You know that feeling you get when you see a great movie that you didn’t know anything about prior to watching it? Every scene, character and plot twist are introduced to your surprise and you never quite know where it’s going, but your imagination tries to fill it in along the way.
That’s kind of how I felt about Hamburg.
My parents had flown in for a visit and I wanted to show them something new. I’d had the port city on my mind for over a year and since neither of them had been before either, it was settled! We hit the road Saturday morning – Mom and Dad in the back with a bottle of bubbly and my husband and I at the wheel. #GriswoldFamilyVacation
We zipped up the Autobahn enthusiastically, ignoring all warnings on the radio about the storm that was brewing in the Baltic Sea. What’s a little rain to us Nova Scotians anyway?
We arrived on Saturday afternoon and checked into our apartment rental right away. It was super spacious and absolutely adorable. The old wooden floors, large windows and crown mouldings were stunning – I could have moved right in!
Thanks again Hamburg Homes for the sweet hook-up while we were in town!
Now, as you probably know, Hamburg isn’t exactly surrounded by rolling vineyards and wineries. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a prime location for a wine-lover like me to want to hang around. The city has a TON to offer if you’re feeling parched or peckish, and we had a pretty decent set of arrangements lined up!
On our first evening we hit up Vlet in der Speicherstadt which is located in the HafenCity district on the canals. ‘Speicherstadt’ is German for ‘warehouse district’ and Hamburg’s just happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage site and is absolutely breathtaking – especially in the evening. A must-see for all you Restoration Hardware loft-loving design fanatics.
We hailed a cab just in time to beat the rain, which was hammering down horizontally by the time we arrived to our reservation.
After a fantastic dinner and the best freakin’ beef tartare I’ve ever tasted we called it a night. We had plans to wake up at 5am the next day to visit Hamburg’s famous fish market and were told to be there early in-order to get the full experience.
To be honest, I wasn’t convinced a single one of us would be surrendering to our alarm clocks the next morning – Especially not after the cocktails, bottles of wine and round of nightcaps that the manager kindly rolled over on the digestif trolly. But! Like my Dad has always said, “those who want to drink with the boys at night, have to get up with men in the morning”. So, at 5 o’clock sharp, off went the alarm and up we all jumped.
We headed out into the darkness trying our very best to ignore the fact that we had all so willingly sacrificed our Sunday morning beauty sleep for a pile of dead fish we knew we weren’t going to buy anyway. It was a quiet drive but we were there in no time. We parked along the water next to the boardwalk and headed towards the market. As we approached we started to notice that something wasn’t quite right. It seemed as though the majority of the dock walkways and bridges were underwater… and a park bench and a lamp post, and… ahhh, the main market building itself. Wonderful.
I guess the only fish there that morning were still swimming, because the entire lower street was flooded and the tide wasn’t even all the way in yet. News-crews were on-site to cover the story and the city water control had just arrived to close the flood gates. Hm. Apparently there had been a storm in Hamburg! Clearly we had just slept right through it. #whoknew
So how do you make the best of a dark Sunday morning in Hamburg? Turns out we didn’t have to get too creative, because directly across from the market on the only piece of dry sidewalk left in sight was a pub called Eier Carl, and it was bumpin’!
Walking in sober you had to adjust to the smell of flourishing hangovers and beer breath fast, or you wouldn’t last. The trick, we figured, was to get your own beer as quickly as possible, join in on the drunken festivities and admit that you do absolutely fit in there – no matter what the time of day. Because, as much as you try to tell yourself that you’ve never been the one up there, arm-in-arm, belting out songs you think you know the words to, with a keyboard player who calls himself Izzy, or Iggy, or whatever it was, and is dressed as a sailor, let’s face it luv… you have.
So there we were, drinking our beers and taking in the moment, when suddenly Iggy (…or was it Ziggy?) stopped singing to make an announcement. The water outside was getting higher and the plumbing in the bar had stopped working. The water was almost up to the door and he said we would probably be stuck in there for a couple of hours if we didn’t leave right away. Regardless, and to our astonishment, ol’Iggster invited everyone to stay and continue to drink! We took another look around at the enthusiastically swaying crowd and darted for the door! #CYA
Back outside we began trying to work out how we could get around all the water and back to the car. It was around then that we looked at one-another, faces suddenly pale, before the first signalled towards the rising water on the street behind us and asked sheepishly “Isn’t that the street where we parked the car?”
If you had seen how quickly we cleared out of the Eier Carl when we heard about the bathroom situation, you would have been impressed to see that we could move even faster. I should tell you though, and I do hate to burst the bubble, the car was not underwater when we got to it. Turns out they had closed the flood gate on that side in plenty of time – boringgg. So, we carried on with our Sight-Seeing-Sunday.
We had breakfast in the red-light district in St. Pauli, did the stereotypical tourist round on one of those hop-on hop-off buses, took a boat cruise around the harbour and then caught a late lunch at Coast by East where we enjoyed a bottle of Robert Weil Riesling before heading back to our flat in the Sternschanze district.
Now, even-though we had carted an overly ambitious amount of wine with us from home, it was still great to know that we were staying around the corner from a restaurant with one of the city’s best wine lists, Witwenball.
You know, just in case.
We stopped in to check it out on Sunday evening for an appetiser and a bottle of Von Buhl Riesling Sekt. The owners Axel and Julia have done an incredible job. The place is beautiful and the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. With floor to ceiling shelves stocked with an impressive selection of wines and an equally tempting dinner menu, it isn’t hard to see how they scored a 96 point Falstaff rating.
If you haven’t tasted Von Buhl’s famous Sekt before, I urge you to track some down. Especially since Mathieu Kauffmann – former Chef de Cave at Bollinger has taken over the cellar master position at the prestigious Pfalz winery.
Monday was our last full day in the city and we headed back towards the water for our lunch reservation at German celebrity chef, Steffen Henssler’s sushi restaurant, Henssler Henssler.
After a couple bottles of Sancerre, about a ton of sushi and a boat full of assorted desserts we were on our way, and good God… I’m still thinking about the food today.
It was sushi heaven.
During lunch (sometime around the end of the second bottle of wine) I booked us in for an ‘Evening Lights Canal Tour’ for that night. We rolled out of Henssler Henssler, bundled up in our warmest clothing and headed for the pier in search of our lovely bateau. When we arrived, to our surprise, we were pointed towards the exact same boat we had been on the day before, and it would in no lifetime, ever, be fitting into the city canals like we had imagined. I had obviously booked the wrong boat.
Sancerre 1: Jana: 0
The bartender onboard definitely recognised us from the day before – I assume they don’t get too many repeat visitors over the span of a weekend. We made the best of my screw-up and drank our share of the bar dry as we watched the fully-lit Queen Mary II sail off into the darkness from the upper deck. Hamburg is as pretty by night as it is by day, especially since the completion of the Elbphilharmonie, which stands gloriously at the rivers edge. It may not have been the night we planned, but it was still a perfect ending to our stay.
I will definitely be back.
Huge thanks to HamburgHomes, Natalie and Steffen at Henssler Henssler, Julia & Axel at Witwenball, Florian at Vlet and most of all, to my incredible parents for making the journey from LA (through NINE timezones) to spend the week with us. ❤