The Jungfernstieg is a street in the center of Hamburg on the south bank of the lake called the Binnenalster.
The funny name of this street comes from the word Jungfer, which is an old-fashioned word for an unmarried woman (related to Jungfrau = virgin). The story is that in earlier times the wealthy merchant families used to get dressed up and go promenading on this street on Sundays to show off their daughters and any other unmarried women they might have had in their families.
Heinrich Heine’s character Schnabelewopski tells of spending many a sunny summer afternoon sitting in front of one of the pavilions on the shore of the Binnenalster by the Jungfernstieg "thinking what young men usually think, namely nothing, and looking at what young men usually look at, namely the young girls who were passing by" – all sorts of young girls, like the ones with "winged bonnets and covered baskets which contained nothing" or the colorfully dressed girls from the delta "who provide all of Hamburg with strawberries and their own milk and whose skirts are still much too long" or the beautiful strutting merchants’ daughters "with whose love one also gets so much money" or the young nurse hopping around with a rosy-cheeked baby boy on her arm, whom she kept kissing constantly while thinking of her lover, or the girls who looked like priestesses of Aphrodite or "Hanseatic Vestal Virgins hunting with Diana" or "naiads, dryads, hamadryads and other preachers’ daughters" or two girls called Minka and Heloisa wearing pink-striped dresses.
Schnabelewopski wasn’t the only one sitting there by the pavilion watching the girls. There were always some "virtuous young men" sitting next to him, who cried "gorgeous babes!" when Minka and Heloisa sauntered by. There was also a "big insurance underwriter who was always dressed up like a Pentecostal ox" who once said: "I’d like to have one of them for breakfast and the other for supper, and on a day like that I wouldn’t have any lunch." And there was a sea captain who cried out "She’s an angel!" so loud that both girls turned their heads and then looked at each other jealously. Schnabelewopski himself never said anything, but just thought his "sweetest nothing-at-all thoughts and observed the girls and the bright soft sky and the tall Petri Tower with its slim waist and the silent blue Alster where the swans swam around so proudly and charmingly and confidently."
Of course this idyll couldn’t last forever. "Oh, that was a long time ago!" Schnabelewopski wrote later. "I was young and foolish back then. Now I am old and foolish. Many a flower has withered since then, and some have even been trampled on."
Poor Heloisa, "that gentle creature who seemed destined to walk only on soft flowery Indian carpets and be fanned with peacock feathers" met a nasty end surrounded by "sailors’ noise, booze, tobacco smoke and bad music." When Schnabelewopski met Minka again she "looked like Solomon’s temple after it had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and smelled like Assyrian hemp – and when she told me of Heloisa’s death she wept bitterly and tore her hair out in despair and almost fainted, and had to drink a large glass of brandy to come to her senses." [My translations.]
Next review: Heine House
Still the official shopping street of the city with an undescribable flair right next to the “Binnenalster”. It is what I would call the only place to be called “city center” and a very good strting point for your first walk through the inner districts. The famous and big departement store “Alsterhaus” is also found here. With a very Harrods-like speciality shop on the last floor.
This is the main promenade and shopping area in Hamburg. Even if you're not looking to buy a new pair of addidas cleats like I bought, you'll still enjoy soaking up the atmsophere of this tree-lined pathway.
Hamburg?s No 1 shopping street. From the landing stage opposite, the Alster ferries embark in the summer months on their universally popular trips round the lake.
Note: pic not taken by me!