Monday, 9 September 2019

Hamburg 2

Expressionist electro-punk clubbers
(Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe)

Let's face it, say "Hamburg" to most people – most Britons, at least – and two things come to mind: the Beatles and "nightlife". The two are not unconnected, of course. Hamburg has been a party city for a very long time, with a bottomless appetite for generation after generation of entertainers of various stripes and degrees of sleaziness. My guidebook tells me that "Hamburg is renowned for its electro-punk sound, which started in the 1980s and has evolved and morphed endlessly". Well, I'll have to take their word for that. In my 65-year-old world, loud noise is no longer welcome (sadly, a liking for it 40 years ago has meant that my ears now generate their own permanent ambient-techno soundtrack), and my bedtime is well before the best clubs even open their doors.

But, out of a sense of duty, I did take an afternoon stroll down the Reeperbahn, noted the absurd "cookie cutter" Beatles statues in Beatles-Platz, and watched the bars and lap-dancing clubs on Grosse Freiheit sweeping out and restocking for the night's action. And I can report that Hamburg's notorious hot-spot looks like every other big city hot-spot when seen by daylight, and stone cold sober. That is, about as alluring as a puddle of vomit on the pavement. While I concede that timing and context is everything, I find it hard to imagine that it would look much better in an advanced state of intoxication at 2 a.m., either. But then my generation was fortunate enough to escape the "clubbing" phenomenon, except insofar as it it kept us awake until 3 a.m., waiting for our daughters to return home safely.

Things looked more interesting just a block or two in behind, in the area known as Sankt Pauli. Most cities these days have at least one postcode like this, where sleaze and criminality shade into subculture and youthful experimentation, and where various semi-outlaw tribes can co-exist uneasily, united mainly by a common dislike for respectability and its enforcers, the police. Given more time, I'd have checked it out more thoroughly, but I suspect you'd need a native guide to show you around. Curiously, St. Pauli features heavily in the Hamburg souvenir trade: even at the airport you can buy a black, skull-and-crossbones "St. Pauli" t-shirt. Why? Because of the football team. It's a pretty cool t-shirt, but I'm sure most souvenir hunters would be completely unaware of its significance, and in particular the anti-racist, anti-right stance of the team's supporters.

St. Pauli: a better class of graffiti


amolitor said...

As an American, "Hamburg" primarily means a cooked disc of ground beef inside of a bun on commensurate size, usually with lettuce and sometimes tomato.

Your Parliament is COMPLETELY BONKERS. I have spent the last several days essentially glued to

Mike C. said...

Sounds revolting, and uncannily like a Big Mac.

You get used to it, but yes, Parliament is a bearpit of insanity. "ORder! Or-DERRR!!"