One of the most powerful members of the Hanseatic League (a medieval union of merchant cities that controlled the shipping trade in the Baltic and North seas) and heavily influenced by its rich seafaring history, Hamburg – now Germany’s second-largest city – is still one of Europe’s largest ports, but has been transformed into a modern-day mecca for advertising, media, show business and fashion. We only had a day to take in as much of Hamburg as possible, so we decided to make our way on foot across the middle of the city, from the premier shopping streets of the Neustadt to the historic Altstadt and busy Hafen (harbor), which has embodied the heart and soul of Hamburg for centuries.
It was a brilliant fall day and the views of the downtown skyline across the sparkling waters of the Binnenalster were stunning (photo, above). Hamburg is sometimes called the “Venice of Germany,” and while I’m sure most visitors to the fabled Italian city would no doubt scoff at the comparison, Hamburg is defined by water – from the shores of the Alstersee (dammed in the 18th century) to the countless canals threading through the city, spanned by hundreds of bridges and lined with arcaded passageways and waterfront restaurants.
From the lakefront shopping promenade of Jungfernstieg we headed towards the distinctive neo-Renaissance Rathaus (photo, right), which rises dramatically in front of a square said to resemble
These images of destruction remind us of the cruelty which Nazi
The original catastrophe occurred ten years earlier, in 1933, when then the National Socialists with the support of large parts of the elite and the population abolished democracy and the rule of law within a matter of weeks. This catastrophe was to bring on all the other tragedies that followed…Ultimately, the dead, injured, and homelss of the air-raids, too, were victims of Nazi
Underneath the “floor” of the church is an exhibition center, which was currently home to a moving display of WWII photographs. We spent some time looking at the exhibit and then moved on towards the harbor.
We made our way to Deichstraße, one of the oldest residential areas in the Altstadt, dating to the 14th century. Most of the lavishly restored merchants’ houses along this street date from the 17th through 19th century, as many of the older structures were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1842. Behind Deichstraße runs one of the oldest canals in
Words cannot describe how amazing the harbor tour was! In the first ten minutes we saw an enormous cruise ship and a container ship under construction, the historic St. Pauli Fischmarkt (where you can buy your freshly-caught dinner if you are willing to get up at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning), and a string of modern office and apartment buildings boasting some of the most desirable addresses in the city. One apartment building was designed to resemble a sleek luxury yacht (photo, right). We passed a long stretch of lovely historic homes fronting a stretch of sandy beach, then headed out into the harbor proper. We got a very up-close-and-personal look at the container docks, which are simply awe-inspiring. Picture acres and acres of containers – each the size of a semi tractor trailer – stacked five and six high, awaiting shipment to points around the globe, and row after row of those odd-looking container-loading structures that I have always thought resembled enormous dinosaur skeletons (photo, right). We sidled right up alongside a huge ship called the Hanjin Chicago (photo, below) that was currently being loaded and floated down its entire length while our guide gave us all sorts of impressive statistics about the ship and its load. Another container ship had its compartment doors open so we could see down into the belly of the ship, where more containers are stored. On the way back up the harbor we looked at several more container ships, an ancient oil tanker, and a ship equipped to carry cars, complete with drive-on / drive-off ramp on the back. We passed the city’s wastewater plant with its distinctive egg-shaped structures, and got a better look at the cruise ship and container ship in their dry docks. Finally we passed by a huge new construction project that will eventually boast the largest interior warehouse space of any port in the world.
We finished our tour around 2:15 and looked around the tourist shops along the waterfront for souvenirs, but it was mostly dreck. I couldn’t even find a decent ship-in-a-bottle, but I did buy a cool
We decided to have dinner at the Rathsweinkeller under the Rathaus, which was mentioned in Fodor’s. The restaurant has been redesigned and has a new name, but I can’t remember what it was. I was disappointed that the huge ship models hanging from the ceiling (described in Fodor’s) were gone, but it was still an amazing, cavernous room with huge wooden columns and a lively, modern décor, including a very cool floor-to-ceiling bar. We were pleasantly surprised by our meal. John had terrine of buffalo mozzarella and I had Mousse von Ziegenfrischkäse (goat cheese mousse), both of which were accompanied by lovely salads of arugula, frisée, cherry tomatoes, and pine nuts with a sweet balsamic vinaigrette (a little too heavy on the dressing but otherwise great). John’s entrée was medallions of Seeteufel (a fish called seadevil??) and I had the Hamburger Pannfisch which is the local version of Zwiebelrostbraten, with panfish, roasted potatoes, crispy onions, and a sweet mustard sauce. For dessert we both had a jellied blueberry terrine accompanied by mascarpone-peanut butter mousse and fried mint leaves. It was a little weird but quite creative! We decided to finish things off with calvados for me and William’s pear schnapps for John. As we were leaving the lights were turned down and started changing colors, creating a very cool effect. On our way back to the hotel we stopped to take in the gorgeous view of the Rathaus along the canal, gloriously lit against the midnight-blue sky. We’d certainly had a whirlwind tour of
Lots of photos from today: