Hamburgers and ships

Relish: The home of the Hamburger
And Germany’s biggest port

Ich bin ein Hamburger. I am a Hamburger. No, not one of those advertising gimmick guys, dressed up in a bun, burger, lettuce and tomato padding who tries to get you to use his fast-food outlet.

No, I am a resident of Hamburg, at least for a couple of days, where I will learn all about the original Hamburger, the rundstuck warm, the best place to eat them and the Germans who are quite happy sharing their names with the world’s most famous fast food.

And I will also learn first-hand how to detect a Hamburger if I ever suspect one might be approaching me back home.

But more of that later.

You want me to show you Hamburg’s most famous neighbourhood, the raucous, racy, party portside district of St Pauli and its main artery, the Reeperbahn? Right?

Or rather you want Stefanie Hempel to show you. Trust me, you really do.

Stefanie is something of an institution in St Pauli (pronounced Sankt Powlee), with her Beatles Tour and ukulele

What Stefanie doesn’t know about Der Fab Four, and particularly their teenage days in Hamburg between 1960 and 1962 isn’t worth knowing.

Rock’n’roll music: Beatles nostalgia

Stefanie takes our 25-strong party around the landmarks and clubs which made men and musicians of The Beatles and belts out their songs, both on the street and in the St Pauli Museum where she plays a six-song set.

Whatever else you do on the Reeperbahn and The Beatles saw plenty of that including the mud wrestling which particularly intrigued a 17-year-old George Harrison, you’ll not spend a better three hours in St Pauli than on Stefanie’s Beatles tour.

Taking you back then to 1960 and The Beatles boarded a ship with The Mersey invasion, St Pauli’s promoters keen to cash in on the American sailors’ huge appetite for rock’n’roll and save on the outlay of having to pay out for London bands.

The Beatles were bad at the start, junkyard bad, and had only an hour set when Hamburg clubs required four, the bars staying open through the morning.

Stefanie shows us the places where The Beatles lived (or more accurately existed).

What’s on the menu? Er, burgers

It includes the freezing storage room next to the cinema where their first promoter put them.

She also shows us a photograph of an angelic Paul wrapped in a Union Jack to keep warm and John smoking a cigarette for the same reason.

Next up is the famed Hotel Pacific where they stayed on their last engagement in Hamburg when they played the Star Club.

By this point The Beatles had honed their act into something that would in a matter of months become Beatlemania.

You can still book their room at The pacific to this day to stay.

The multi-millionaire Paul could, of course, choose his pick of fancy hotels in Hamburg now such as the sumptuous Reichshof Hamburg Hotel in the heart of the city opposite the Hamburg Central Station (HbF) and only a typically efficient train journey to St Pauli.

Going underground: And this is for pedestrians

Built in 1910 as the ‘Hamburger Traditional Hotel’, like the rest of Hamburg which took a huge hit in the Second World War due to its industrial importance to the Nazi effort, it has risen from the ashes of those days.

The Reichshof was completely renovated in 2015 and is now part of the Curio Collection of Hilton Hotels which is a hallmark of quality.

It features Art Deco design themes with the elegant pink light fixtures and marble walls and rich leather in the lobby setting the mood of luxury.

This being Germany too, service and comfort are to the fore – we were given an upgrade to a deluxe room. And this being Germany too breakfast included every possible cut of meat and every cheese known to animal.

Reeperbahn life: Meeting the locals

But, of course, there is one meaty dish which will always be King in Hamburg, the other truly global brand made in Hamburg.

It is no exaggeration to say that modern-day America was built on the immigrant German staple, the pork sandwich, the rundstuck warm, and is still the perfect go-to food to refuel, particularly after a trawl around St Pauli.

Dulf’s on Karolinenstrasse has been recommended to me and it doesn’t let you down, although I might have, the juice from my packed Farmer’s Burger drizzling down my front.

I might not have kept my dignity intact but I did manage to finish off my juicy medium-done hamburger and its egg, coleslaw and bacon filling.

You can soak it all up with beer though I passed on the Americans lite stuff, I wanted an authentic Pilsener in a Hamburger’s bar.

Guten tag; Brekkie at the Reichshof

Local brew Astra, with its anchor label is your only man and well priced at under a fiver a pint, and the scruffy Kitty Kay bar around the corner in Feldstrasse is a great pit stop.

You’ll see nautical themes all around as if you needed any reminder that this is a city built on its shipping. So when in Hamburg…

I jump on a ship on an hour-ling trip around the port through Hamburg’s renovated and historic Warehouse district and take in the views of the party ships and concert halls across the water where our favourite musicals are playing.

Renovation: The Warehouse District

A ship passes by bedecked in Lion King branding while I half expect Mary Poppins to fly by on her way to the splediferous Elbphilarmonie, or Elbphi to the locals, amphitheatre.

There you’ll find higher culture enjoyed by the great and the good, among them Trump, Merkel, May and Putin who all tapped feet together when the G20 summit was held in Hamburg last year.

But it is not all stuffed shirts and opera glasses. The Elbphi is for all the Hamburgers and the reserves queue is part of the daily ritual of the city.

Even if you don’t have time to take in a performance at The Elbphi it is well worth a visit to the observation decl for spectacular views of the waterfront and it is here that our guide Jorn tells us how to spot a Hamburger on your travels.

A night at the opera: With Jorn at the Elbphi

There are many stories, but one goes that a poor water-carrier, Johann Wilhelm Bentz, back in the day ran a gauntlet of abuse from the local children as he went about his daily chores.

They’d call out Hummel, Hummel. the name of the more popular soldier who had occupied the apartment before him.

And so when Hamburgers meet in a foreign setting they play out the scene by greeting their colleagues with ‘Hummel. Hummel’ to which they are met with the response ‘Mors, ‘Mors’ akin to a modern-day insult, and a turn of the bum.

Just like the old water-carrier is supposed to have done in days of yore.

I spot a statue of him as we take our evening amble along the portside and take the obligatory selfie, you can also buy little statues of him in any of the souvenir shops which makes a great memento of your Hamburg trip.

Let’s sleep on it: At the StrandPauli

Our last evening we also take on water… who are we kidding, we take on beer in a hip beach bar on the quayside.

Come again!

Yes, the Hamburgers have developed the area next to their Fishmarket as a beachfront and this is where the young hipsters (and us) go to recline in deckchairs and drink cocktails, after our hamburgers of course.

It’s great values too, two burgers and chips, three beers and a Pina Colada at the St Pauli Beach Club costing south of 50 euro.

Some will now go on into the Reeperbahn and maybe refuel in the bustling Fishmarket in the early and middle hours of the morning.

But as the steel of the boats on the water glisten against the twilight I feel stuck to the spot.

Me, I’m all about the Hamburgers and the ships!

TRAVEL FACTS

How to get there:

Jim flew to Hamburg with Aer Lingus http://www.aerlingus.com from 92 euro round trip.

Where to stay:

The Reichshof Hamburg Hotel for two nights for the sample dates of December 1-3 for a twin large room from 289 euro. Visit http://www.reichshof-hotel-hamburg.ie.

What to do:

Hempel’s Beatles-Tour http://www.hempels-musictour.deElbphilharmonie.de
StrandPauli http://www.standpauli.de
Dulf’s Burger http://www.dulfsburger.de.

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