Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Hamburg – The City of hidden treasures.

By Judy Griffiths

I never hear travellers say 'I really want to visit Hamburg!'. It's all about Berlin or Munich or Frankfurt, and so Hamburg remains rather allusive to many tourists, which is pretty damn shocking really considering the beauty and diversity of Germany's second largest city.

Hamburg is often referred to as the 'Gateway to the world', in the days of marine travel you could get almost anywhere from Hamburg's port, which today is the second largest in Europe. After the time I have spent in Hamburg however, I think 'City of Hidden Treasures' would be a much more fitting slogan for this great Hanseatic city. Once you've delved into the fiery heart of Hamburg, you might never want to leave... so screw this gateway to the world business.

Hamburg's famous harbour at sunset

There are so many reasons to visit Hamburg. Firstly, there's the major tourist sites such as the grand Rathaus Town Hall, the beautiful old warehouse district Speicherstadt and the impressive St. Michaelis church. Then there's the water; lakes, canals, the river and the harbour. In the centre of the city sit two stunning lakes that people flock to when the weather smiles, while a series of canals (unbelievably, more than Amsterdam and Venice combined!) thread throughout the city from the River Elbe that houses the Port of Hamburg. Oh, and did I mention there is even a beach? At Strandperle you can dig your toes into the sandy shores of the Elbe and watch the big ships and tiny sailboats coming in and out of Hamburg.

Strandperle Beach on the River Elbe
Hamburg is also home to one of the world's most famous red light districts, the Reeperbahn. This famous strip, often referred to as 'the sinful mile', is bursting at the seams with restaurants, bars, clubs, music venues, strip bars, sex shops and brothels; illuminated at night by the cliché glow of bright neon signs. The Beatles spent two years in Hamburg, playing various Reeperbahn venues before they were famous, and John Lennon famously said "I might have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg". And the music scene in Hamburg today is still as lively as ever with endless international artists visiting on European tours, and countless venues that host live music every night of the week.

So that's all the traditional sightseeing ticked off the list. Now what about these hidden treasures you ask?

Well, you'd have to be a rookie pirate to leave your treasure in the busy city centres for all to see now wouldn't you? So of course, to find Hamburg's hidden treasures, you must farewell the beaten track and dig deep into the bohemian quarters of the city. But lucky for you, you've now got the best treasure hunters in the world on your side.

This year, we are proud to announce the launch of Alternative Hamburg, the love child of Alternative London and Alternative Berlin.  We have come to help guide you on your treasure hunt, so you too can discover the incredibly unique and colourful charms of Hamburg's St Pauli district.

Outside Hamburg's most famous squat, the Rote Flora

Before I moved to St Pauli, I had never before experienced such a truly unique and passionate community. The people of this district come from all walks of life and ethnical backgrounds, and yet together form the most unified neighbourhood I have ever visited. Once you start to discover the local actions, public projects and community spirit of St Pauli, you will begin to realise that it is the residents that are the primary influences of this special area. Their strength and passions often overpower the local councils, developers and urban planners resulting in a lively and colourful kiez, teaming with diversity and creativity.

There is much to discover in St Pauli; paintings and drawings smother every bare surface of the district's façades, flags and fairy lights colour the landscape, people laugh and chat and dine in the al fresco cafes and bars that line the streets while saxophone players busk in the sunshine. There's park parties and picnics, infamous buildings and famous squats, quirky bars and raving nightclubs, social demonstrations and a strong left-wing political stance, and did I mention the array of shops selling all sorts of curiosities, clothes and crafts? It's rare to see a suit here, instead the streets are home to an eccentric mix of hippies, punks, social activists, artists, beatniks, rockers, hipsters, the homeless and of course, the ever increasing yuppies.

Alternative Hamburg Tours offer tourists a local's insight into the hidden treasures of St Pauli; the incredible stories, urban legends, buildings, street art, people and cultural events that have shaped this district into the fascinating and truly unique place that it is today. There are many important social, political, economic and environmental topics unfolding in these areas that have relevance to all modern cities, so we also want to share these with visitors to spread knowledge and information in the hope of forming a more sustainable, creative and colourful future for everyone world-wide.

Alternative Hamburg Tour group

Of course, as always, our Alternative Tours are run on a pay-what-you-want basis to keep them accessible to everyone, so that all visitors can afford to have the opportunity to discover and learn about alternative city cultures that they may not get a chance to experience otherwise.

Thank you all for your continued support of our Alternative tours, and hopefully we will see you in Hamburg soon – searching for your very own pot of cultural gold.

Judy Griffiths fell in love with Hamburg at first wander, together with Alternative Hamburg they created the tours to ensure every tourist visiting this great city can discover the true and authentic side of Hamburg's alternative districts.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Farm to Face

The food you eat and bring to your face has been grown somewhere. On a farm most probably. But under what conditions?

Maybe on a small hobby farm, or maybe on a large plantation. Maybe its been laced in chemicals and supplements, or maybe it hasn’t. Maybe the stock has been feed, nurtured and fairly cared for, or maybe, on the other hand, it has been cruelly treated and harmed before it made its way to your plate and to your belly.

Two girls – best described as vivacious, young and scandalous at heart, and beyond dedicated to their vision – are setting forth to bring this conversation to light.

They are not on a mission to preach what is right or wrong. But they do want people to have the entitled choice to know where their produce comes from before putting it in their bodies, if they want to.

I met with Melodie Tyrer, one half of Farm to Face, at her apartment over looking London Fields in Hackney in London’s east for a Saturday morning brunch of poached eggs, roasted cherry tomatoes, blanched spinach and sautéed mushrooms. As Melodie stirred, seasoned and routinely tossed the ingredients with an obvious confidence and care for her creation, she traced the story of the project’s beginning and fast evolving big future.

Melodie Tyrer

Melodie begins…

“It all started when I met Georgia at a mutual friend’s dinner party in London last year,” she says. “We got talking and laughing and exchanged numbers at the end of the night, but I wasn’t sure when or if we would see each other again because she was living in Edinburgh at the time studying civil engineering” (Watch this video and meet the girls).

Several months later, Georgia Sheil happened to be in London and the girls caught up for a night in with a big bowl of home-cooked vegetarian bolognaise, both nursing hangovers from the night before.

“It was a last minute, impromptu catch up that turned out to be the kickstarter of our dreams,” says Melodie.

Engrossed in talk of good wholesome food, healthy eating and where our produce comes from, it wasn’t long before the girls realised they could team their enthusiasm and passion to have a real impact.

“It was then and there that we coined the name Farm to Face, set up wordpress and opened a twitter account,” Melodie reflects.

Both from two very different upbringings with food, Melodie was raised in a house that had carob, not chocolate, and every meal eaten was homemade. Georgia has had a detrimental ride with food, losing some 40kg in recent years as she experimented and educated herself. Melodie is a vegetarian, is gluten intolerant and loves savory dishes – anything with cheese to be frank – and Georgia loves to cook with meats, is cutting back on carbs and is delighted by sweet treats.

“We’re two birds of a feather,” comments Melodie, with a laugh.

“It’s strange how well we compliment each other despite being so different… It’s been an incredibly natural union of business and friendship. It’s just fallen into place.”

Melodie, who is originally from Cairns then Melbourne, has been living in London the past three years and by day, wears a highlighted orange vest and hard hat at a construction site where she is the health and safety officer. Georgia alternatively has returned to Melbourne to finish off her studies and is the event coordinator at the the True South Brewery on Black Rock .

Living on the opposite sides of the world, the girls never fail to speak to each other every day, no matter the hour. “It’s been challenging to collaborate when one's night is the other's day, but what I find most hard is not being able to see the rewards of each other’s labor. But because we are both hardworking and committed to this project, it somehow works,” Melodie explains.

Once the website was up and running, the duo got to cooking and blogging. They sourced local and seasonal produce and like their foodie gods – Raymond Blanc, Hester Blumenthal and Jamie Oliver – they trialed and tasted and created. They now share their recipes and encourage readers to replicate them with their own twist, all the while taking into consideration the origins and integrity of their food.

Melodie comments: “We are not strict on one idea of eating. We are all unique individuals with different bodies and tastes, and wouldn’t want anyone to deprive themself of something they like and brings them joy. That would be ludicrous! Just be conscious about what you’re eating though and make informed decisions based on what is right for you.”

Georgia Sheil

In a matter of weeks, Melodie and Georgia, along with a two camera men and sound support, will land in the home of food – Italy - to film a six part series on food, culture and cooking. The two girls and their crew will travel in a motor home from destination to destination, meeting with local farmers, producers, and families who will show them how Italians do it best.

“We want to strip things back to basics and bust a few myths while we are at it. Is the produce as good as everyone thinks? How do they do it? Is it all locally sourced? And if it isn’t, why have we created this romantic idea in our heads that every Italian lives off the land?”

Each destination will highlight a new ingredient, a new way of cooking, and deliver up a new meal. Footage will not only chase the girl’s culinary adventure from within a van, but will be filled with a jokes and antidotes, unscheduled catastrophes and scenes from the lively nightlife.

“We are aiming to address some pretty serious topics that have fundamental consequences for us all, but we want to do it without the nonsense and with more hugs,” says Melodie.

“Seriousness is stifling and we have enough of it in our lives. Farm to Face hopes to essentially bring the farm (local artisan producers, skilled professionals in the industry, farmers, ethical producers, corporations) to people’s faces through an engaging, approachable, informative, fun and real series.”

And in their down-to-earth, no nonsense manner, they say: “Why is it important to the average Joe, who may not give a flying fart?… Because we passionately believe that the food you put from your plate to your face enriches your life, and your life experiences. It's important! Why? Because in order to lead a balanced and healthy life you need to care about your body...and what you’re fueling it with.”

The girls have dedicated their whole life savings to this project because they believe in it with every part of their being. Asking for donations from the public, they need an additional £3,800 to meet their target to help bring their vision to life. “The help we have received so far has been out of this world. Friends and their friends have been offering their time and money to help us make Farm to Face the series a reality and we really couldn’t be more grateful.”

If you would like to see Farm to Face reach new heights, make a donation at the website here.

“We want to inspire our viewers to engage with the local food in Italy, but ultimately with what’s on their doorstep in their own countries and start a new generation of young, inspired, socially aware cooks that realise at the very core of everything, that life is for living.”

In discussion with several television companies and production groups, the dream is to have the series aired for all to see. "It's looking really positive from the feedback we have received," Melodies shares.

The girls want to literally follow their bellies around the world, exposing truths, educating the masses and creating a food revolution among their generation - and nothing will stop them.


Story by Leah Davies

Leah is a passionate storyteller, a multi-skilled communications specialist and a devoted human rights activist. She writes to ignite meaningful connection, to arouse curiosity, to push boundaries, to live large, to speak up, to create change.

She is deeply fuelled by a desire to create ideas and build visions to make this world a better place. A place where we can each equally follow our dreams - regardless of the place we were born, our religious affiliations, our sexual identity, our access to education. Everything in fact to do with the status quo. After studying the causes of conflict and division in society, Leah now uses storytelling to unite people, to create community and to open opportunities for collective action.

Her website, Paper Planes Connect, is a place to celebrate our difference and to unite in our sameness.