Saturday, December 03, 2005

Hamburger Chronicles ( one ) : The days in between leaving and coming home

From the waterside of the river Elbe, overlooking the docks, the hoisting cranes, the big cargo ships against a wide open sky, everything seems to be in perfect proportion with the buildings and houses at the back of my shoulder. Throughout the centuries this was the place where people embarked on a sailing ship, a steamer or a passengers ship. It still is.
Ferry boats leave for destinations further down or up the river. Tourists boats take their clients on a trip around the harbour. Stepping on a boat is like stepping out of life, defeating mortality at the same time.

Those who sailed away long ago, returned after months. They came back with merchandise and memories to find their homes a little bit changed. Some of them earned enough money to leave their marks, be it in a name for a company, as a character in a book or by having a house built. Those houses became storage places; their owners had acquired new identities, that were flavoured by the taste of spices, and smelled of cigars and coffee. Exotism was met by pride and independence. Having money and property led to a sense of owning the city.

Hamburg is kind of cute, like people who suddenly realise that they have taken themselves and their lives way too serious: this is exactly the heart of hamburger humorism: to make you leave megalomania Therefore all those splendors of architecture on the quay of the river stand deprived of their self-esteem.

The streets and the bars and restaurants are important, 24 hours a day. Being temporarily one of the thousands in the hanseatic town is not bad at all.


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