I have some kind of attraction to counter-culture places. I think that deep down I want to be an anarchist and visiting these places gives me a little bit of second-hand anarchy. When I visited San Francisco in 2007 I visited the popular counter-culture are of Haigh Ashbury and was a little disappointed that there was a Gap on the corner. I also visited Caffe Med, the meeting place of 1960s radicals in Berkeley. Whilst living in Berlin Tacheles was on my list and of course I am a fan of Christiania, the counter-culture capital of Denmark.
Last week we spent a few days in Hamburg and I had a morning to myself on the second day. I had asked around for the most interesting part of town to visit and Schanzenviertal was the place everyone mentioned. We stayed in an area of the city called St Georg, which was clean, tidy with almost zero graffiti and street art so my arrival in the Schanze was a surprise. This is the area of the city that nurtured Hamburg’s alternative and counter-culture, although a lot of this seems to have been replaced by fancy boutiques and hipsters (who are not in my opinion alternative). It is still the place where there are anti capitalist riots and the windows of shops such as the make up giant MAC are regularly smashed. Signs of alternative culture exist in the street art and hand written signs welcoming refugees hung from apartment windows. Never the less the area on the face of it seems to be in the throes of gentrification and rising rents. There is however one relic of its more alternative past – Rota Flora, a semi-derelict former theatre on Schulterblatt. The theatre was squatted in 1989 and any attempts to change this have been met with violent protest. Rote Flora hosts art exhibitions and cultural events and is a meeting place for left-wing movements. The front of the building, as can be seen from my photos, is a space for political messages, currently the refugee crisis is taking centre stage.
I had a good wander around but there didn’t seem to be any sign of people in the building and the front seemed to be blocked off by a barrier, which I later discovered is there as the building is being renovated (at least their website talks about the renovation project started in 2015). I wanted to learn more about building and its current situation but my general enquiries in the area resulted in either complete lack of knowledge of the building’s existence (which seemed a bit sad) or people just said it was a squat. Nonetheless it was interesting having a brush with anarchy, it would have been good to have met some anarchists!
I shall write more about things to do in Hamburg later in the week.