Friday, 6 September 2013

Hamburg Ahoi!

Hamburg might not seem like an obvious day-trip destination from Berlin. However, the Intercity train the IC 2072 departs from the bottom platform of Berlin Hauptbahnhof every day at 08:20, and in just over two hours (at 10:25) it arrives in Hamburg. There is just one a day, and one back again departing Hamburg (IC 2073) at 18:27 arriving Berlin 20:35. That is plenty of time to get a taste of Hamburg, though with so much that Hamburg has to offer, you might be tempted back for future overnight stays.

Aside: I first visited and blogged about Hamburg four years ago on the occasion of my Beloved's birthday. I will try not to duplicate what I wrote there. On that occasion I didn't get many photos. I have more than made up for it now, so apologies if this page takes a while to load.

It is just a ten minute walk from Hamburg railway station to the market square  (providing you don't get distracted by the shopping arcades), and when you see the gloriously neo-renaissance Hamburger Rathaus you know that you are genuinely in der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg.


This is the seat of Government for the Federal State of Hamburg, and also office of Hamburg's Mayor.


The Rathaus has an inner courtyard that you shouldn't miss. The feel of it is almost Parisian, like one of the courtyards in the Palais du Louvre.



Adjacent to the Rathausmarkt square is the Kleine Alster, with its elegant colonnade of (expensive!) boutique shops and cafes.




From the end of the Alsterarkaden there is a view of the Rathaus across the Kleine Alster:


In the opposite direction to the Kleine Alster, and feeding it, is the much much larger Binnenalster. This is a place for taking pleasure trips, chilling out with a drink, or joining the promenade of people-watchers. In fact, this lakeside bank is called the Jungfernstieg - literally the place where in the past families would walk up and down in their finest clothes, showing off their eligible off-spring to perspective suitors (die Jungfer is an archaic word for a maiden or damsel).


Of course, you can't miss the enormous fountain in the middle of the Binnenalster. In fact, if you are down-wind of it, you can get wet from its spray just walking along the lakeside streets. Best time to view it is when the sun is starting to go down, and you might get a rainbow dancing around it. I would take a photo of the rainbow, but you wouldn't believe I hadn't photo-shopped it in - go and see for yourself!



A view across the Binnenalster from the far side of it, back towards the Alt-Stadt. This seems to be a favourite place for Hamburgers to relax after work on an evening, catching the last warmth of sunshine.


Hamburg is a joy to walk around, a place where the old cuddles up to the new. Just watching out for the street sculptures brings its rewards. The turn-of-the-19th-century buildings are decorated with all manner of neo-classical columns and graceful statues:


With modern sculptures right beside them, that don't seem at all out of place (both of these photos, above and below, were taken on the narrow street called Collonnaden):


The street art can range from the sensual ...


... th the bizarre:


But they all seem to have been positioned for best effect, complimenting the nearby architecture:


One recurring theme is the Hans Hummel meme. His figures are everywhere, showing a top-hatted man carrying a pair of buckets over his shoulders, and individually decorated in much the same way that Berlin Buddy Bears are. Hans Hummel (real name Johann Wilhelm Bentz) was one of the last water carriers in Hamburg around the mid-nineteenth century, when most people now had access to their own water supply. Apparently local kids would taunt him 'Hummel ... Hummel!' which means hermit crab (or bumble-bee, anyway, means someone who is anti-social). His usual response to them was 'Mors' (arse). Why Hans Hummel came to represent Hamburg, I have no idea.


Of a more esoteric nature is the 'Angelito' Easter Island Moai statue near the St Michaeliskirche. This was carved out of a block of volcanic rock brought from Easter Island in an initiative of the Chilean Consulate in Hamburg, by crafts-folk from that island using traditional tools.


Of course, you don't go all the way to Hamburg just to look at the sculptures. Its biggest attraction is that it is a Hansa port on the wide Elba, and everywhere you go in Hamburg you come across water routes and canals.


View from the Holzbrücke on the Nikolaifleet at low tide

The other end of the Nikolaifleet, at high tide.
Canal-side living and working is most evident in the Speicherstadt, an area of Hamburg where the old nineteenth century warehouses have been renovated and put to new use. On our last visit to Hamburg I had the thought that thankfully they had not been yuppiefied. Oh dear, they have now! But the rennovations have been sympathetic, and the new-builds have interesting architecture, and the derelict spaces have been opened up to the light and made public, so I am not as upset as I thought I would be.

Katherinenkirche from Speicherstadt

Inner courtyard in Speicherstadt




Note the new Elbphilharmonie building going up in the background

Interesting new-build in Speicherstadt
From the Speicherstadt it is a short walk to the dockside of the Elbe, a mad tourist-cramming of Hafenrundfahrten (trips around the harbour), fish and chips, Bier, postcards, and offers to see der König der Löwen (the Lion King, which has been playing at a theatre on the harbour since 1997). The noise is overpowering, from the ceaseless flow of ships passing, to the hammering and metal-sawing in the gigantic floating dry-docks. This is truly the sound of the heart-beat of Hamburg.


The old mixes with the new

A Nigerian cargo ship is guided by pilot ships into harbour

The flags of numerous fleets invite tourists to embark on voyages as diverse as just around the harbour to longer journeys of adventure to Heligoland
Close to the harbour is the district of St Pauli, famous for its anarchistic football team, its squats, and its red-light district: die Reeperbahn. This area comes into its own when the sun sets, and before then it just looks like a seedy, run-down part of town, so no photos for you. Here is a Police notice I snapped though, not something you expect to see in the respectable parts of town:

Weapons forbidden! Including guns, flick-knives, baseball bats ... and tasers!
On the outskirts of St. Pauli are a pair of 90m-tall towers called die Tanzende Türme, or 'dancing towers'. They are really rather energetic and I love them! Just not so sure I'd like working on the top floors.



Not far away, on our walk back to the Hamburg centre, was a more traditional structure, a monument to Bismarck. Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck and Duke of Lauenburg, was celebrated as the first Chancellor of a united Germany, which he engineered through a number of wars between Prussia and smaller German states. He was nominally the ruler of Germany until he was dismissed by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1890 (an event recorded bya  famous Punch cartoon of the time, 'Dropping the Pilot').


There are innumerable Bismarcktürme across Germany commemorating his achievements, but none quite so homo-erotic I think.


Continuing back to Hamburg's centre, you might come across the Park named 'Planten un Bloomen', so called because that's how they say 'plants and flowers' in Low German. It is a lovely oasis in the city, which has few parks like this.




And so foot-weary (in all we did 19km walking around Hamburg - there is a U-Bahn if you would prefer) we headed back to the centre, and then up to the Außenalster for a view of more open water and lots of yachting.


A great day out, but a long one, and good to get back to Berlin and our cat Cassie who wondered where we had been all day, and why we didn't bring her back any Hamburg fish!



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