The magic list of Hansa II: Hamburg


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Hamburg, the other great city of the Hanseatic League, was able to retain its commercial and port strength for longer than Lübeck and, when it had to be reinvented after the war, it became the editorial capital of Germany. The most legendary newspaper headlines, from the sensationalist Bild to the refined Die Zeit, would stand proud in the largest city in West Germany, the city that could look over the shoulder at the skyscrapers of Frankfurt, Munich cars and bureaucratic placidity from the province of Bonn . Until the reunification arrived and Berlin robbed him, without transition, the title of the most populous city in Germany .

In this context of dethroned prince the most ambitious architectural project of the city was conceived: Hafen City, a remodeling of the old port facilities. The excuse was that, as a city-state, Hamburg could not grow beyond its current limits, then there was only the option to look inside and invent new lots. As inspiration, the recovery of the sea coast of Barcelona during the 1992 Olympic Games. As an architectural story, the reinterpretation of the port, a concept ambiguous and stimulating enough to distract politicians, citizens, promoters and architects.

The great architectural milestone of this reform is the new philharmonic of Herzog and De Meuron, a glass cube that stands on the base of an old red brick warehouse. The complex will include a parking lot, private apartments and congress hall. The Levite glass block, supported by columns, on the brick base, leaving a slit that architects, abusing their anthropological urban optimism, qualify as a public square overlooking the sea for free enjoyment of all citizens. Cities are reinvented urgently or with planning, but in both cases rhetoric plays a key role, even in the smallest detail: the floor pavers use the same aesthetic pattern and the same colors as the surrounding buildings and warehouses. .

La lista mágica de la Hansa II: Hamburgo

The Kaispaicher B, former port complex today converted into a Maritime Museum © Cristóbal Prado

The perspective is also a magical concept in all urban remodeling, and Hafen City is designed so that the walker always has in his field of vision elements such as the river, the warehouses of the port or the towers of the old city. A complex mechanism of ramps and overpasses protects the complex in case of flooding and, in an unusual example of rational urbanism, schools and public endowments have been built before skyscrapers. The global effect of this real estate operation envies a Spanish journalist who has just arrived from the ruins of the real estate boom.

The old port still retains some of its commercial character. The warehouse with a red brick facade, green doors and hanging pulleys, where products from the Nordic and Baltic countries were previously preserved, now stores Persian rugs from Turkey or Iran. Other buildings in the old port area have been colonized, following the classic manual of urban reconversion, in studios for designers, photographers and advertising agencies seeking inspiration in the legend of a missing industrial world.

La lista mágica de la Hansa II: Hamburgo

The innovative port complex named Hafen City © Cristóbal Prado

Another large port complex, the Kaispaicher B, is today a Maritime Museum and near it stands the statue of Claas Stortebeker, a Baltic pirate executed in Hamburg in the 15th century. His figure, turned into a kind of maritime Robin Hood, arouses more admiration among hamburgers today than the severe Bismarck, the Prussian iron chancellor, whose statue is regarded with reproach and distrust.

The neighborhoods of Schanzenviertel and Karolinenviertel have that alternative high school atmosphere in a city format, something like the 'ikea dream' of a modestly rebellious bourgeois. The hamburger mothers received with horror the news that their children were moving to the dangerous neighborhoods of the workers of the port, but now it is a handful of streets governed by young people, with their share of street musicians, design shops, terraces, Bicycles and feeling of happiness. In a small park you can see the members of a traveling circus preparing a barbecue in a metal bucket without any police officer running for employee of the month; There are naked mannequins in a junk shop next to a map of civil displacements in Europe after World War II; The shop window of the Lockengelot store combines the coat racks with bottle openers in the shape of a football table covered with the Sankt Pauli jacket .

La lista mágica de la Hansa II: Hamburgo

Views over Lake Alster, the blue panorama of Hamburg © Cristóbal Prado

The neighborhood has its squat house converted into an emblem of the neighborhood, the Rote Flora, an old theater of the 40s, which shares a street with a bank branch that tends to fragment into crystals during the May Day demonstrations. The neighborhood also has a World War II bunker declared national heritage and converted into a techno music club (Uebel & Gefährlich, Bad and Dangerous), a practical and enviable example of German recycling capacity; Fashion stores in Markstr., like the British elegance and squeaky extravagance of Herr Von Eden or the promising Anna Fuchs.

It is like the modern neighborhoods of Berlin, but with more advantages: it has fishmongers, it is less known, and the term galao (cut in Portuguese) is widespread among coffee shops, saving the Spanish traveler the painful task of requesting an “express” in German with a little milk. " Three reasons to consider in case of emigration. Schanzenviertel and Karolnenviertel mark the physical and social transition between the opulent center of copper roofs and Venetian arcades sheltering exclusive stores and Sankt Pauli, the port neighborhood of Hamburg's legendary rogue.

His football team, whose symbol in a pirate skull and that could be summed up as a German version of Rayo Vallecano, boasts radical and marginal, although deep down he conquers the bourgeois hearts of all the locals, the ones who proudly teach you the squatter house and are skeptical with the new philharmonic of Hafen City .

La lista mágica de la Hansa II: Hamburgo

The heart of Hamburg in front of the Alster lake © Cristóbal Prado

Gui Befesse was a journalist who in the 30s toured the low funds of European cities. His prostrate and scandalous prose is read today with anachronistic pleasure and with the suspicion that Befesse used an imposted voice to make the book more scandalous. He writes with phrases of a hyperbolic boy, of the type "Hamburg, the gigantic city of the Germans has a huge prostitution", and dedicates some of its most inspired pages to Hamburg, to its Russian bars, Chinese taverns and Bavarian breweries with converted basements in opium smokers and Reeper Bahn Street: "it can be said that it is a true vending of human flesh."

Today, the Reeper Bhan, with its windows of prostitutes, still exists, but it is crossed by two metal doors that invite women not to enter this territory. In another corner of the neighborhood, at 8 o'clock in the afternoon, prostitutes parade in front of the expressionist facade of the 20s of Davidwache police station. Nearby, the sign that prohibits the use of guns, knives, bats and broken bottles indicates that perhaps, after all, the fame of the old port neighborhood is not so far from reality.

On the same street is a gun shop, a condom shop and the Hundert Mark West Store, where the Beatles bought their cowboy boots. The Beatles' route, which, before conquering the world, fused by playing for a year in Hamburg, can be traced in the Salon Harry hairdresser, a curious mix of dirty bidet and sixties grandmother's dressing table, with greasy-haired clients who walk with Pointy boots decorated with the face of Marylin Monroe . In the Harry Salon, a Danzig polish with a hussar mustache, he will explain, with the support of books and magazines, the story of how it was in that place where the Beatles exchanged their Elvis hairstyle for the sober French existentialist court. With a little luck, when you leave the hairdresser you will be able to meet a 92 year old man with a Sankt Pauli scarf and ant walk, who invites you to visit his erotic art collection.

This article was published in number 54 of Condé Nast Traveler .

La lista mágica de la Hansa II: Hamburgo

A natural market in the Karolinenviertel neighborhood © Cristóbal Prado