In honor of our friends Gisela and Michael’s vacation in Orvieto starting next week, I thought I’d tell you about their hometown of Hamburg, Germany. I used our trip to celebrate their wedding as an excuse to not write a blog one week in May. That was my 3rd visit, and I must say that I’ve been more impressed with the town each time….
…..which could have something to do with weather. It turns out that if we had been there the previous week, it would have been gray, drizzly and 58 degrees. But the heavens smiled upon Gisela and Michael’s celebration – as well as upon all of us who attended – and we had 6 days of mid-70 degree highs with plenty of sunshine…..in other words, picture perfect weather.
And Hamburg is particularly photogenic. As one of the major ports in the North Sea, it played a leading role in the Hanseatic League – the confederation of shipping towns that controlled the movement and supply of goods in Northern Europe for centuries. It is still a prosperous industrial port, and in Hamburg’s case, industry and beauty have managed to live and thrive next to each other. It’s a town of stately, grand buildings and beautifully maintained parks; but what sets it apart are the water basins and canals that wind from the commercial centers to the nearby elegant residential neighborhoods.
Where we live in the US, parks are either protected to the point of being almost useless, or are left to fend – usually unsuccessfully – for themselves. Hamburg’s parks are the perfect balance of being impeccably cared-for while at the same time being wonderfully user-friendly. They’re there for the enjoyment of all the citizens, and everyone uses them. They’re meant to LIVE in – not just hurry through. Germans are encouraged to feel ownership, so there’s a sense of pride in keeping them neat and tidy. No litter, no vandalism. There are benches and chairs everywhere so you can relax and enjoy the incredible variety of flowers or the stream running past you. Should you develop an appetite from all this beauty, there are cafes and restaurants as well. And these are not fast-food places, but cafes that serve coffee in a proper cup and saucer, and restaurants that offer real food you can accompany with a glass of wine or a good German beer.
But getting back to weather – the thing that stops Hamburg from being THE most livable city in the world is that unfortunately, its weather is not fabulous. Winters can be dreary, and even summers are not necessarily great. Alan and I have a theory that since the Germans never know when they’ll see the next great day, they take 100% advantage of each and every one that comes along. Hence all the cheerful people out enjoying the sunshine while we were there.
The other things the sun brought out were flowers….the kind of flowers we have in the northeastern US, but not in Italy. Spring is gorgeous everywhere, and I love Italian Springs, but I have to admit that they aren’t as dramatic as the ones we have at home. The flowering shrubs and trees are missing. They might have them in Northern Italy, but I think our area in Umbria is a bit too dry and the summers too hot. Hamburg, on the other hand, was an absolute riot of color. Most dramatic were the rhododendrons and azaleas. What’s your favorite color? Because as long as it isn’t black, they probably had a rhododendron or azalea to match.
While the only way to do justice to Hamburg is to see it in person, I’m afraid you’re going to have to get by with only my photos below. But most important – I want to thank Gisela and Michael for getting married and deciding to have their celebration at the end of May, just so Alan and I could get up to Hamburg on the most gorgeous days possible. Talk about good friends!!!! I just hope I can return the favor of perfect weather when they arrive in Orvieto next week.