Hamburg – A Maritime City in the Modern World:
Hamburg is the second biggest city in Germany and the eighth biggest in the EU. It is a hub of regional power, a centre for trade with a thriving cultural scene so when invited by the lovely people at cometohamburg.com I was keen to get to know the place properly and to see what it has to offer.
I hadn’t visited Hamburg since the early 1980s when I had paid a brief visit to play a gig in a long forgotten club. All I can remember was a nervous visit to the Reeperbahn – home to the sex industry and stomping ground of the Beatles in their early days. The street of sin was as dark and seedy as its reputation and we didn’t stay long. There’s not much left to remember the Beatles by but there are lots of positive reasons to visit this great city.
In my first post I’m going to concentrate on the city’s maritime heritage. Hamburg is situated on two rivers, the Alster and the Elb. The Alster has been dammed to form the Binnen and Aussen Alster (inner and outer lakes).
The Aussen Alster offers locals and visitors alike a beautiful waterside leisure space perfect for walking the dog on a Sunday morning- it was scenically snowflecked when I was there! The inner is more of a lakeside retail paradise.
The weather gods were kinder for my other waterside visit. Hamburg harbour hosts the most immense port as well as some extraordinary buildings on its banks and I was excited to be booked onto a Harbour boat tour with Barkassen Meyer.
The city has a great system of under and overground transport (and you can use Citymapper there!) so to get on my boat I went to a stop called Landungsbrücken which leads down to the quayside by the River Elb.
But before getting aboard I had to experience a Hamburg ritual- the quay is lined with quaint food outlets selling Fischbrötchen, the classic Hamburg fish roll.
I went to one called Brücke 10 which had been recommended by a local and tucked into Matjes (herring) and juicy Nordseekrab (little brown shrimp). Delicious!
The harbour is only 4 hours away from the North Sea and the scale of it makes you realise that this the trading gateway to Europe. Our tour boat was large, warm and comfortable and a great viewing platform to get a sense of this huge kinetic playground. We got up close and personal to the container ships and were awed by the ranks of cranes and by the thought that 300 thousand people work in the harbour.
One of the highlights was a view of the stunning Elbphilharmonie, a brand new concert hall in the HafenCity (Harbour City) quarter of Hamburg. Perched on top of an old warehouse building and designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron it is the tallest building in Hamburg. I shall definitely be visiting on a return trip as rather thoughtlessly it hadn’t yet opened for concerts when I was there…
Near HafenCity is Speicherstadt-an archipelago of atmospheric red-brick warehouses that is now a Unesco world heritage site. These days it houses offices, tourist attractions and coffee houses and is a great area in which to spend an afternoon mooching around. If you have time then also take a trip to the nearby Kontorhaus district. The office buildings here date from 1924 and include the Chilehaus-shaped like an ocean liner.
Hamburg had been an independent city but was eventually integrated into the 1st German empire. The city was allowed to keep its status as a tax-free haven and built its reputation as a trading hub as well as a point of embarkation for East European immigrants going to the USA. My final watery destination celebrates this heritage. The International Maritime Museum is the biggest collection of maritime objects in the world! The building dates from 1879 when it was a warehouse and the museum opened in 2008 with 9 floors (known as decks) of displays.
There is a mind-boggling collection of over fifty thousand model ships and amazing models made out of bone by French Napoleonic POWs in the U.K. The museum houses a wonderful collection of maritime paintings as well as fascinating displays on commercial shipping, modern maritime warfare, weapons and uniforms, shipbuilding materials and designs, sailing history and technology and even a container ship simulator.
But my favourite item had to be a wonderful Lego model of the Queen Mary 2 at a scale of 1:50
My next post will focus on the city’s cultural life but I love the way Hamburg finds the means to celebrate its connections to the sea – it’s a proud, confident place with lots to offer the curious visitor and well worth a trip.
In the meanwhile, if you’d like to explore more of Germany, here’s some of the top things to do in Frankfurt which should come in handy.
Fact Box: Adrian York stayed at the Mövenpick Hotel in Hamburg. A stylishly redeveloped water tower with a great breakfast and a metro station over the road!
Mövenpick Hotel Hamburg.Sternschanze 6 | 20357 Hamburg | Germany
+49 40 334411 0 | email@example.com
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