Observation Deck: Hamburg
Some say that Hamburg is Germany's gate to the world, but perhaps that description doesn't quite do it justice.
What is true, however, is that in Hamburg you will find the world within walking distance. This northern capital of Germany, with its taste for the exotic and an attitude for worldly gestures, excites wanderlust with a grandeur few can resist.
As soon as a sunray hits a street, Hamburg gets more Mediterranean than Milan: cafés begin spitting out furniture on to the pavements and latte-laden people snuggle together under electric heaters. In summer, building-sites-turned-beach-clubs conquer every corner of the town with wooden dreams of Tahiti and sand whiter than the beaches of Waikiki. And Lake Alster - the country's biggest inner-city lake - shines as taut, white sails cross its surface, resembling some Lago di Como of the north.
Still, Hamburg has enough grandezza not to show off. The beautiful Gründerzeit villas and the flamboyant town hall provide a stage around Lake Alster, allowing you to see what makes Hamburg stand out from the crowds: its stylish, rich and relaxed manner.
However, relaxed does not mean boring. Instead you feel the strong heartbeat of an art and music scene that, while not as big as in Berlin, is hardly less thriving. Feel the vibes in one of the clubs in Sankt Pauli and around frivolous Reeperbahn. Walk up and down Karo-Quarter and Schulterblatt and browse the artists' stalls and design shops.
For a different view, turn to the modern part of the harbour and witness the construction of The Elbphilharmonie, a new concert hall of Babylonian dimensions which will, like the Sydney Opera House, rise out of the water.
The city radiates out from the harbour - the main port for expatriates on their way to the New World. Here you find Hamburg's wanderlust carved in stone and steel, symbolised by the enormous piers at the Elbe river that saw off millions of émigrés heading west over the North Sea.
It's so deeply rooted in Hamburg's genes, to embrace the exotic, that you will feel at home in the city - wherever you come from. Because most people here come from everywhere. And the city manages marvellously to embrace them all. Their influence can be seen across the city: from French-style Winterhude to the Portuguese quarter at the harbour; from Persian-infused Uhlenhorst, to uptown Blankenese, with its Mediterranean-feeling Treppenviertel. In Hamburg's districts you find the essence of almost every dream nation.
To feel the big heart of the city simply attend a game of local football at St Pauli soccer club, maybe the most loved and unsuccessful club in the world. Its players are warmly cheered by its fans even if the team messes up for the umpteenth time.
Cheer again at Schiffsbegrüßungsanlage, a ship 'welcoming station' on the outskirts of Hamburg. Grey-bearded 'welcoming captains' know all the vessels: they blast the national anthem of every incoming and departing ship through gigantic, old, loudspeakers. In days gone by they may well have called out: "Oh well-travelled seafarers, bring in the air of exotic countries, share your stories in the old bars around Reeperbahn and leave your money behind in the hands of the ladies of the night lining up at infamous Herbertstrasse."
So join the crowds as they stroll down to the River Elbe. Spread a blanket and perch in sunlight on the sandy beaches; face the harbour where cargo ships from around the world dock and the Queen Mary sails by right in front of your eyes. Light a barbecue, fetch a cold drink, close your eyes and dream of distant destinations you don't have to go to. For you will find them all in Hamburg.
Next month: Malaga