A sojourn in the centres of Siena, Paris, or Münster raises no eyebrows. Church steeples, town hall towers, and familiar squares attract our attention and comply with our image of the city. The world appears to be in order here; our spatial awareness finds confirmation here. We are able to orientate ourselves effortlessly and instinctively, enjoying the cappuccino on the piazza. Everything is as it should be.
This does not appear to be the case in Hamburg’s Wilhelmsburg district. A visit to Europe’s largest river island is disappointing at first because you pass through it before you even arrive, and without even noticing anything of what you actually expected to find there.
Commuters, pouring in from south of the Elbe via the infrastructural corridors in Wilhelmsburg, experience the area as a green rush. Unassuming features are barely perceived: a green hill, electricity pylons, and all kinds of other useful facilities that are of little interest to us. It is only with the next bridge over the northern arm of the Elbe that you reach the “city proper.” We have arrived in Hamburg.