Anyone journeying to Wacken this year will probably find themselves in Hamburg for at least a day or two. A city with a similar population to my entire country, Hamburg feels very homely and welcoming. There’s a real bohemian vibe in some areas, and a seriously great metalhead subculture. After Berlin, Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city and the main port centre. The British flattened it during WWII, so most of the city was rebuilt after the war, although a stroll around the historic dockyards reveals some older architecture.
We spent five days hanging around the city, and when we move to Germany, Hamburg will probably be our base. We haven’t even scratched the surface of all the wonderful things to see and do, but here are some of my recommendations for Metalheads visiting Hamburg.
1. Miniatur Wunderland
Ever since he started his model-train building hobby, CDH has wanted to visit Miniatur Wunderland, so imagine his joy when he discovered it was conveniently located in the very city we would be spending a few days in. The rest of us thought we’d pop in, ooh and aah over a few model trains, and then go eat some more pastries while he inspected the finer details of the largest HO-gauge model train set in the world.
But, 4 hours later, we were all still inside, still finding mad little details within the intricate layouts.
Pictures describe it better than words.
Every 20 minutes or so, it would turn into night time for a few minutes, and all the lights would come on.
Everywhere you look, you see classic examples of the uniquely-German humor:
To find Miniatur Wunderland, get off at the Baumwall U-bahn station and look for the building that looks like this:
2. Medieval Markt
Of course, you have to be in Hamburg the right time of year (last year it was approx. 5 weeks after Wacken), to visit one of the biggest medieval markt in Germany. Here, you can buy lots of cool olde timey things, dress in costumes, watch re-enactors, jousting and sword-fighters, drink a lot of mead, have a go at archery, and listen to some amazing music. One thing we loved about the medieval markt was how if a person wasn’t wearing medieval garb, they were wearing a Wacken t-shirt.
3. St. Nickolai
One of the most interesting experiences for us when coming to Germany was actually the opportunity to see how history was represented from their side. As part of the British Commonwealth, all our recent history comes from British sources, who, of course, won the last couple of wars.
St. Nickolai used to be one of the five main Lutheran churches in Hamburg, but was destroyed during the british air raids on Hamburg during WWII. The charred shell of the spire and a few fragments remain standing, preserved as a monument to peace. You can take an elevator 75m up the spire and look over the city.
Visiting St. Nickolai, and reading the text and looking at the pictures in the Croft, we saw the other side – the side we never heard before. The German side. We experienced this again in Berlin, when we visited one of the air raid shelters. The experience had a profound effect on both of us, expecially my husband, who is born in England. Also, this burned out spire just looks SO METAL.
4. Baumwall Pastry Man
If you’re taking the U-bahn to Miniatuar Wunderland, you will probably be getting off at the Baumwall station, and if you do, you will likely catch a whiff of the Baumwall Pastry Man, who operates from a tiny corner shop underneath the platform stairs. I dare you to walk past without buying anything.
No visit to Hamburg would be complete without a visit to the infamous Reeperbahn, one of the most notorious red-light districts in all of Europe. There are brothels, sex theatres, a sex museum, bars, nightclubs and discoteques. There are several famous theatres on the Reeperbahn, along with cabaret and, well, pretty much anything.
Street prostitution is legal during certain times of the day on Davidstraße, a cross-street of the Reeperbahn. The Herbertstraße, a short side street of the Davidstraße, has prostitutes behind windows waiting for customers. Since 1933, large screens block the view into Herbertstraße from the adjacent streets. Since the 1970s, there have been signs saying that entrance to the street is prohibited for women and juveniles; however, technically it is a public road which anyone may enter.
We went down to an amazing little bar called the Rock Café, where the dude behind the bar fired free shots at us all night, the metal was pumping, but not so loud you couldn’t have a conversation, and the walls were all covered with cool murals.
After this, our German friend dragged the boys to something involving breasts. We hung around outside and waited till they came running back in terror.
The Beatles played several shows on the Reeperbahn before they were famous, and their stage antics and debauchery are legendary. John Harrison is quoted as saying “I might have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg”. You can see a Beatles landmark at the intersection of the Reeperbahn and the street where the Rock Bar is at.
Phew, sorry, it’s a little photo-heavy! But I think you get the idea – Hamburg is a seriously fun city to visit, and, if you’re going to be over that way next year, drop me a line and we will totally hook up.