Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Urban, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More

Music

A Green and Blue Metropolis

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA

Hamburg is a city state, but instead of being a towering metropolis like New York, it’s a comfortable, human-sized city of tight-knit neighborhoods and lots of trees. Thus, it is green and chock full of low-rise buildings, which makes for pleasant walking. Oh, there are some areas redolent of Chicago, with its comparable “el” train circling a loop above ground, its viaducts sporting wall murals, and power lines scratching the sky. But unlike Chicago (or virtually any American city), many Germans prefer to bicycle about, and so the roads are not as congested.



Hamburg folks chill on the Outer Alster / Photo: Hamburg Marketing GmbH



Bicycle paths are delineated by a red stone pathway on the wide sidewalks – safe from automobile traffic, their boundaries understood by pedestrians. Autos, scooters, bikes and pedestrian traffic intermingle seamlessly. People will drive fast, but not aggressively – nary a horn did honk, a tire did skid, a driver was heard cursing out his window during our visit.


Bicycle in St. Pauli / Photo: Sarah Zupko

Bicycle in St. Pauli / Photo: Sarah Zupko


As we make our way about the city streets, quite unlike our German counterparts, we jaywalk. It’s a sensible way to get about on foot whilst in American cities, providing one is constantly vigilant about the cars that speed, push a light, or “roll through” a stop sign. Crossing the streets in our city is a matter of common sense and nerve and requires perhaps, our German friends might think, a bit of foolishness.


At first while in Hamburg, we stand at a traffic-free street with our fellow man, some amongst us quite clear-headed like us, probably going to / returning from work or an errand, others inebriated on a Friday or Saturday night, open bottle of beer in hand (quite legal, so long as one is at least 16 years old) – but all waiting for the pedestrian light signaling it is safe to cross the street. Gradually, we wonder why we are standing at a traffic-free intersection we could easily cross and so – looking both ways—we begin to defy the pedestrian signal. And every time we set foot into the street, damn if that signal doesn’t change from red to green before our second step. It’s as if we simply cannot break the rule, no matter how we try.


It seems we are lucky in our transgressions, as we might have been fined for violating the pedestrian Don’t Walk signal, should a Polizist (policeman) nab us. Nor does anyone in Hamburg openly scold us for our transgression of the rules, as we understand Germans might do. Apologies to our German friends for this rather childlike rule breaking, but it feels as if we’re getting away with a little something … this time, anyway.


St. Pauli area / Photo: Sarah Zupko

St. Pauli area / Photo: Sarah Zupko


Our colleagues head for a weekly flea market and the trendy boutiques in the Karoviertel at St. Pauli where they will find: the latest from Beifall, Hamburg’s oldest textile supplier and first Vintage shop; Sium Slinky; Lucky Lucy, gothic punk and rock ‘n’ roll clothes; Kissy Suzuki; Tazuma and Goldmarie at Decoy;Anna Fuchs; Evangeline van Niekerk’s designs at Krefeld; and many more. We veer off to find the Rathaus (Hamburg City Hall), a beautiful combination of Italian and northern German Renaissance architecture. Within walking distance of the Rathaus, wealthy tourists and comfortable locals stroll the posh Europapassage and Jungfernstieg shopping areas, eyeing the latest from high-end designers. Outdoor cafes are crowded on this cool, sunny day and in typical German style, those lucky enough to snag a table are encouraged to linger, to indulge in a bit of Gemütlichkeit.


Courtyard of the Hamburg Rathaus / Photo: Sarah Zupko

Courtyard of the Hamburg Rathaus / Photo: Sarah Zupko


Inside the Hamburg Rathaus / Photo: Sarah Zupko

Inside the Hamburg Rathaus / Photo: Sarah Zupko


Knocking at the Doors of History
The BallinStadt: Port of Dreams – Emigrant World Hamburg is off the beaten track, but accessible by bus and train, and well worth the effort. Housed in two remaining “Emigrants’ Halls” where immigrants, many of them economic refugees from Central Europe, were processed. The museum is deceptively simple in its presentation, and slightly dated (the identity of many ethnic groups processed are still being collected, and an image of New York still shows the Twin Towers – the irony is not lost on us, as some of the 9/11 pilots resided for a time in Hamburg).


The BallinStadt: Port of Dreams - Emigrant World Hamburg / Photo: Ballinstadt

The BallinStadt: Port of Dreams - Emigrant World Hamburg / Photo: Ballinstadt


The story of Albert Ballin who saw a need for safe clean shelter, food and medical care for immigrants, is dovetailed by his creation of the first luxury cruise ship. From safe passage to luxurious transit, Ballin’s vision of what could be done for travelers of all stripes is a wonderful story. The stories of people who passed through these doors will absorb one’s entire afternoon and resonate long after, especially for so many Americans whose ancestors came through the port of Hamburg on their way to America. So much of what the American people and their history are comprised of can be traced to this very place.


Computer terminals accessing the Ancestry.com databases are available for anyone who wants to type in a family name and trace their ancestry. Meanwhile, the archive continues to grow.


The BallinStadt: Port of Dreams - Emigrant World Hamburg / Photo: Ballinstadt

The BallinStadt: Port of Dreams - Emigrant World Hamburg / Photo: Ballinstadt


 

Images
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.