Sorry Philadelphia, but I’m having a love affair with Hamburg, Germany. I love its old traditions balanced with a spirit of new ideas, its humble, working class beginnings, and this port city’s seafaring feel. Where Philadelphia’s shipping history was almost snubbed out because of America’s highway system (in recent years, there’s been a huge push to revitalize it), Hamburg’s is still thriving 826 years later. Honestly, a life at sea is not complete with a stop at Hamburg Harbor.
This past winter, I took a trip back to visit Hamburg and was welcomed by unseasonably beautiful weather. As a result, I decided to explore the Hamburg harbor by boat. But rather than taking a traditional boat tour, I took a cheaper alternative — a grabbed a HVV citywide day pass to ride the commute ferries, and a local (my dear friend and travel companion, Jan) to tell me about his city’s history!
Certainly the heart of the Hamburg Harbor is the St. Pauli Piers, or as most locals call it Landungsbrücken because it is the largest landing place in the Port of Hamburg. It sits on the Elbe River and is a great place to grab a quick fischbrötchen for lunch, people watch, or grab the HVV ferries.
Ricker Rickmers is an older ships that is permanently moored as a museum ship in the Hamburg Harbor. Though it has origins Bremen it has become an iconic image of the city.
The Hamburg Harbor featuring another city landmark, the St. Michael’s Church, known by locals as “Der Michael”. It is considered one of the finest Hanseatic Protestant baroque churches.
Mark Twain has an interesting history with Germany, so it’s appropriate that the Germans would feel a kinship to Mississippi steamboats from his era. In the background is another landmark, St. Nicholas’ Church, or the Nikolaikirche as the locals call it. It became a landmark because it was bombed heavily during WWII and yet was still intact. However, a few years ago, a large stone fell from the building. It is now under repair.
There’s a lot of controversy when it comes to the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg’s new “HafenCity” district. What started out in 2007 as a EUR 180 million to be completed in 4 years is now projected to be Europe’s 4th most expensive construction project at EUR 1 billion and is scheduled for completion seven years overdue in 2017. Despite the public debate, it generates lots of excitement over the world renowned performances that are held there.
Lots of ships and shipping containers move through the Port of Hamburg. As one of Europe’s most important seaports, a variety of goods travels through Hamburg before being distributed to the world. That includes a large quantity of the world’s tea.
Many older ships sail to Hamburg. Every year during the first weekend in May, old sailing ships from around the world come to Hamburg for the Hafen Geburtstag, the harbor’s birthday.
Further down Elbe beach is the Alter Schwede, or the Old Swede — a large rock that was found while dredging a canal in 1999. It’s unclear where it might have come from since large boulders are extremely rare in this region. But many theorize that it migrated from Scandinavia during the last Ice Age.
The Elbe River, Rickmer Rickmers, the Elbphilharmonie, and a sassy sassy seagull.