Hamburg is a port city, known as the “Gate to the World.” It boasts (according to Wikipedia so you know it’s real) more bridges than Amsterdam, Venice and London combined. My little apartment (which I share with a super smart guy getting his PhD in quantum physics) is located in Wilhelmsburg, just south of the main city, separated by a river. The locals call our area “the island” or die Insel. In order to get into the center of the city, we can take a ferry, which operates the same as the public transportation system of trains and buses.
Living on the Island presents some interesting situations. One morning my train was delayed because there were sheep on the tracks (the sheep are used to mow the grass on top of the levees), and some of Joscha’s friends were delayed in traffic by sheep on the road. Who knew Hamburg would remind me so much of Oklahoma City?
Hamburg is trying to encourage more people, especially students, to move out onto the Island, since the inner city is pretty packed. However, it does have a rough reputation, and my mentor teacher recommended not being out alone at night. Slowly I think this attitude will change as the area becomes more gentrified. My area is fairly “alternative,” meaning lots of immigrants, students, hippie-types with dreadlocks, etc. We also have a refugee camp just around the corner from our apartment, and I always see lots of little kids playing in the nearby park. Many apartments have signs in their windows stating “Refugees Welcome.”
My bike ride to school takes under 15 minutes (we’ll see if I’m still biking when the high temperature is below freezing) and goes by the canals and through parks. It passes an old honey factory that is now a place where they show films, hold concerts, and hosts a cafe on the first floor.
After surviving one whole week in Hamburg, I am by no means an expert on the Island or Hamburg, but so far I think it’ll be a great city to live in this year. We’ve already been to ElbFest, an open air concert, Oktoberfest in Wandsbek, Reeperbahnfest, and a delicious Korean restaurant. Since my roommate is so lovely and is lending me a bike, I’ve gone through the Alter Elbe Tunnel and almost crashed into the masses of people on sidewalk cafes in Sternschanze. As fall becomes winter I hope to visit some of the many museums and indoor attractions, and ice skate on the lake in the middle of the city. I just hope I have time for all the things to do and see in Hamburg!