Hamburg: Germany’s Window to the World
Germans have a special place in their hearts for Hamburg, because every other major city in the nation is landlocked. When you visit Hamburg, it’s harbor can conjure up the mysteries of the unknown, the excitement of foreign traders and the thrill of adventure abroad. From the very beginning, when Charlemagne built a fort between the River Elbe and Alster, Hamburg was different: whereas cities like Frankfurt and Munich and Berlin grew in relative peace, Hamburg found itself razed and occupied and attacked over and over again — the downside of being Germany’s window to the world.
When you visit Hamburg, you see history. Hamburg’s adventuresome, independent spirit was rewarded by one of the more famous Holy Roman Emperors, Frederick Barbarossa, when he declared Hamburg to be a Free and Hanseatic City, beholden only to the Emperor himself. The city-state of Hamburg was part of an extremely powerful group of trading cities in the Middle Ages that vied for power with the feudal lords, the Emperor and the Pope in a time when any one of these power brokers could break through and rule all of Europe. Hamburg was the first Free City and subsequently took off to become one of the largest trading ports in Europe, with businesses stretching across the globe, from the Americas to the East Indies. Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany with Europe’s second largest port and today is still Germany’s wealthiest city. The weather in Hamburg is also enticing in certain seasons.
When you visit Hamburg, you will see that the city is surrounded on all sides — and filled to the brim — with water. The Alster river has been divided into two lakes that lie on either side of the city, the Binnen and Aussenalster (Inner and Outer) and the River Elbe flows right through into the North Sea. All this water means an abundance of canals, bridges, boats and sailors. Hamburg has more bridges than any other city in the world, more canals then Amsterdam and Venice combined, and a world-renowned red light district, the Reeperbahn.
Hamburg has built a very confident and easygoing society upon the foundations of harbor trading and the loose bargaining and drinking that goes along with it. The warehouses and canals of Speicherstadt are ideal spots for artist hangouts, obscure coffee houses and bars, and one of the world’s best fish markets. The city is embracing its old world glory with a new development along the harbor, HafenStadt, which involves a complete revamping of the old waterside area. HafenStadt is one of the largest inner city developments in Europe and will include new office buildings, residential areas, bars and cafes described by the city as “the new international standard for architecture and city planning.”
Another reason to visit Hamburg is the city is also building a new Philharmonic, the Elbphilharmonie, that should be finished by the end of this year. The building is an ambitious, extravagant feat of architecture built atop a warehouse in the HafenStadt at the corner of two canals and will be a nice place to visit if the weather in Hamburg is not nice for the day. Hamburg is clearly using its wealth to leap-frog traditionally popular tourist destinations like Munich and Berlin and become the destination of choice for tourists and travelers interested in a grand show.
Hamburg really can be gorgeous, regardless of its historical status as a business-minded city. Visit Hamburg to witness the city scape at night from the Kennedybruecke is beautiful and majestic, but still quaint with canals lit up by low lighting from tastefully built brick and stone buildings, all designed to romanticize this dynamic powerhouse of a city. Moreover, the dynamism of Hamburg is probably due to the longstanding support and investment of “old wealth”, or perhaps better stated, “distinguished wealth.” The venerated magazine, the Spiegel is based out of here as are Germany’s largest and oldest tea and coffee importers. Hamburg was the port for central and eastern Europe for hundreds of years and it shows.
Visit Hamburg when you want a taste of the exuberant Germany and an experience that other cities in this country can’t offer. Hamburg has always been international and you can almost hear the city sigh aloud when it remembers that it was part of dour, old Deutschland. Hamburg is, indeed, a city on the run, enjoying the good life and not looking back to see if the rest of Germany, or the world for that matter, is able to catch up and the weather in Hamburg is nice as well.
Written By Sascha Matuszak for EuropeUpClose.com