16 July, 2015

Hamburg, specifically St. Pauli!

In case I've failed to mention this is a previous blog post, Maxim moved to Hamburg, Germany, last month to start a new job, which as been great news for me! Not only is he closer to me now than he was when he was still living in southern Germany, it also gives me an excuse to visit Hamburg, a city that I've been hearing good things about for years. Add to this the fact that I can take the train all the way to Hamburg for free with my student ID and you've got a winning combo.

Since Maxim moved about a month ago, I've been to visit him twice. The first time, I, in all my wisdom (ahem, laziness) didn't take a single picture of anything, despite the fact that we spent an entire afternoon sitting in a cafe having amazing coffee and then wandering around the harbor. (The cafe was called Stockholm Espresso Club, and if you're ever in Hamburg I HIGHLY recommend it! Oh, and get the cheesecake, too.)

This past weekend, I made the trip north for the second time, and this time I didn't fail quite so much on the picture front. After a lazy Friday evening in, we headed into the city on Saturday for the afternoon and evening. While we had split the previous visit between the cafe, which was toward the north end of the city, and the harbor, this time we spent the entire time in a neighborhood called St. Pauli. This neighborhood has a reputation as a cool, hip area with a lot of bars, restaurants, clubs and cafes, so naturally we wanted to be where all the action is. Our first stop when we arrived in St. Pauli was a coffee place that Maxim had heard serves excellent coffee.

On our walk from the train station to the cafe we got (well, at least I got, Maxim had already been there) our first taste of the neighborhood. I was not disappointed with what I saw. There were people sitting outside and eating and drinking coffee at every corner and the vibe of the whole area was very positive. Usually when I walk around in a city on a weekend and there are tons of other people around I get slightly overwhelmed and just focus on navigating my small patch of sidewalk, but there was an energy in St. Pauli that was contagious and I couldn't help being in a good mood. It felt so full of life. I wanted to stop at every cafe we walked past, but I'm so glad we held out for the one we actually had in mind.

The cafe is called kopiba and they advertise their "St. Pauli Deathpresso," which promises to keep you awake. Their slogan is "Schlafen kannste, wenn du tot bist" ("you can sleep when you're dead").

The coffee here (I should specify and say cappuccino/espresso) is amazing! My true test of whether coffee is good or not is how much sugar I have to put in it to make it taste good, and this coffee (as well as the coffee last time at Stockholm Espresso Club) didn't need any sugar at all. That's when I really know that what I'm drinking is quality. If my memory serves me and I'm not forgetting any other amazing coffees I've had, the coffees at kopiba and Stockholm Espresso Club are two of the Top 3 Coffees I've ever had (the third being from Stumptown Coffee Roasters in New York City). As well as having amazing coffee, kopiba also serves their cappuccino with a surprise in the foam:

Not only do you get what I described as an "adorable" skull craftily incorporated into your cappuccino foam, you also get a piece of biscotti and, if you're feeling adventurous, you can add a delicious piece of pumpkin cheesecake to the mix...

...which we obviously did!

After our Kaffeepause (coffee break) we wandered onwards through St. Pauli. We decided to follow some groups of very flamboyantly dressed people, which brought us to this:

What we had found was Schlagermove, a parade/street party consisting of tons of these trucks filled with people at varying levels of intoxication and blasting music at top volume. We hung around for a bit soaking up the atmosphere, but since we were, by the surrounding standards, very underdressed and not nearly drunk enough, we retreated to a park around the corner for a relaxing cuddle by the pond.

Our last stop before heading home was a burrito place called Jim Burrito's Cantina. I was excited when we got there, not only because I had to pee so bad and there was finally a bathroom, but also because they have lots of vegetarian and vegan options in addition to the regular meat-lover's fare. Maxim was underwhelmed by the food, but I loved my vegan tofu burrito! It was so flavorful and the portion was generous. I think I was the only person in the whole place who managed to eat my entire burrito with my hands; everyone else seemed to be tackling their food with a fork and knife, which I deemed to be unacceptable when eating a burrito and just dove in hands first, haha!

Once we had filled up on burritos and regained our strength, we wandered back toward the train station to head home. At this point I finally took the initiative to photograph the neighborhood a bit:

Unfortunately, scaffolding ended up in a few of the pictures, but you get an idea of the neighborhood anyway.

I took that last picture to illustrate a phenomenon very characteristic of St. Pauli: there's graffiti everywhere! This picture shows a particularly stark contrast between a fancy clothing store and hastily scribbled graffiti. Usually I don't like graffiti at all but somehow in St. Pauli it works. It adds to the charm rather than making the neighborhood look trashy like it does in many places.

All in all a very successful and enjoyable trip into Hamburg City. I should have also documented the little suburb of Bergedorf where Maxim lives, but oh well. Baby steps. I'll get to it one day.

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