Been there, done that… Again?
After writing about revisiting Greece and Denmark, England and Italy, I’m concluding with two trips taken with my friend Harriet – one to Hamburg with our university’s German society, and a year later when I flew out to visit her during her time in Valencia, two vastly different cities with rather a lot in common. (We also ticked off Berlin in 2013 and she came to visit me in Salzburg in 2014 – the benefits of making friends with languages students!)
As the second largest city in Germany, the second largest port in Europe, The Beatles’ early second home, and more canals than Amsterdam and Venice combined, Hamburg has the potential to surprise. It’s scenic, historical, nautical and of all the business that thrives in the city, its sex industry is world famous. Talk about something for everyone! Located in the St. Pauli district, the Reeperbahn, or the ‘sinful mile’, is the city’s red light district, where you’ll also find Herbertstrasse, pictured above – roughly translated, the sign reads ‘entrance by under-18s and women forbidden’, an instruction we ignored and subsequently got us a telling off from a prostitute. Another significant part of St. Pauli’s history is its link to The Beatles in the early 1960s, long before they’d achieved mainstream fame, when they had residencies at many of the area’s bars and clubs. Their contribution to the Hamburg music scene is commemorated with a statue at Beatles-Platz, at the crossroads of the Reeperbahn and Grosse Freiheit, where many of the venues graced by the band are still in operation. Getting out onto the water during a trip to Hamburg is a must; the expanse of the city’s harbour is only truly graspable from this angle and plenty of boat tours serve this very purpose. The canals, too, are a wonderful sight, particularly within the Speicherstadt district, an area of warehouses, which is beautiful at night. Better than it sounds, I promise! Churches and Rathauses aside, Hamburg has a lot to offer, with a colourful history, unique geography, thriving industry, and a crazy nightlife. The location is great as well; only an hour and a half to Berlin by train, and also close to Bremen, Hanover and Denmark, it would make a great weekend trip, but is also the perfect stopover on a longer North European adventure.
Visited: March 2012
Having only ever been to Spain’s resort areas with my family as a kid, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Spanish metropolis. In the Winter. Taking the opportunity to visit Harriet in Valencia during her year abroad, I wasn’t disappointed. Neither was I cold. As you can see from the photos, January in Valencia was like May in England, but without the rain. After Barcelona and Madrid, Valencia is the third biggest city in Spain, and sits on the Mediterranean coast, with miles of city beaches and rather wilder ones a little further away. It too is a port town and an industrial base, with a rich culture and plenty of tourists. A must-see is the City of Arts and Sciences, pictured above, an entertainment complex comprising of cinemas, museums, an aquarium and a plaza for events, all within drastic white buildings and connected with a series of bridges, pools and walkways. My favourite has to be the Calatrava building, which more than slightly resembles a blue whale, though each of the structures is unique.
Also not to be missed are the Town Hall Square, pictured below, and an older one nearby, the name of which I have completely forgotten; old men playing chess, drinking coffee and smoking, cafes flowing with freshly-pressed orange juice, and groups of nuns scuttling between churches at certain hours of the day. This is what I learned to be the fundamentals of a Spanish city, relaxed locals and the cuisine.
Much like Hamburg, Valencia is a real mix of old and new, and heavily influenced by its coastal location. It too has a large student population and a famous nightlife, though with sandy beaches thrown into the mix as well. Both cities are real cultural hubs, there’s plenty to see and do, and are well-connected as well, with Valencia only a boat ride from the Balearic Islands.
Visited: January 2013