In the past five days, I have sent near-identical messages to friends in response to “How is Hamburg treating you?“…so I figured it was time for another update!
We have been in Hamburg four months now and it has gone very quickly. January was a stressful blur – trying to familiarise ourselves with a new city, settling into new jobs, coping with harsh wintery conditions, trying to avoid slipping over on icy pavements (my boyfriend managed this…I did not), dealing with unreliable home internet, mobile phone problems and all these other hurdles Hamburg threw at us. You can read about my first impressions of Hamburg here! Luckily I am much less grumpier now. We did some exploring of our local area; Eimsbüttel (and nearby Sternschanze) and had some nice meals out. However the majority of our evenings were spent indoors, hibernating and watching Planet Earth II (amongst the frequent buffering of shoddy internet). That baby iguana vs the army of snakes scene! Watch it here….then watch all the Planet Earth episodes because they are amazing.
Then February arrived. We left our Air B&B apartment and moved into a stylish, modern apartment in the area Uhlenhorst which we fell in love with. Normally it would have been waaaay out of our budget but the couple we were subletting from were going abroad for two months and were struggling to find tenants for such a short time, so we got a great discount. On first impressions, Uhlenhorst was a little quiet for my liking. Our apartment faced onto the ‘outer lake’ – Außenalster – so there were spectacular sunsets every evening.
(If you want to see more examples of Hamburg’s incredible sunsets, check out my Instagram page)
From our Uhlenhorst apartment, you couldn’t see any non-residential buildings so it felt quite secluded. However a little exploring showed us that the area has the best of both worlds. It WAS quiet, there was no street noise or nearby rowdy restaurants (the Germans know how to do double-glazing!). However, if you walk a few minutes in one direction, you’re in St Georg, a lively, dynamic, LGBT-centric neighbourhood with lots of bars, restaurants, supermarkets and a gelateria which always had a queue out the door the minute the sun peaked out.
Ten minutes in the other direction and you are in the heart of Uhlenhorst. Along the main road (so long it changes name several times from Hofweg to Mühlenkamp to Dorotheenstraße), you can find a plethora of restaurants, cafes, cocktail bars, delis, bakeries, supermarkets, high street and boutique shops. I met my friend Kat at one of these cafes early on a Thursday morning and was surprised – and relieved! – to find that she had bagged the last remaining table. The room was packed with yummy mummies catching up with friends, students with messy bun hairstyles and slouchy off-the-shoulder jumpers carefully sipping chai lattes, bookworms lost in literary lands, bloggers hammering away on keyboards and handsome bearded dads bouncing their offspring on their laps while catching up with their equally handsome, bearded friends. Every café along this long, winding street was full of the same.
In February, we started to get out a bit more, inviting some friends for dinner (to show off our swanky sublet….and my boyfriend’s cooking skillz), going to some expat meetups and exploring more areas of the city, like Saint Pauli; heavily-graffitied, scruffy and full of character.
My parents visited us mid-Feb and despite the poor weather, we had a fantastic weekend. We behaved like tourists:
- Visiting St Michaelis church, appreciating its beautiful interior. Next time we visit, on a clear day, we will take the lift up 106 metres for the panoramic view of the city.
- Having lots of good meals, the best being a delicious seafood dinner at Liman, a restaurant I would really recommend. It is pricey but we were all impressed with the quality of the fish, the service and the general ambience.
- Waking up very early on Sunday morning to visit the Fischmarkt. A bustling fish, fruit and vegetable market which opens at 7am (and even earlier in the summer). We arrived nearer to 9 to find a live band, people drinking and dancing, market stalls, places to get a traditional fish sandwich breakfast (with coffee or beer if you prefer!) and thousands of opportunistic seagulls
- Visiting Miniatur Wunderland, the most popular tourist attraction in Hamburg. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was really fun looking at all the intricate details and different locations. I enjoyed the Hamburg models but the best part, for me, were the models of Italy – I found the Amalfi coast, Bomarzo park (which so few people have even heard of) and of course the spectacular sights of Rome. The Rome models included my favourite street art on via Porto Fluviale. I got quite emotional seeing the building that I used to live so close to and had photographed every inch of it. I remembered a very random evening when Ian and I went inside (the first and only time – usually the doors were locked). We heard music radiating from the building and, feeling adventurous and a little uncertain, crept through an open door to find a courtyard full of people – not sure where from but not Italians – listening to music, dancing, playing games and serving a communal dinner from huge tubs. They didn’t mind us gatecrashing so I bought a €3 mojito and we sat on a bench, soaking up the atmosphere and tapping our toes to songs we couldn’t understand a word of.
March arrived and passed quickly. We went out for several dinners, including meals with some lovely couples we have befriended. Everyone we have met so far has been really friendly and a nice mix of different nationalities. I’m happy to also be meeting Germans, mostly through their expat wives and girlfriends, as I had heard it was difficult to socialise with locals because they tend to stay within their long-standing friendship groups. Some of the restaurants I’ve recently visited include Bairro Alto (Portuguese), Taverna Kamiros (where they forgot my halloumi side dish, tut tut!) and Edelsatt (good burgers!).
We spent many hours lying on the grass by the lake, whenever it was warm & sunny. There was a great, chilled-out atmosphere there (and occasional firemen when BBQers set the rubbish bins on fire by mistake!)
We made our first visit to the Hamburg Dom – a month-long funfare which comes to Hamburg three times a year. When we first went, it was raining (and luckily quite empty) but we will be back in better weather to go on some of the rides and buy some overpriced sugary snacks!
We went to a “bier and wurst” food festival in Altona (so very German!) which actually offered a wide range of food; dumplings, burgers, pulled pork, tacos, curries, cakes, cookies, cupcakes, wine, beer, cocktails along with arts & craft stalls.
We had a lovely day trip to Bremen, 1.5 hours from Hamburg by coach (shorter by train but the coach tickets were a bargain!), which I will do a separate post about.
Now it’s April and we’ve moved out of our Uhlenhorst sublet to an apartment in Eimsbüttel. This one is permanent, with an open-ended contract, so we can finally unpack and settle! This photo was taken on our new terrace, which is going to be my new sunbathing & reading spot, which we’ll fill with flowers and herbs. We are happy with our new home and being in buzzing Eimsbüttel. On our street alone, there are 10+ restaurants & cafes I want to try. Plus eine eisdiele (icecream parlor) which seems popular morning, noon and night. We will have to check it out and see if how it compares to Italian gelato 😉
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow