My second full day in Germany brought “Hamburger Schietwetter” to a whole new level. It went from being a sunny warm day with a light breeze at the beach to a quintessential German morning: cold and cloudy with intermittent periods of downpour. But the crappy weather did not stop Hamburg natives from traveling out to the Sunday morning Fischmarkt!
Every Sunday from 5:30am to 9:30am along the harbor, Hamburg holds the Fishmarkt, an outdoor market that takes the tradition of old bartering and haggling and combines it with theatrical street vendors to create practical shopping for locals and tourists. Citizens of Hamburg visit the market to buy their weekly necessities such as fresh fish, meats, produce, sweets, souvenirs and even livestock.
Jan and I woke up at an absurd hour of the morning and caught the train into Hamburg Altona. Of course the only time Jan and I didn’t have our rain jackets, boots, or umbrellas it decides to rain as soon as we entered the Fishmarkt. To avoid the cold and rain we scurried underneath a canopy and watched the market goers while waiting for the weather to break.
For the most part, the Fischmarkt was comprised of normal civilians purchasing the upcoming weeks’ groceries. But a significant portion were clubers who, after spending their Saturday night on the Reepherbahn, were still dressed in their attire from the evening before. Fresh out of the clubs and a little bit drunk they were on the hunt for breakfast. On this particular morning, it was quite humorous to watch the girls in their mini dresses and the guys in their tight jeans screeching and dodging rain drops.
|Clubers caught in the rain|
Despite the rain, we were determined to explore all that the Fischmarkt had to offer. Lucky for us, the Fischmarkt sells everything imaginable so I snagged a jacket and Jan bought us an umbrella and we dit-darted through the crowd.
One of the most entertaining spectacles of the day were the street vendors. They came with trucks that opened up on the side, functioning as a stage where bystanders could stand below and watch the show. The salesmen would stand above the crowd yelling in German about their product and sometimes a spectator would yell back and the process of haggling and bartering street commerce would commence. In the instance of the Milka truck, the spokesmen would throw bars of chocolate into the crowd. What an effective marketing!
|Random items include 3 cats on a T-shirt|
My favorite vendor of all was the fishmonger, who would swing an eel around his head before slapping it into parchment paper. The dramatic sound of the eel slapping the paper and his unique German would draw a crowd around his truck. His method of yelling to the crowd brought spectators back to how the market was conducted in the 18th century, when it first began. Back in those days, it was next to impossible to preserve foods, so it was important to sell fish even on Sundays. I’m sure to get rid of their entire inventory, fishmongers (like our present day a-fish-ianato) tried many public stunts to grab the attention of potential buyers. I mean – it was the days before advertising.
Nowadays, it’s not so much about the preservation of food that keeps the Fischmarkt alive, but more about the preservation of a 300-year-old tradition. The Hamburg Fischmarkt is an experience that is both entertaining to locals and tourists as much as it is a way of life.