Hamburg. Where to start with the pent-up feelings I amassed during the three months that we shared? First of all, Moin. Don’t you worry, I won’t greet you with the Bavarian “Grüß dich” that you so abhor. It seems only customary for the north and south of any self-respecting sovereign nation to disdain each other. The Munich populace doesn’t think so highly of you either. Just the fact that you embrace and even celebrate your own Oktoberfest instantiates your endeavour to be more tolerant. I respect that.
Here’s the thing. I find you beautiful. Not in the traditional sense of a uniformed Haussmann Paris or the archetypal warmth of quaint Italian streets. Yours is a particular beauty, constructed by dexterous hands of different origins and eras.
The contrasting edges and reflections of the modern Neustadt juxtapose the homogeneous brick and timber warmth of the warehouse district. The flood of green hugging the contemporary fabric of quartiers such as Wilhelmsburg provides a visual breath of fresh air, which makes up for its total isolation from the rest of humanity. “Island Park” indeed. I would love to recommend those sustainable makeshift apartments in Inselpark targeted towards immigrants and small young families, but a part of me values some sort of human interaction. But I have to be completely honest. What truly won me over was the graffiti that tattoos every surface of Sternschanze and St. Pauli’s more traditional skin.
Never before had I seen such grunge against a backdrop of the conventional. The fact that these neighborhoods are colonized by vegan cafes and the artsy decors might have played a great role in my fascination with the area. But don’t let that dissuade you from how much I value your mixed and integrative aesthetics.
My time in Hamburg was bittersweet. I was interning at a company where my rudimentary German provided a barricade to my possible contributions. Such was my turmoil that I wrote the following on one of those enthralling days:
“I went to work today. If it can even be called work. It’s an internship of sorts. Sometimes it consists of my taking four-hundred page binders and scanning each page onto a PDF document and saving it under:
“last name, first name, key word, date.”
This is when I feel more exploited than children in Asian sweatshops because I’m not even getting paid minimum-wage.”
But hey, thanks to those daily hour commutes to the suburbs I managed to learn key vocabulary such as umsteigen and Ersatzverkehr. I would fast-forward the 40-minute metro rides with daily Hoaxilla podcasts and NEON Magazin articles. My dedication to languages means accepting initial loneliness. It means accepting that forging friendships in a new city lacks immediacy and that seeming monosyllabic and dimwitted at first overpowers the ease of English-speaking friendships that that yield fruitless language results. I have enough experience to notice that once you ground a friendship in one language, it will later feel unnatural to switch into another. I valued German progress over social bonds. I clearly had my priorities straight…
As for my job, there is nothing more inspiring than working in Human Resources and seeing a bunch of qualified individuals interviewing to do things that are assuredly more interesting than what you currently are. It inspires you to work in anything but Human Resources ever again.
In the three months that I spent in Hamburg I moved into three different apartments, one for each month. One was a secluded, wifi-lacking Colombian family friend’s studio at Inselpark where I’m surprised I retained my sanity despite the nice upholstery. The nearest source of civilization was a ten-minute walk away in the form of a grocery store and a bank that wouldn’t change bills for you unless you were one of their clients.
The second was a first-floor window-less apartment I shared with a 40 year old graphic designer who looked half his age and had a penchant (and talent) for crafting half of his furniture out of wood and cardboard.
I’d never seen such 70’s drab furniture paired with decade old electronics and modern art decor. The last month was spent in the minimalist apartment of a fashion photographer whose exquisite taste induced recurring daydreams about my future as a self-sufficient homeowner. Moving around was a hassle but let me explore different sides to the city. It also provided for nourishing human interactions:
July 15th, 2016
“Dear Taxi driver,
Don’t ask me if someone is going to come down to help me with my luggage if you’re going to leave it on the sidewalk anyways.
Despite the inherent solitude that I recognized only in retrospect given my own personal circumstances, this is a city that cradles you in warmth and culture.
Hamburg, you have a flair to you. You clearly know about design and your color scheme is appealing, if shocking at first. Your complete unconsciousness during Sundays gets on my nerves, but then again, supermarkets closing after 8pm on Saturdays until Monday seems to be a European phenomenon. I could do without having to register at the local Citizens Advice Bureau every time locals move from one place to another and I would not be saddened if local gyms one day realised that some people do in fact like to work out before 9AM. Other than that, I only have praise. I praise your public library and your strangely picturesque railways.
I savour your artisanal Cafes and that bar with the Persian carpet-covered walls.
I’m not much for your bureaucratic hurdles but I am a fan of Franzbrötchen. I am a general fan of you and the harbour that soothes your residents with its breeze.