Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A fast-forward visit to Hamburg. And the promise to return

After more than a year of absence, I returned to Hamburg in the last week of December last year. I didn't need any special reason but to see this beautiful city once again, even only for a couple of hours this time. On the way from the train station, the impressive building of the Opera reminded me that I am in a city with a very active cultural life.
Maybe I wasn't fully honest when I said that I did not have a special reason to come back. As a long-time lover of surrealist art, I wanted for a long time to see the exhibition at Hamburger Kunsthalle, featuring the main representatives of this art movement such as Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Victor Brauner, Yves Tanguy, but also artists relatively less known outside the connoiseurs circle, such as Leonora Carrington, depicting beautiful imaginary worlds. In a world already upside down, we still need the wake-up call of the surrealists.
One of the most impressive part of any trip to Hamburg is walking the streets and just admiring the architecture lacking any usual inhibition of keeping up with a 'golden measure' or a classical style. 
The diversity of styles is an accepted reality, offering equal foot to any work of creative architecture, from the massive game of stone blocks near the port, to the meticulously decorations of the city hall building. 
When I visited, it was the winter season, with markets and people hurrying up to buy the last presents. However, regardless of the time of the year Nikolaiquartier is always a vibrant destination for high-end luxury shopping or food. Unfortunately, this time I didn't have time to visit one of my favourite restaurants in this city, Saliba, where I always stop for a taste of the Middle Eastern cuisine. But, there will be a next time, no worries. If you want to grab a snack on the way to the port, I recommend Amber cafe, on Schaarsteinswegsbr├╝cke street, with delicious pastry and an elegant ambiance.
Hamburg is also called the 'Venice of the North', for its many bridges over the Elbe, connecting especially old industrial warehouses and buildings that nowadays often host hubs of creativity and family businesses. Out of the many city bridges, the best for a great view over the city architecture are Mahatma Gandhi Bridge and Wilhelminer Bridge
All the ports look sad in the winter, but the small white boats floating on the water bring more dynamism to the grey landscape. As it wasn't cold enough, the area was full of people especially children, running back and forth around.
There was another secret reason why I wanted so much to visit Hamburg: to have a look at the Elbphilharmonie, recently inaugurated, which changed completely the area around Hafencity. The much delayed construction project involved couple of controversies, but now it is time to enjoy the high performance of the concert hall and to admire the architectural achievements.
The concert hall can be visited for free, at specific time intervals. The entrance is free, but if you plan to visit during the week-end, you may be surprised to discover that all the tickets are booked hence the recommendation to get your ticket online - reservation that can be done for an additional 2 EUR. fee. At least, I have one more reason to return to Hamburg for a full coverage of the beautiful philharmonic. 
My last - and the most delicious stop of my trip - involved an hour long afternoon tea experience, at The George Hotel. Not before a slow tour of St.Georg area, with its many alternative stops and the mosaic of international food counters. Apparently, I just found out another reason to return here. Maybe I need to spend a full weekend for getting my friendship with Hamburg back on the track.
In other words, see you soon, Hamburg!

For more inspiration about what to see and do in Hamburg, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://de.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/hamburg/

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