Hamburg – through the eyes of an artist

Traveling is my drug of choice!

To be honest, Hamburg was never on my list of top cities to visit. The only reason I visited Hamburg was because one of my artist friend was staying there and asked me to come for a visit before he moved. I did not expect Hamburg to so spontaneously sweep me of my feet and nestle its way deep into my heart. I am already planning my next visit.

When I plan any vacation I plan it up to the last detail. I know exactly where I am going to stay, what I want to see and also plan in time for getting lost and exploring. I stalk people’s profiles to really get wind of those special gems that not so many people know of. This trip was completely out of my ordinary planning schedule. Gumby – the friend – told me not to plan anything! He have me covered. Usually I would roll my eyes and plan anyway, but we have been close friends for years and share a passion for art so it is safe to say I trusted him completely. I rolled the dice on this one and let the chips fell where they needed to. I let him plan the entire trip.

Hamburg Station

I took the “not planning” thing a little too far and the train system was, well, German to me. I did not understand it at all. Which led to me getting off at the above station. It may look like the Hamburg station – but it is not the Hamburg Banhoff where I was suppose to jump off. A dying phone and poor WiFi connection led to further miscommunication. I sent Gumby a photo of where I was. He told me I was at the wrong place. In between lost connections we simultaneously sent each other a message. His reading: “Stay there, I am jumping on a train and I am coming to get you!” Mine reading: “Oh, there is another train, I am jumping on and I am coming towards you.”

Home Sweet Home

Somewhere in between passing trains and missed communication Gumby and I found each other and Claudia explained the train system to me. I stayed on their couch, it was absolutely fantastic!

In this foreign country in my little bohemian bed I found a little bit of home in his art and in Claudia’s protea scattered cushions. I was rocked to sleep with the sound of bells and and peacefully awakened by the sound of bells.

A day at the beach – Hamburger Hafen

Gumby and Claudia took me to the beach. We had a little chuckle because this is no beach by South African standards and back home we would call it a river bed, but it was picturesque and we had so much fun. The best part is it only cost us our fare across.

We treated ourself to some brutwurst and Pflücke with our toes in the sand while we caught up like only old friends can. They told me about how they love the way Germans use language to express themselves and how beautiful Germans write. They told me about all the weird quirks they are happy to put behind them and all the quirks they would miss. We literally spent the day because it was such a lovely day for swimming and being outside.

Hamburg Opera House

One of the most beautiful buildings in Hamburg in my Opinion is the Opera House. I am so disappointed that I didn’t make time to see a show, but it also gives me a reason to return.

Spot the Ship

Another thing that is unmissable in Hamburg, especially from the harbor, are the amount of buildings that are built in the shape of ships. It makes a fun game to see how many you can spot!

Sup – Like a Viking

The one thing Gumby knows about me is that I am always keen for an adventure. We did not go surfing but we did go supping (is supping a word?) and it was glorious! Who would have thought that the first time I ever paddled a sup would be in Germany in the very same waters the Vikings sailed through!

It is said that a fleet of 600 Vikings sailed up the river Elbie and burned Hamburg. It was quite an experience to sub up the same canals and river that Vikings previously sailed on a mission of destruction and pillaging. Our mission of course was one of adventure and beauty. I took a few swan dives when we started out but got the hang of it. The real swans on the river was actually quite mean!

The view was astounding and the experience worth every single penny. It was absolutely thrilling from start to finish and a good few hours well spent.


The Speicherstadt is one of the iconic sceneries Gumby insisted I saw on our walking tour. It is the world’s largest contiguous warehouse complex. It consists of 17 buildings. The district was constructed with the goal of building a free zone to transfer goods without paying customs.

The place feel like a mini city and we had lunch and cocktails near by. Many of the warehouses were transferred into offices.

Breakfast in Paris

The next morning Gumby insisted that we have breakfast in his favourite French restaurant – Café Paris. It is a quintessential little bistro in the Altstadt and the food were to die for! Both Gumby and I decided on the croquet monsieur. The ceiling was the thing of dreams and is nothing short of spectacular. Gumby explained that the ceiling tells a story of how important the balance between industrialism and agriculture are.

Although the inner city is not something Gumby found particularly appealing, he did want to introduce me the this little Art Nouveau gem. The style and atmosphere are very authentically French, maybe its the hint of arrogance in the air and the waiters’ French accents. It was quite busy and filled up fast. It was a glorious lazy morning. We watched the crowd stream in and read their morning papers while ordering incredibly good French food in the heart of Hamburg.

Mahnmal St. Nikolai and the Earth Angel Statue

After a very fulfilling breakfast Gumby wanted to show me a sculpture that had a big impact on him. The sculpture is near the Church of St Nicholas, which was destroyed during World War 2. The tower of the church and its remains now serve as a memorial against war. The sculpture loosely translate to the angel on earth. This sculpture, beautiful and striking in every way, moves any one who sees it in small and big ways. You can’t pass it by untouched. This earth angel has processes on her back that looks like scourged wings. She is naked with her hand stretched out to the sky. What I found most moving is although there are so many well defined elements, her face is not one of them.

The words at the bottom of the statue were in different languages. In English it almost sounds like: “Take my hand and let me lead you back to yourself.”

St. Michael’s Church

Gumby was adamant that we do not visit too many churches, but he wanted to show me this one and my photos does not do it justice at all. It is easy to understand why St. Michael’s (or Michel if you are a local) are one of Hamburg’s landmarks. More so it is also considered one of the most important baroque churches in Northern Germany and every year more than a million people go through its doors to attend services. The reason Gumby wanted me to see it was the dramatic white and gold interior as well as the miraculous panoramic views of Hamburg from the top of the tower.

I, however, am a sucker for a good story and this church have an unusual history of calamity and perseverance. In the centauries since the church was build, it was destroyed – multiple times – each time to be rebuilt more fantastic than before. The famous Hamburg composers Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Johann Mattheson calls the crypts in this church their final resting place. Another incredible tradition is that every single day for more than 300 years a tower warden plays a trumpet chorale.

Lastly the sculpture of St. Michael defeating the Devil in front of the church gives me a weird sense of peace.

There were so much incredible things to do and see here. We played scrabble in a pub in four languages (German, Afrikaans, English and Zulu) while drinking beer. We explored the red light district and the street art. We made our own art and journaled and just took this city’s splendor in.


Hamburg Fangirl!

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