November 26, 2013
Getty Images

Hamburg's history allowed a story like St. Pauli's to be told. Split into seven boroughs, the free city of Hamburg is controlled by the Senate of Hamburg, who are rather less bloodthirsty than they were in Störtebeker's time. Many dockworkers live in St. Pauli, and they have made the area a bulwark of the far left in West Germany since World War II. Though protests, squats, and disobedience — both civil and uncivil — are popular throughout these neighborhoods, it is hardly a dangerous place to have a meal or watch a match. Especially if you are watching the team known as "The Freebooters of the League" or wearing one of their muddy brown shirts. FC St Pauli's kit bears the legend "KIEZHELDEN"—HEROES OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD—on the front in lieu of a corporate sponsor. Hamburg S.V.'s current shirt includes the logo of a major Dubai-based airline.

St. Pauli plays at Millerntor Stadium in Hamburg, Germany.
Oliver Hardt/Bongarts/Getty Images
Corner flags at St. Pauli's Millerntor Stadium are marked with a skull and crossbones, paying homage to Hamburg's pirate history and acting as a symbol for the port city leftist district's people.
Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images

Trying to find the Störtebeker statue -- hoping my skull & crossbones St. Pauli shirt will catch his eye -- I sigh, squinting past the reflective glass. The, defiant 600-year-old pirate has seen the city's booms and other busts, but he will always be welcome among the brick houses and slender streets of St. Pauli, where his fellow freebooters will raise a glass to him and their team. Even if the drink of choice is not the one named after him.

You May Like