Mellinpassage, Hamburg


The highlight of Hamburg’s oldest arcade is surely the Jugendstil murals, which were basically advertising for Gustav Mellin, whose biscuits gave this arcade its name. Amazingly, these were covered up for nobody knows how long until they were discovered in rebuilding the arcade after a devastating fire in 1989.

The other highlight is the 100 year old bookshop Felix Jud. It came into the arcade in 1956, its owner moving about Hamburg for 30-odd dramatic years before that. They sell a book telling the total Felix Jud story and that of the people who have frequented this bookshop over the years: from actors Bruno Ganz and Lars Eidinger to Karl Lagerfeld and even Sting!

Mellin Passage is fairly short, with only a handful of businesses operating out of it, and it is outside Hamburg’s official Arcades Quarter (Passagen Viertel), even though it is the gem of Hamburg’s arcades and its oldest, opening in 1864. When we asked locals for directions, they hadn’t even heard of the arcade.

The bookshop is at the Neuer Wall end of the arcade; go past the linen and bedroom furniture store, the travel goods shop and the entrance to flats upstairs to reach the porcelain shop and the Arab coffee shop at the far end, by the water of what was once a dock (and now has what Germans call ‘arkaden’, which are arched coverings over a footpath, rather than an arcade in the English sense of the word).

My favourite shops today

Has to be Felix Jud bookshop, but I also bought a beautiful piece from the Berlin porcelain shop down at the other end of the arcade.

My pick of the arcade’s past

The history of Mellin Passage has yet to be written, and it needs to be, as there are so many anomalies over exactly what happened when.

Even the date of its opening has some question marks over it. If it was indeed 1864, as all the official sources say, then did it open without those Jugendstil murals, since Art Nouveau and its German counterpart began after 1864? Or are the murals actually pre-Jugendstil? And was the arcade always called Mellinpassage, since Gustav Mellin only patented his food products in 1866.

Even tracking down Gustav Mellin is difficult. The Gustav Mellin patented his food products seemed to do so in the USA, though his son Gustav, born in 1882, was London-based and seemed to focus mainly on markets around the then British Empire.

The Mellins made their money mostly from baby food, mostly milk substitutes, but also rusk-type biscuits designed to help wean babies back in the early years of the 20th century. These products also made it across to places like Hamburg, and the wording in the arcade today has ‘Mellin’s Biscuits’ and ‘Nahrung’ which is German for food, simply.

Felix Jud set up his book shop in Hamburg in November 1923 (the bookshop will be celebrating the centenary later this autumn). In spite of his name suggesting otherwise, he was not a Jew, so at first escaped persecution under the Nazis, but he continued to sell banned books under the counter at his store, and eventually got sent to Hamburg’s Concentration Camp for helping members of the resistance group White Rose. He moved into the arcade in 1956, and gradually expanded his business from purely selling books to also exhibiting and selling artwork. The upper floors of the bookshop even today continue to display works of art (if there are gaps, it is said, they must have had a recent sale).

During the great flood of 1962, when the North Sea inundated most of Hamburg, much of the Felix Jud stock, kept in the basement, was ruined. But the night before the waters came in on the tide, Jud had a premonition of something about to happen, and went down into the basement to save his cherished Encyclopaedia Britannica and move it to an upper floor.

This arcade in films or books

No books or films found. Crying out to film a period drama there surely or have a novel set here, given the stories it can tell?

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?

What memories do you have of visits in years gone by?

Have you got any good stories to add on the past of this arcade?

Have you seen Mellinpassage in any film or book?

Is there a website for this arcade?

No website for Mellin Passage; nor is there any social media account I am aware of. The individual shops have web presence, but the arcade itself, no.

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