Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Traveling: Impressions From Hamburg - A Photo Essay

(Drivebycuriosity) - Recently I went back to Hamburg for a short visit. I had lived & worked there in the early 1980s. Now I showed my American wife the northern German gem. You can clearly see that Hamburg has been accumulating wealth over many centuries.

The city was a member of the medieval Hanseatic League, an alliance of prospering merchant cites along the North & the Baltic Sea (wikipedia). Hamburg also had been a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire, owned & ruled by her citizens and not by kings or other aristocrats. Today Hamburg is Germany´s second largest city (about 1.7 million citizens).

The accumulated wealth is seen in many buildings - for example the amazing Rathaus (Cityhall) and the surrounding area. Everything is nice and very clean, especially when you compare it with New York where I live now. The heart of Hamburg seems to be a huge shopping area, a cluster of boutiques catering the affluent, like New York´s Fifth Avenue.

Hamburg gets even more beautiful in the night when the buildings are illuminated and the lights are reflected in the water.

                                            Shaped By Water

Hamburg is shaped by water.  The city has the second largest port in Europe - even though the metropolis is about 60 miles/ 90 km away from the ocean - thanks to the river Elbe, which allows even huge container ships to travel there. The city is built around two artificial lakes, called Binnen & Außenalster, which a miller had once dammed - and there are a lot of canals which connect the lakes with the hinterland & with the harbor.

If we believe Wikipedia, Hamburg has more bridges inside its city limits than any other city in the world (2,500) and more canals than Amsterdam and Venice combined (wikipedia). There are no skyscrapers - which define even smaller cities in America & Asia. The skyline is defined by the church towers - no one is allowed to build higher.

Hamburg is of course (a little bit) gentrifying like any big city, meaning that former industrial & harbor areas are being transformed into modern cities, becoming homes for restaurants, bars, media, internet & other service companies.  You can see that at Speicherstadt, a former warehouse district, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site (wikipedia).

You can find modern buildings too, of course. Often they reflect Hamburg`s role as a media center and her focus on modern & clean technologies.

We used the great late-summer weather - which was refuting Hamburg´s reputation as a very rainy place - and booked a two hour boat tour over Binnen- & Außen Alster and some of the canals north of these lakes. Unfortunately the cabin was fully covered and wasn´t fit for taking pictures and people were seated around tables.

On another day we walked along the Außenalster and explored the village-like districts just north of the city center. Many Hamburgers seemed also to enjoy the late summer on and at the lakes.

                                                        Death Of Reeperbahn?

I showed my wife of course the Reeperbahn, Hamburg´s (former) red light district, even though most vice belongs to the history which the media already call the "death of Reeperbahn" (independent ). This Saturday the area was very crowed - like New York´s Time Square thanks to the Reeperbahn festival, with tons of music events,  and an important soccer game (local matador HSV versus notorious German champion Bayern München).

We walked over Herbertstraße, where the prostitutes offer their services, sitting in a kind of shopping window. But there is not not much excitement. You can see more skin at beaches and public pools and more beauty. Obviously the Reeperbahn caters to the mass market. But we could manage to get a decent dinner somewhere, above you can see a mural which beautified the place a bit, quite a contrast program.

Hamburg has a very efficient, fast & clean public transport system - what we miss in the US. We enjoyed using the city owned Hochbahn (which is marked by U signs like London´s Underground) and the S-Bahn, which belongs to the Deutsche Bahn AG, a private  joint-stock company. Both systems work together, you can easily transfer from one system to the other and you need just one ticket.

A fast S-Bahn ride transported us to Blankenese, a wealthy suburb along and above the river Elbe. You can see some of the nice buildings above.

From Blankenese we took a walk along the river Elbe. Where else can you see a huge container ship almost between the trees? And the Hexenhaus (enchanted house) & the green pond above this paragraph seem to belong to a fairy tale forest.

                                                     That´s Culture

The short stay allowed us to visit just two of Hamburg´s museums: Hamburger Kunsthalle & Deichtorhallen - Museum for contemporary art. Both places have amazing exhibitions. I am planning to post about these visits soon.

We took the occasion and enjoyed the German Breakfast which I miss in New York as well. Above a pic from the delicious Sunday morning treat @ Cafe Roncalli on Mönckebergstraße. That´s culture!

Visiting Hamburg was a lot of fun and is highly recommended.

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