The Fischmarket, Hamburg

The guide books say you should visit the Hamburg Fischmarket on a Sunday, but they don't really explain why. I'm writing this to try and give more details, and to also say that, yes, you should visit the Hamburg Fischmarket on Sunday morning.

The market is only open on Sunday, from 5 to 10 am, and really needs a crisp, sunny morning to be really enjoyed. Some suggest spending all night on the Reeperbahn, enjoying the seedy side of Hamburg before refreshing yourself at the market, but I think a clear head is better. Of course, you might enjoy lurching through a crowd of early-morning shoppers, leaning on each to steady yourself as you zig-zag down an uneven cobbled road but, hey - whatever floats your boat.

The Fischmarket runs for a kilometer and a bit (maybe two kilometers, depending on how you count it) along the river Elbe. It is, as half its name suggests, a market, but not just a fish market. You get all the things you expect at most markets (groceries, crowds, noise) plus a little bit more.

If you are planning to visit, I would suggest going by the underground on the U3 line to Landungsbrueken. From there, walk along the river (keeping it to your left). As long as you have the right day and time, you can't miss it. You can also take the S-Bahn to the Reeperbahn stop and walk down to the river, but Hamburg's red-light district is pretty dead early in the morning, and you don't really want to start off your day dodging broken glass bottles and zonked-out punters wondering why they thought paying EUR200 for a baby oil massage was a good idea.

If you've followed these instructions, you'll find rows of stalls selling daily essentials. Vegetables, cheese, chocolates and, of course, fish.

Being a port, the fish is naturally fresh and superb. If you want a quick snack on the spot, you can buy a bun stuffed with a bit of raw or lemon-marinated herring or salmon or whatever takes your fancy. It is actually superb, it really tastes fresh. It's not japanese, but sushi lovers will have a field day.

But it's they way they sell the general groceries that I find unique. The bigger stalls are basically large produce trucks that open up on the side and convert to a shopfront.

Now, when you have a truckload of produce to shift, you're not interested in selling it in ones and twos. You want people to buy a lot in one go, preferably by the basket. So,okay, to start with they'll throw in a basket for free.

Then they just pick a random assortment of goods and place it in a basket. All the while, they're shouting out what they've chosen. "Some garlic, half a kilo! In the basket!". There's no guarantee what gets put in. "One whole box of strawberries! For free!". And then the grand finish. "All of this, all of this, I give to you for only ten Euro! Who wants this? Who wants this?". Then, somebody from the crowd will step forward and pay for it.

Sometimes they start with a price, and then people line up in front of the seller with open bags in their hands. They get stuff thrown into their bags one by one, all the while the seller is shouting out what he's giving away for practically nutthin'. Sometimes he'll throw free stuff into the crowd. Sometimes he'll open a box for free sampling. All the while it's thoroughly entertaining.

There was this African selling coffee. He literally manhandled this woman to his stall, shouting "You want something black? You want something strong? Come with me!".

But that's not all. You'll eventually come to this big building with a pier attached to it. The most obvious thing about it is the live music blaring from the front doors. Before you enter it, walk down a little further to see the rest of the market. There'll be flowers and all sort of knick-knacks, most selling at half the price of what you'd pay at a typical souvenir shop. After you're happy that you've had your fill of the market, turn around and head back to the main hall.

If it sounds like people are having a party in there, it's because they are. A live band plays on one end (60's pop music when I was there), and the whole of the ground floor is taken up by people enjoying their 8am beer. Hey, it's never too early to get some liquid protein down you.

For those that prefer something more substantial, go up to the verendah upstairs and have a EUR10 buffet breakfast. Or perhaps a EUR15 brunch. There's nothing like a bit of greasy roast meat to start the day with. Downed with beer, of course.

If you can move after all that, you can either decide to walk to the nearest S-Bahn station (Koenigstrasse or Reeperbahn) or, more interestingly, catch a ferry back to Landungsbrueken.

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posted on Sunday, June 18, 2006 - permalink
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