy like no place else.

My dear Hamburg, I will need to leave you again soon but know that I will be faithful. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder - and it's with every time I leave, I wish to come back into your arms even more. 

Until then, 
I love you.
XO

P.S. See more of my love for Hamburg over on Instagram.

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