Hafencity Wine and Jazz Festival
When we woke up on Saturday, it was pouring rain. Luckily, the rain stopped by midday and the sun was trying to poke out from behind the clouds. On weekends, there are always festivals and markets in Hamburg, so we headed to the city center to check them out.
We parked close to city hall and walked over the Hafencity from there. Hafencity (Hafen means port, so this translates into Port City) has been in the works for the past ten years. As port operations moved to the South banks of the river Elbe, the buildings on this side of the river, which are on the fringes of the city center, were underutilized. Buildings and companies located here were acquired by the city; an urban planning ideas competition was launched and a master plan for Hafencity was selected in 1999. Part of the plan was the interaction between new and existing buildings, which was evident as we walked around the neighborhood. Even though the new buildings were modern and in different styles, I didn’t feel like they were at odds with older buildings in the district. Hafencity is still a work in progress, with its master plan going into 2020.
Distinct neighborhoods have been developed within the district, and one of them – Uebersee quartier – was hosting a Wine and Jazz festival this weekend. It was small and intimate. A stage had been set up in a small square, and a few food and alcohol trucks were lined up along the square. A bunch of tables were set up in the middle, and a discrete but very clean portable WC was visible down the way. I hadn’t tried currywurst yet, so I got that from one of the trucks… then belatedly realized it’s a vegan truck. Sheisse.
After the festival, we strolled through Speicherstadt, which is just North of Hafencity. Just in 2015 Speicherstadt (warehouse district) and neighboring Kontorhausviertel (office building district) have been inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Both districts are leftovers from when the port used to be on this side of the river, and they have been beautifully preserved. The warehouses are unique with their red-brick Neo-Gothic facades, and they form one of the largest unified historic port complexes in the world.
Right nearby is the Kontorhausviertel, an area of very large office buildings erected from 1920 to 1950 to support port operations. The best-known building in this area is Chilehaus – one of the best examples of the 1920s Brick Expressionism architecture style.
Now that I experienced the city as a local and wasn’t on a mission to see its major sights but just enjoyed it, I really started liking Hamburg. I love that it’s not as crammed as most other European cities, but it’s still well-connected with public transport. The river Elbe and its many channels make it so you’re never too far from water, no matter where you are. Hamburg is not top-of-mind for American (and even European) tourists, but I think it won’t stay a secret for too much longer.