Just back: Harbour days in Hamburg

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It was the morning after the night before.

The overnight rain has diluted the detruitus on the streets but not enough to sluice away the bodily fluids and broken dreams.

It was early morning on the Reeperbahn and the final ragtag of drunks and smackheads were tracing their zig-zag path towards home.

A few had found refuge in a final glass of beer at the Sunday morning Fish Market on the harbour front, mixing in with the tour groups and middle-class couples out shopping for fresh fish.

Both were equally wrong-footed at Jessy’s reggae coffee kart — the proprietor was sky high, or a very good actor. Either way, he insisted over a backbeat of heavy dub, that his coffee was, “Lecker, lecker, lecker” to cheers from the camera-totting crowd.

I was here for the Hamburg Cruise Days festival [pictured above], a bi-annual parade of big ships to celebrate the North German port’s historic role in the development of passenger shipping from Europe.

The night before I had watched the ships file past under fireworks, the harbour bathed in blue light as part of an art installation by the German artist, Michael Batz.

I had explored the urban renewal of the Hafen City district and walked the streets of the waterhouse district, where the city’s seafaring merchants housed their goods in the days when Hamburg rivalled the likes of Liverpool, Antwerp and Rotterdam as a world port city.

Athen, as night fell, I joined a walking tour of the St Pauli district to retrace the Beatles’ footsteps around the city’s former red light district.

The ukulele-playing tour guide, Stefanie Hempel, lead us through the snake pits and dive bars of the Reeperbahn, breaking into Beatles songs en route as a paean to her beloved John Lennon.

It’s like John Lennon said:

“I grew up in Liverpool but I came of age in Hamburg.”

Check out a Flickr gallery of images from my trip.

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