A couple of hours before my friend picked me up from the airport, I sampled the German bakery. While I was wondering what to do in Hamburg during my stay, a circular icing covered baked good catches my attention called an Amerikaner. Strangely, I’ve never seen these in America or Canada for that matter, but Amerikaner it is. Biting into the Amerikaner, I notice how fresh it is. It looked like it might just be an unusual doughnut with icing, but oh no…, so much better. No, you can’t have a Hamburger! Hit the German bakery.
I only have Berlin to gauge Hamburg against in terms of German city comparisons. Berlin is a busy bustle of history and tourism wrapped into the past. On the other hand, Hamburg seems to have a different focus. Berlin is a little more gritty, and Hamburg seems more relaxed.
Arriving at a friend’s place, I noticed no dryer in the apartment. Washing machines are in the kitchen. Canadian apartments/condos would either have a laundry room completely separate from the apartment somewhere in the building or a closet somewhere in the hall or near the bathroom. Perhaps this is just a building age factor. The kitchen was quite similar to a friend’s flat in Berlin. Efficiently organised and rectangular. A vast window overlooked a park with large oak and maple trees. “There are maple trees here, but no maple syrup,” my friend Clemens comments. That’s quite ok; I didn’t come here for the maple syrup anyway.
After settling in and with the help of a friend’s old bike, I discovered a fantastic way to save money for more German baked goods. Biking! Rather than the Ubahn metro, biking in Hamburg is made accessible due to the bike lanes all over the city and bike traffic lights. So cyclists, don’t wonder what to do in Hamburg; this is a bike-friendly town!
This is also quite common in nearby Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where bikes outnumber cars. Most of the sidewalks have a pathway section of red bricks lined in one direction, indicating a bike lane that is Wunderbar for cyclists because you stay off main roads. As a pedestrian, you have to often check that you are not stepping into a cyclist’s way.
What to do in Hamburg: Wander around St. Pauli
Relaxing in a small yoga studio in the St. Pauli area, I listen to a yoga Nidra guided mediation and follow along with my beginner German. The asana is self-explanatory, so I follow along, observing and imitating the movements. The guided mediation sinks me into a relaxed mode deeper than most of my nights of sleep throughout 2 weeks of hectic Irish tourism and conference activities. I fall asleep.
The St. Pauli area is an urban neighbourhood full of cool bars, young people and hip clothing shops. The centre of which is the Reeperbahn bar lined area with wild nightlife. The nightlife culture in Hamburg began with sailors of the past that used to come off the ships in this harbour town looking for a good time. A sense of individualism, stickers all over street signs, and posters advertising events on abandoned storefronts are standard. Young people are on the way for lunch, coffee, shopping, work or a favourite in Deutschland, the bakery.
Back to the Bakeries
Bread is basically good at any time, with any meal, for any particular snack, or mood.
Exhilarated? More bread.
Eating carbs = a happy place
Let me break down the German bakery situation a little. I simply don’t remember Berlin having the same calibre of bakeries as Hamburg. I do remember a ridiculous amount of quality bakeries all over Europe on previous visits. Still, this time I really noticed and appreciated this German highlight. I also feel obliged to sample as much as I can in my broken German: ‘Bitte eine Franzbrotchen, Danke Schone. Und ein Amerikaner… Nein. Zwei Amerikaner!‘
Franzbrotchen is a Hamburg specialty flakey, flat cinnamon type croissant-like pasty and is best warm and fresh. Amerikaner is another pastry that looks like a doughnut but is denser and has white icing on top. I’m sure it is baked, not deep-fried and is totally delicious if fresh. I’ve had about 4 so far in Hamburg, and most of them have been excellent, excluding one rather stale.
Not all bakeries of bakeries are created equal. Sample plenty to be well versed.
A small filterkafee will run about 1.30 to 1.80 Euros. Like many other places in Europe, there is no additional tax beyond the price that you see posted. The coffee here is generally called filter coffee if it is not cappuccino or espresso. Sometimes also swartzkaffee. The cappuccino here is outstanding, so I’ll likely be often found off sipping some random fresh Deutsch cappuccino somewhere.
What to do in Hamburg: Visit Fischmarket
The markets here are super interesting with loads of fresh fruits and all kinds of fascinating items, the name of which I have absolutely no idea what the translation is.
The Sunday morning fish market at the Hamburg harbour has loads of tourists. So you get to watch many Dutch, German and Turkish stall keepers attract the attention of passers-by. Their selection of goods is appealing, but their loud, rambunctious voices equally draw attention. It starts at roughly 5 am in the dark, and people converge from both the nightlife the night before, as well as the early risers. Particularly low prices here beat most markets or grocery stores. Sample licorice-flavoured candies covered in chocolate, salted raw fish with onions, cappuccino or drink beer (yes beer at 5, 6 or 8 am) as you watch bands play in the main hall by the harbour.
The band played the song Zombie by the Cranberries at 7 am as we strolled in looking for coffees, but the beer was flowing. The Reeperbahn has shuffled its way over to the harbour. The hall was holding an Octoberfest party the night before, and it’s entirely possible some people never left.
This is like no Sunday morning market you might ever quite run into. If you like to indulge yourself with some baked goods every day, then there is no question of what to do in Hamburg; this is definitely a city for you!