Let’s play a game. As in San Francisco, I’ve found that one of the first questions people ask here in Hamburg is, “What neighborhood do you live in?” There is the hipster neighborhood (Schanze) and the LGBT neighborhood (St. Georg), the party neighborhood (St. Pauli) and the multicultural neighborhood (Altona), the neighborhood for wealthy old people (Winterhude) and the neighborhood of modern-luxury developments where no really lives yet (HafenCity). Where do I fall into that mix? Got your guess?
If you named Winterhude you’re correct.
It’s not really a surprise that I chose Winterhude—but in many ways, it is a surprise. Winterhude has the reputation for being full of wealthy, elderly Germans. While that is shifting to allow for more young families, there’s certainly not a lot of brown faces (immigrant or otherwise) around. And most of the creative types I meet through work live in the hipper, more colorful neighborhoods on the west side of the Alster—Sternschanze or St. Pauli. But Winterhude was the first neighborhood I saw in Hamburg, and I suppose it was love at first sight.
Located on the north-east side of Hamburg, it shoulders the Außen-Alster (or outer Alster, the larger end of the lake at Hamburg’s core) and plays host to the Stadtpark. Like most of the city, it’s filled with tree-lined streets, white pre-war buildings, small shopping and dining areas, and the classic canals and bridges that interlock each of the neighborhoods.
On days with good weather (aka any day it isn’t pouring), these canals are frequently brimming with paddle-boarders, kayakers, pedal-boats, and the odd solo-rower, accompanied by a coach in a speedboat barking, “Schnell!” into a megaphone.
The canals are ringed with gigantic manses—some of which have been broken into apartments, but many of which are still single-family homes. They tower above the banks, ornamented with gabled roofs, tiny turrets, and multi-story decks. Their backyards, replete with upscale patio furniture, stretch luxuriously to the water’s edge, their private docks bobbing in the wake of passing boats.
When I respond to the neighborhood question with, “Winterhude,” I’m usually greeted with raised eyebrows. It’s a nice area, and therefore regarded as expensive (although any of the areas around the Alster are priced pretty similarly). Those arched brows are a bit of a departure for this Oakland girl, who grew up more accustomed to snorts of derision or gasps of surprise with accompanied, “It’s dangerous there, though.” But to me, it’s less about the cache of the area you live in, and more how it feels. I worried a bit that I might feel like an outsider, hob-nobbing amongst the yuppies and well-to-dos. But it felt like home from my very first visit there, and for a move like this, I’ll trust my gut on what’s right for me.
(And let’s be honest, the views don’t hurt either.)