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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ten observations about Hamburg

This is probably my last post on Hamburg for a while. These are just some interesting observations I have on Hamburg, which may or may not be agreed upon by others:

#10: I have been informed that there are nearly 50 mosques in Hamburg! One taxi driver who drove one of the speakers to the hotel from the airport said that Hamburg is the place to be for Muslims. I managed to visit two mosques in the city centre, and I can say that Islam is thriving here. One mosque complex even houses a barber shop, a book shop and a restaurant. Aside from being a house of worship, it has the original spirit of the masjid during the time of the Prophet where it is also the hub of activities for the Muslim community.

#9: The Alster (picture at the top) is magnificent! Don't miss a cruise on the Alster Lake when you are in Hamburg. 'Nuff said.

#8: One of my major concerns before going to Hamburg was communication. As I can only speak Malay and English, I wondered if I would have problems communicating in a country which uses German as its main language. Fortunately, my concerns are unfounded because English, to my pleasant surprise, is spoken quite widely here. It is definitely much easier to communicate in Hamburg, compared to when I went to countries like Algeria, Egypt and Japan.

#7: As with most countries, the Germans are very passionate about football. When the German team won their quarter-final tie against Greece, you can hear, literally, their ecstatic cries of joy!

#6: It is quite easy to find halal food. Most of the halal shops in Hamburg are owned by Turkish migrants to Germany. However, there is one halal restaurant not far from the University of Hamburg and the hotel that I stayed in which is owned by a Pakistani. It is called "Balutschi" which serves a very nice chicken briyani dish. I would recommend it for anyone who has the opportunity to go to Hamburg. More information on the restaurant can be found at this link.

#5: Most shops close early. So it is quite difficult to buy things after 6 p.m. and even more difficult after 7 p.m. Then again, this is quite typical of most European cities. Only the Asian shops would close slightly later. When you come from a country like Malaysia, you need to adjust yourselves to the business opening hours in Europe. One cannot assume that every country is like Malaysia where it is easy to find shops that are virtually opened 24 hours a day.

#4: Generally, the city of Hamburg is very clean. The only down side to it is there are graffiti almost everywhere.

#3: Cycling seems to be an important way to get around in Hamburg. I just admire the way people in Hamburg, young and old alike, cycle. In fact, there is a service for people to use public bicycles which can come in handy.

#2: For some strange and unexplainable reason, I find Hamburg has a very familiar feeling to it. The city reminds me of Glasgow. The two cities are very different but somehow I find the air to them have some striking similarities, which unfortunately I cannot put a finger on.

#1: I have always had the perception (perhaps wrongly) that Germans are not friendly. However, throughout my experience in Hamburg, from the time I arrived at the airport until I departed from the airport, everyone I encountered were pleasant, friendly and helpful. The immigration officers at the airport were very friendly (unlike the ones I have encountered at Heathrow), the security officers were polite (unlike the stern and unfriendly-looking ones at most airports that I have been at before), and most people I came across on the streets would smile and say "guten tag" (good day). While I cannot generalise for the rest of Germany, I can certainly say that from my short stay in Hamburg, the Hamburgers (people of Hamburg) are very friendly.

There you go. Ten observations on Hamburg, a city I would not mind going to again if there is an opportunity. 

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