Sunday, 1 September 2013

Haaaaaambuuuuuurg, Haaaaaaambuuuuuurg, Haaaaaam - Buuuuurg!

The first two lifts of on our journey between Amsterdam and Hamburg came from two different ends of the hitching spectrum. the first from an older guy who used to hitchhike himself when he was younger that took us to a petrol station on the motorway, and the second from a young guy who had never picked up hitchers before but was heading in our direction and took us as far as a petrol station at the Dutch/German border. And then nothing. In terms of traffic flow this station was dead, and standing with our thumbs out and our sign up was proving completely useless. We had been told by the older guy that had given us a lift that we should ask people for lifts but we had refrained from doing this as it seemed very unnatural to us. However a couple of young German girls turned up at the station who were also hitching and after asking people directly for around an hour found a lift and were on there way. With the sun beating down hard, several hundred kilometers in front of us and the day rapidly slipping away we realised we would have to swallow our pride and start asking for lifts. Despite making this decision it was still several hours until we found a lift, nearly 6pm, but we really lucked out, a lift from a french couple which promised to take us as far as Hamburg, but not into the city. Well by the time we got to close to Hamburg some 4 hours later our new friends felt they could not leave us on the outskirts of the town and insisted on taking us into a suburb of the city. All very nice and friendly we thought and we wished our companions a safe journey on to Denmark. What we didn't realise was that we had been dropped literally 5 minutes from the flat of my friend Mia who was going to host us! One short bus journey and 30 minutes of being lost in a flower wholesalers yard in the dark later and we were eating a much needed plate of rice and tofu in chez Mia.

Saurkraut, Kartoffel unt Wurst!

We spent five days in Hamburg, and we found it to be an amazing city with a lot to see and do. From a traditional tourist point of view we visited a few attractions. The Kunsthalle Hamburg is an enormous art gallery with a fantastic collection on display with pieces from the middle ages right up to today. Aside from the Alte Meisters I also really enjoyed a video piece called Der Lauf der Dinge (The Way Things Go) which I think provided an excellent analogy for the uncertainty of life. We spent almost a full day in the gallery and still didn't quite manage to see everything, so if your planning a visit make sure to get there early.

Der Lauf die Dinge

Another touristy thing we did was go to the beach! I hadn't expected there to be a beach in Hamburg but on the banks of the river mouth as it opens to the sea there are long sandy beaches that were packed with tourists and locals the day we went along. It seemed like the place to hang out on a hot sunny day and we all had a play about in the water and a lie in the sun. The sand was so hot that it burned your feet, but luckily we found a shaded spot of grass set a little bit back from the water to relax. There was almost an enormous boulder near to us which had been dredged up from the bottom of the river mouth. Our friend Julia told us it was called Alter Schwede (The Old Swede), and this name is also an expression used in a similar way to ‘blimey’ in English. I don’t know if the boulder inspired the expression or if it got the name because the people who found it were so surprised by how big it was, but what I can tell you is that it was so so smooth I found it impossible to climb up!

unfortunately the best pic I have of the views from the ferry

The same day we visited the beach we went for a ferry ride up the river using our all day travel tickets. An all day ticket in Hamburg costs about €10 and 5 people can travel on that ticket which includes the busses, trams, trains and ferry system. The ferry ride was fun, and as they say in the west its not a real trip unless you go on a ferry, but it was really popular with tourists and the boats were jam packed so if you fancy a trip doon the river in Hamburg try get on the boat quick to blag one of the few out door seats.

What I’d hoped would be another highlight of our trip to Hamburg was a gig from legendary US power-violence band Despise You. I’d ben pretty bummed I was going to miss the much hyped Despise You gig in leeds (although War Boys didn’t play in the end) and so when our Hamburg host mia told me they were playing the day after we arrived I immediately said ‘We gotta go, its gonna be wild!’ My first disappointment was the crowd, there was maybe 40 or 50 people there tops, I was expecting 100’s? Maybe it’s because it was a Sunday night or because there are so many gigs happening in Hamburg, but it was a pretty quiet and subdued concert over all.

The first band Government Flu from Poland go things off to a great start playing old style US hardcore with energy and conviction that was lost on the quiet Sunday night crowd. With the right crowd these guys must kill it. Any momentum built up by Government Flue however was sent to the bottom of the deep dark ocean of boring, condescending US metalcore when Between Earth and Sky took to the stage. Their singer talked like a minister between every song telling us how terrible life is, waiting for death and how “none of us” are happy with our lives. I wanted to go up and tell him that I was perfectly happy with my life, and anything else I achieve in my life will be in addition to the happiness I feel right now. First world problems mate. Since I wasn’t at home I restrained myself to shouting hallelujah and schnell during his lengthy tirades. Dull, dull, dull and total atmosphere killers.

So it was left to the mighty Despise You to try and save the day, and I have to say that despite a sterling effort from the drummer the damage had already been done, and Despise You's tired performance wasn’t good enough to pull them out the whole that Between Earth and Sky had left them in. They were still light years ahead of the band that played before them though. The highlight of the show then was left to an encounter with the drummer as he was coming of stage. I went up to him and said “Wunderbar, you are an amazing drummer” to which his response was to stop, think, and say, with a smile on his face and a hand on my shoulder “Danke schön!” Finally I was a real German!

a really funny street clown, more entertaining than Despise You.

Hamburg was a great town to visit with loads to do, the 5 days we spent there wasn't anywhere near enough. 100% my current favorite German city! Alas all good things come to an end and after 5 fun filled days we headed back out on to the highway to hitch back in the direction of Holland, which was, itself, another adventure altogether, which can wait till next time….

Also if you dont get what the title is about, check this link