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Home Page > Travelogues > Germany > Hamburg (a.k.a. Hansestadt Hamburg)


Free Hanseatic City-State of Hamburg

Hamburg -- Premier Port City of the Elbe River


Free Hanseatic City-State of Hamburg

Hamburg and Dresden both graced the Elbe River, and both were very important economic centers -- but that was where their similarities ended.  If Dresden sang art and music, Hamburg boasted industry.  As a major port city, commercial center, and separate and free city-state, Hamburg was vibrant.  By 'city-state', the city of Hamburg was itself a free state, and given equal representation in the German government as one of the 16 states (Bremen and Berlin are also city-states in the German system.  This is different from Washington, DC that was separate from all other states but not considered equal as Washington has no representation in the U.S. Senate.

This travelogue represents a full day-trip to the city, arriving by train at 7AM and leaving at 9PM.  I tried to hit as much of it as I possibly could, although my tour was interrupted for much of the afternoon by a horrendous rain shower that left some parts of the city flooded until the next day.  Hence, I decided to limit this travelogue to a single-page photo gallery, and hopefully in the future I'll get to go back and visit Hamburg in depth.  It was such a huge city, it really required more than a single-day trip to appreciate. 

From the train station, I headed north by northeast to the city's massive parks and lakes.  Pictured here is the Außenalster Lake, the largest lake in the downtown.  Its northern shores were lined with beautiful houses and marinas.  Boat tours were available as well.  I followed an adjacent road to an artificial square pond/marina (the Binnenalster) leading to the half-moon shaped downtown, bordered by eight-lane roads that followed the perimeter of the city's original protective wall.  Some of the wall was still visible, but much of it was long gone.  Not far away from the marina was Hamburg's premier architectural wonder -- the Rathaus (city hall) pictured here. If ever there was a building that resembled a fractal, this was it. The closer I looked, the more intricate the detail I found.  Every darkened shade and old shape is a statue, a relief, or an engraving. Below the upper tier of windows is a row of statues of all Hamburg's rulers in order -- stretching around the building and into the inner courtyard (freely accessible by pedestrians). A true marvel.
Circling back toward the train station, I passed through one of the business districts (where each corporation was housed in a massive red brick mansion), eventually reaching the bombed out shell of the Saint Nikolai Church, shown here.  The Saint Nikolai was along a major road in the city loop.  It was destroyed during the intense Allied bombing campaigns just before the war ended, and repaired solely to remain standing as a memorial. Hamburg was filled with canals, owing to its flat geography and location at a wide bulge on the Elbe.  But Hamburg was so populous, many of those canals were lined with huge apartment complexes and fully stocked with boats.  I was unsure as to the purpose of these boats, but there were so colorful compared to most of the others that I decided to post this shot.  In the distance were huge bridges crossing the wider canals.
I made it back up to the Elbe and followed the north bank toward the passenger docks.  Hamburg was a major passenger port, with destinations all along the North Sea.  The ship pictured here was of the Cap San Diego, alleged by the posted information on the docks as one of the most stories of the passenger boats. This was one side of the main passenger terminal.  It was constructed similarly to the train station.  With six major docks and a full shopping mall and food court inside, this was a very busy place.  In the distance, barely visible, were the cranes that lined the entire distant bank of the Elbe.  The amount of cargo handled in this dock was unbelievable.
In this part of the city, there were no bridges going across the Elbe.  Instead, one took the tunnel.  But unlike ordinary tunnels, this one (located near the passenger terminal) used elevators to bring cars from the surface to the tunnel on both side.  Walkers used a sidewalk built into the tunnel. This is a close-up of the loading cranes along the south bank in the St. Pauli district of Hamburg.  The shot was taken a few hundred yards from the car tunnel.
Returning to the city, I came across the Stadtpark in the west with this statue literally popping out above the treeline.  This is the top part of a massive stone monument that appeared to commemorate the city's industrial workers.  The side of the monument is engraved with 'Josef Leberer,' but I was unable to locate any additional information on the web about this person.  The Hauptkirche St. Michaelis, shown here, was located not far from the Stadtpark. A beautiful building, inside and out, St. Michaelis is another must-see for the Hamburg visitor. In fact, judging from the 15 tour busses I counted, it is treated as a must see by the local tourist industry.  I took this shot right before the heavy rains hit...
Returning to the downtown one last time (after the rains had subsided), I went along the main commercial street from the Rathaus back to the train station.  This shot is of the St. Petri Church, a simple but very old structure that figured as prominently on the skyline as the Rathaus. This was the 'ordinary' commercial street, with the everyday shops, chain stores, and fast food joints.  It was a very busy place before the rains -- the crowds hadn't quite come back out yet.  On the other side of the Rathaus were several shopping streets that were higher-end, mostly expensive boutiques.  As one would expect from a major seaport city, Hamburg was a shopper's paradise.

Trip taken 30 June 2001 -- Page last updated 21 October 2006 -- (C) 2006 Tom Galvin

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