I’ve taken myself to Hamburg for the weekend. Not to charge around like a mad thing, playing rabid against-the-clock tourist, but for a sea change. To be by the ocean. To write, drink coffee and wine. To be somewhere new. My feet are getting increasingly itchy these days.
We bullet out of a grey, gloomy Muenster, seemingly chasing the sun. It comes in bursts and I live in hope Hamburg’s harbour will be beneath a blue sky and winter sun. It isn’t, but there’s something strangely inviting about darker skies hanging over Hamburg’s eclectic cityscape. Its a pleasing confusion of quaint, stony lanes, industrial canals, Baroque and neo-Renaissance against nautical practicality, with colourful, graffiti-covered buildings lining the harbour.
I head straight for the water after checking in. I find it almost by smell (I have had to learn to compensate for my appalling map reading skills) and push up against the pier’s barriers, staring hard at the ocean’s activity, as if staring will make it jump into and under my skin. I have missed salt water, and even though Hamburg’s harbour is littered with gigantic cranes and ships and the water is as dark as the sky, it is enough for now.
In a café by the harbour, my wine arrives in a Greek style carafe, with a tumbler. My cheeks are still stinging, the wind has sharp teeth. I sit there for hours, well into the night, trying out my limited German on the spry café owner whose face is the permanent red of people who spend their lives by the sea. The walk home is the coldest I have ever been in my life and the wind chases me from the harbour side, up onto the warmer road.
Overnight it snows. I don’t want to get out of bed, so don’t. I don’t venture out into the city centre until lunch time on Sunday. Hamburg on a Sunday, like most of Germany, is quiet. There are a few cafes with their lights on, full of stylish hat-wearing locals and red cheeked tourists and the seagull filled expanse of the square that boasts the stunning Rathaus is speckled with people, but for the most part the city is resting. I join the red cheeked tourists in two cafes (and consequently completely overdo the caffeine) intermittent stops between strolling the clean, quiet, wide streets of the city’s centre.
The shopping looks, through darkened windows, brilliant. I have a list in my bag of bars and restaurants that I won’t make this weekend.
But that’s okay. Because I have no doubt I will be back.