The Hamburg Diaries: Observations While Searching for the Perfect German Bakery

Altona area

Willkommen in HAMBURG!

I step out of the terminal and into the Hamburg airport market section. With a few hours to kill before meeting my friend, I decide to sample the German bakery. A circular icing covered baked good catches my attention called an Amerikaner.

Strangely, I’ve never seen these in America or Canada for that matter, but Amerikaner it is. Biting into the Amerikaner I notice how fresh it is. It looked like it might just be an unusual donut with icing but oh no…, so much better. No you can’t have a Hamburger! Hit the German bakery.

In terms of German city comparisons, I only have Berlin to gauge Hamburg against. Berlin is a busy bustle of history and tourism wrapped into the past where it feels like Hamburg seems to have a different focus. Berlin is a little more gritty and Hamburg seems more relaxed.

Streetscape

Kitchens

Arriving at a friend’s place I noticed there is no dryer in the apartment. Washing machines are in the kitchen. Canadian apartments/condos would tend to either have a laundry room completely separate from the apartment somewhere in the building or a closet somewhere in the hall or near the bathroom. Perhaps this is just a building age factor. The kitchen was quite similar to a friend’s flat in Berlin. Efficiently organized and rectangular. A huge window overlooked a park with large oak and maple trees. “There are maple trees here, but no maple syrup,” my friend Clemens comments. Thats quite ok, I didn’t come here for the maple syrup anyways.

City Mobility

After settling in and with the help of a friend’s old bike, I discovered a wonderful way to save money for more German baked goods. Biking! Rather then the Ubahn metro, biking in Hamburg is made easy due to the bike lanes all over the city and bike traffic lights.

Bike Hamburg

This is also quite common in nearby Amsterdam and Copenhagen where bikes seem to outnumber cars. Most of the sidewalks have a pathway section of red bricks lined in one direction which indicate a bike lane which is wunderbar for cyclists, because you stay off main roads. As a pedestrian, you have to often check that you are not stepping into a cyclist’s way.

Evening Fountain Rauthausmarket

Yoga Nidra and St. Pauli

Relaxing into a small yoga studio in the St. Pauli area, I listen to a yoga nidra guided mediation and try to follow along with my beginner German. The asana is pretty self explanatory so I follow along observing and immitating the movements. The guided mediation sinks me into a relaxed mode deeper then most of my sleeps throughout 2 weeks of hectic Irish tourism and conference activities. I fall asleep. (Schlaffen in Deutsch!)

The St. Pauli area is an urban neighborhood full of cool bars, young people and hip clothing shops. The center of which is the Reeperbahn bar lined area with wild nightlife. The nightlife culture in Hamburg began with sailors of the past that used to come off the ships in this harbour town looking for a good time.

Bar Nouar Reeperbahn

A sense of individualism, stickers all over street signs, and posters advertising events on abandoned storefronts are common. Young people are on the way for lunch, coffee, shopping, work or a favorite in Deutschland, the bakery.

Back to the Bakeries

Bread is basically good at any time, with any meal, for any particular snack, or mood.

Depressed? Bread.

Happy? Croissant.

Suspicious? Baguette.

Exhilarated? More bread.

I think I’m starting to get this part of my German heritage.

Eating carbs = very happy place.

Junge Backer Bakery

Let me break down the German bakery situation a little. I simply don’t remember Berlin having the same caliber of bakeries as Hamburg. I do remember a ridiculous amount of quality bakeries all over Europe on previous visits, but this time I really notice and appreciate this German highlight. I also feel obliged to sample as much as I can in my broken German.

Bitte eine Franzbrotchen, Danke Schone. Und ein Amerikaner… Nein. Zwei Amerikaner!

Franzbrotchen is a Hamburg specialty that is a flakey, flat cinnamon type croissant-like pasty and are best warm and fresh.

Amerikaner is another pastry that looks like a donut, but is more dense and has white icing on top. I’m pretty sure it is baked, not deep fried and is totally delicious if fresh. I’ve had about 4 so far in Hamburg and most of them have been excellent excluding one rather stale.

Not all bakeries are created equal. Sample plenty to be well versed.

A small filterkafee will run about 1.30 to 1.80 Euros. Like many other places in Europe there is no additional tax beyond the price that you see posted. (Canada this is one of my pet peeves about YOU.)

Coffee here is generally specifically called filtercoffee if it is not cappuccino or espresso. Sometimes also swartzkaffee. (Black coffee) The cappuccino here is outstanding, so I’ll likely be often found off sipping some random fresh Deutsch cappuccino somewhere.

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Fischmarket 

The markets here are loaded with fresh fruits and all kinds. Fascinating items of German name, which I am unable to translate.

This same trend happens in grocery stores. Most items are recognizable, but many are a little cultural puzzle from which you get to play the guessing game of: what exactly is this…. and what are the chances it will taste reasonably good and contain items that are basically healthy or tasty.

The Sunday morning fish market at the Hamburg harbour is loaded with tourists. You get to watch many Dutch, German and Turkish stall keepers attract the attention of passer-bys. Their selection of goods is appealing but their rambunctious voices equally draw attention. It starts at roughly 5am in the dark. People converge from both the nightlife the night before, as well as the early risers.

Fishmarket Fishmarket

Particularly cheap prices here beat most markets or grocery stores. Sample licorice flavored candies covered in chocolate, salted raw fish with onions, cappuccino or drink beer as you watch bands play in the main hall by the harbour.

The band played the song Zombie by the Cranberries at 7am as we strolled in looking for coffees, but the beer is flowing. The Reeperbahn has shuffled its way over to the harbour. The hall was holding an Octoberfest party the night before. Clearly, some people never left.

This is like no Sunday morning market you might ever run into.

Morning Band

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2 thoughts on “The Hamburg Diaries: Observations While Searching for the Perfect German Bakery

  1. Ah yes, I recall trying to find a “German” restaurant in Hamburg. Chinese, Mexican, Italian no problem, but German food, not one to be found . . . . . Loved Hamburg though, we arrived during ‘Hamburg Harley Days’ 50,000 motorcycles . . . . .

    • Wow Art, thats a “wack” of motorcycles. I saw a motorcycle convention one time in Gastown, Vancouver with something similar. It’s pretty great to see!

      I had some amazing food in Hamburg for sure, especially from my hospitable hosts I stayed with. I just had my first bratwurst in Cologne at a town Brewery but the bakeries, seafood and markets in Hamburg all have great local selections and lots of great Turkish foods too around.

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