The hidden splendour of Hamburg.

I lived in Hamburg for 16 years, but I think I was not a very good citizen. On none of these 5,840 days I felt like entering my town’s town hall. Not for one second. Yesterday, however, when visiting Hamburg for a day, I felt like it. Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t tell. Maybe my dark ages came to an end and I am now open for all kind of experiences. Anyway, I should have come sooner, it’s really quite nice. If they served coffee, I’d be there all the time…

A glorious day in Hamburg.

The weather was fine when I arrived, and it stayed fine all day—as Hamburg is as much known for its exaggerated supply of rain as Seattle, that was not a given, but it did. Lucky me! So I walked a lot, visited familiar places, found some of them changed, some for the better, some for the worse, and had a lot of iced americanos, including my very last one; you see, after posting my cup on Instagram, a friend of mine commented just two words: no plastic. And right she was. It’s amazing how one can support people cleansing the ocean from plastic, blame everybody else for our planet’s decay, and still sip coffee with a plastic straw from a plastic cup. I learned my lesson though, deeply ashamed of myself. And instead of showing off my mind’s double standards, I give you Hamburg’s natural beauty. Enjoy!

Hamburg‘s fish market.

One day, strolling through Hamburg’s Neuer Wall, I came, quite by chance, across some deep sea fish. Despite their vivid colours they seemed to be smothering, their mouths gasped for air, their eyes were wide open in fear of death, a very realistic illustration of the stress put on fish by, well, fishing. Now, Hamburg is known for its Fischmarkt, you can find almost anything in the shadow of the 100-year old fish auction hall, but I wasn’t expecting anything like it on display in the Hermès windows on Neuer Wall, obviously, I had come across some fine ichthyology, quite haut de gamme. I was hooked, quite literally, I was reeled in, so to say, and was set free again some minutes later, a little poorer, but with Grands Fonds in its orange box, I was quite at ease, not only had I a new scarf in splendid colours, but also had I learned that there’s a lot to see in the deep blue sea, and that the depicted fish were all still very much alive.

On Instagram handies and goat cheese.

There are selfies, and there are handies. This is a handie. Handies are even more obnoxiously vain than selfies, that’s the whole and awful truth. I posted this handie a couple of times on Instagram, using a variety of filters, trying to make my hand look irresistable, it does look quite young, considering it’s 47 years old, doesn’t it? See, fishing for compliments again. The tan is totally fake, by the way. It’s just the filter. And these rings, what a joke, I never wore them. Not once. The one on my little finger is by Tiffany & Co., I bought it at Tiffany’s in Hamburg and after discussing it at large the same day at dinner over some yummy tartes flambées at Jimmy Elsass, an Alsatian restaurant in Hamburg, with my friend Nina – the tarte with goat cheese, honey, rocket and rosemary is the best, by the way, it’s called Grüne Ziege, green goat –, I totally lost interest in it, even after ordering the other one by Maison Martin Margiela at Mr Porter’s some time later in Zurich, just like you are always to buy two guinea pigs so that they don’t feel lonely, it didn’t change, I considered them a stylish pair, but not for me, and never ever wore them. Classic tragedy. Heroes, doomed from the start. So, judge for yourself, does the photo tell that story? No, of course not, handies are all fake, even faker than selfies, they’re the fakest on Instagram, undoubtedly, believe you me.

Hamburg coffee splendour.

One day in Hamburg, I couldn’t wait for lunchbreak, couldn’t wait to leave my desk at DDB Hamburg, that is Doyle Dane Bernbach, the agency famous for their work for Volkswagen’s beetle in the 1960s, Lemon, they shouted, Think Small, they advised, and by this they made it to eternity, advertising as it should be, whereas I, well, I hope it wasn’t too bad what I did on this day in 2012, anyway, I digress, I couldn’t wait to leave my desk, a desk with a fabulous view on Hamburg’s Speicherstadt and the Elbphilharmonie that was still being constructed, splendid architecture by Herzog & de Meuron consuming 866 million euros, but I digress again, anyway, I couldn’t wait to get the cup I had fallen in love with the other day, after hours of course, leaving me to wait for it a most inappropriately long amount of time, like Prince Bolkonsky had to wait for Natasha, a day or a year, where’s the difference, my Meissen coffee cup was even more alluring than Tolstoy’s Natasha, it had a green dragon on it, green being a favourite colour of mine, spitting little orange flames, embodying riches, chinoiserie at its best, as ornate as a cup could ever be, and most importantly, it was on sale at John Montag on Ballindamm, a store that had to shut down some time later after it had burned down, anyway, being on sale meant that it was still way too expensive but it made me think I was about to get a bargain, and so I did, in this lunchbreak in 2012, my concentration at work was way better in the afternoon, I can assure you, there’s nothing better than saving money during luchbreak.

Swiss and red.

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I have always had a thing for anything red and everything Swiss. It started with my best friend’s passport when I was eight or so, his was a real one, it was red and Swiss, mine was nothing but a greenish leaflet and German. So second grade was when the obsession started. Many years later, out of school and university, I ordered this lowboard at the Hamburg USM flagship store. Red and Swiss at the same time. I still had a German passport, but the at least the new EU ones are kind of red now, crimson or whatever you call it, oxblood or so, I couldn’t say, I’m the HKS 13 kind of guy, Coke can red, anyway, that sideboard was red, they call it ruby red by the way, and Swiss and now I was finally happy. Happy until I had to travel to New York, an incident that made me put my (black) Mandarina Duck suitcase on my beloved lowboard as I thought it would be easier to pack at 50 cm above sea level, which it actually was, perfect packing height, but hell, what a big mistake anyway, huge, that suitcase left marks, scars even, scratch marks all over the surface, what had once been shiny and new looked matte and rotten now, I couldn’t take it in, I had the scratching effect of my suitcase tested on my skin, to hell with Mandarina Duck, but no, no scratch marks there, not even on my face, my skin stayed completely unmarked, it didn’t even turn red, so no to hell with Mandarina Duck, I thought, but to hell with USM Haller! Swiss quality? What a joke. As long as you don’t touch it maybe. Which I then tried not to. I moved the lowboard to Zurich and when I left Zurich, I gave it away, for a buck and a half, it’s like selling diamonds when you have to, worst deal ever, leaves you with a tip, but apart from the fact that it weighs a ton and that you have to have somebody over to adjust its feet when you dare to move it, I had grown tired of its fake quality appeal. That plane by the way, Swiss and red, fell off a carton while packing, it broke its wing, well, what can I say, I won’t give up, but until I find anything better, I’ll stick to Frigor chocolate. It’s Swiss and red, too.

Lunch break at Prada’s.

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We met in late summer 2001. I was a copywriter at D’Arcy in Hamburg, an advertising agency from New York, operating worldwide, or in my particular case, a network operating in Hamburg, Germany. It no longer exists, it was shut down in 2002, but in the 1960s it was still famous enough to be named in Mad Men, one of my favourite tv shows, as competition to Sterling Cooper’s genius Don Draper, I instantly sat a bit more elevated on my couch as it made me feel like playing a part in Mad Men, an exciting opposing part rather than a boring supporting one, I might add. Anyway, I digress, D’Arcy’s Hamburg office was close to Prada’s Hamburg store, and in a lunch break during that late summer I saw her, meaning my jacket, in their windows, having their autumn-winter collection 2001/2002 on display. It was love at first sight. The grey wool, the simple cut, a bit military, no chichi, just plain simple rigour, very high waist, nothing for people whose kidneys can’t bear the cold, a bit haute couture, it looked so perfectly put together, so very much like important tailoring, I purchased it this very lunch break in 2001 and I am still wearing it. Sadly, spring is here, temperatures have already risen, and we now must part for another spring and summer. Hopefully, we’ll enjoy an early autumn.

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La vie en vert.

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I have a thing for green things. First of all British racing green. And then trees of course. Especially the evergreen ones. Or when they insist on losing their leaves, the ivy covered ones, totally overgrown by this special sort of ivy with these beautifully pompous big leaves, blossoming in late summer, attracting flies and bees and wasps and all kinds of little flying things, I just love that, but I think I digress, actually I wanted to talk about my green briefcases. I bought both of them only because they were green. Taiga green the first one. Louis Vuitton. Bought it in 2000 in Hamburg. I remember that, quite idiotically, I had to take a taxi to make it on time to Hamburg’s Louis Vuitton store on Neuer Wall before closing time as I couldn’t wait another day for that briefcase. It’s turning 17 this year and, as it will soon leave me for some Ivy League college, I had to find a replacement. This time I had to travel to Paris – Zurich, however grand the Swiss love to think it is, has no Goyard store – and went directly to 352, rue Saint-Honoré where I picked their Senat clutch, while some cute dog and his mistress were trying on a variety of collars. For some odd reasons my credit cards weren’t working on that day, overstraining maybe, so I had to pay in cash, more embarrassingly so as the local ATM on rue Saint-Honoré spilled out nothing but small notes, really small notes, twenty euro notes, do you know how many twenty euro notes it takes to pay for a green Goyard Senat clutch? Lots of them, vast amounts, believe you me. Anyway, my clutch and I had a coffee on rue de Rivoli afterwards and have been inseparable ever since. Where is it actually? I think my lighter is still in it.

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Pulling a Comus Bassington.

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In November, 2002, I was severely broke. Actually, that’s nothing worth mentioning as I am usually broke, I have Saki’s Comus Bassington as a role model, and he drove his poor mother Francesca mad with his overly extravagant Edwardian lifestyle, mostly because she had to pay this extravagance’s bills, all of them, until she’d had enough of it and sent him to the colonies, to some God forsaken place really far away, I’m panic-fuelled when I think of it. Anyway, as I said, I was really broke, too, that month. Hermès, however, its Hamburg flagship store beautifully situated on my way home from work, didn’t care about that at all, and put a ring in their windows that made me stare at it for some twenty minutes, time enough for reevaluating if food was actually necessary, it seems to be causing all kind of diseases anyway, obesity, at the worst, and I had already given up all Châteaux that call themselves Grand Cru Classé en 1855, and switched to some of these Cru Bourgeois, they are quite drinkable actually, especially when you can’t distinguish a St.Émilion from a Côtes du Rhône, happened to me once, true story, when I decided to pull a Comus Bassington, meaning, I convinced my poor mother I couldn’t live without that ring. And so my poor mother paid the bill, I still have it. It’s a lovely memory. And I am still wearing that ring, in fact, I have never not worn it since November, 20, 2002. And most importantly, I am still waiting to be sent to some God forsaken colony far away by my poor mother …

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A star is born.

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Anna Wintour and I have something in common: we love coffee from Starbucks. I, however, was sipping it with much more style when living in Hamburg. On Jungfernstieg, not far away from Chanel’s, Gucci’s and Prada’s flagship stores, I was an ever so frequent customer at the most exquisite Starbucks coffee house you can possibly imagine. Situated in a restored Kontorhaus from the late 1800s, a true architectural gem, opulent neo-renaissance with the original ceiling and its most stunning coffering which you can almost touch when you’re seated on the second floor. It’s a feast for anybody only slightly interested in interior design and architecture. Vienna’s Kaffeehaus Demel, Venice’s Caffè Florian, or Rome’s Caffè Greco may offer better coffee, less absurd varieties and much more high toned a bill, but their ceilings can’t compete. Despite the fact I had become a vieil habitué over the years, I never stopped sipping my Soy Caffè Latte Venti looking up, on the brink of neck fracture, every bit as much impressed as when looking up at Michelangelo’s David in Florence. Well, I’m exaggerating a little, but he comes close.