Sunday, 26 August 2018

Hamburg: A Whole New World

Hamburg city break
Isaac's connection to Hamburg goes as far back as the second World War, when his great grandfather, a Lancaster bomber pilot, became part of Operation Gomorrah, a ten-day Allied aerial raid that decimated the city into ashes which became one of the most well-known events of the entire war.

But the only remaining visible remnant of the destruction, as far as our exploration of a tiny part of the city has exposed, is the remains of the church of St. Nikolai, with its spire that still soars above it and a few photos showing the aftermath of the raid, displayed on the viewing platform you can get on through a lift which affords you of a 360-view of a city that has been completely rebuilt like a phoenix.
Hamburg city breakHamburg city break
Today, Hamburg is Germany's second largest city with around 1.8 million inhabitants, and the country's wealthiest. This is definitely the impression that leaves you while walking around the historic centre wrapped around the picturesque Lake Alster, with its countless architectural gems and bustling shopping district to the new urban development of HafenCity along the harbour with its waterfront apartments, gleaming high-rises, stores, restaurants and the extravagant Elbphilharmonie concert hall.

We came for a four-day visit in the middle of August via a slightly delayed 8am flight from Manchester on a journey that took only 1.5 hours. From the airport we were quick to experience Germany's efficient public transport system as we boarded the S1 rapid transit railway that took us to the city centre in less than 30 minutes, passing through very green suburban neighbourhoods in the outskirts of the city.

We stayed at the InterCity Hotel, close to the Stephansplatz underground station and reached through a short walk across the Planten un Blumen Park, the city's green heart which features a botanical garden and the largest Japanese Garden in Europe. From our ninth floor window seat we could enjoy a spectacular view of the cityscape including the ferries wheel of the summer fair and the bustling port in the horizon.
Hamburg city breakHamburg city break
We start our days with a breakfast of a healthy take-away of fruits and sandwiches from the Jungfernsteig underground kiosks sitting along the banks of the river overlooking the Alster Arcades, waving to passing boats and watching other children feed the ducks.

We spent most of our time walking, following the suggested routes on the map by Hamburg Tourismus exploring Altstadt, HafenCity and Neustadt,  admiring stunning historic and modern architecture from Romantic churches and Jugendstil mansions to sleek modern office buildings starting with the Rathaus, Hamburg's beautiful city hall.
Hamburg Travel ReviewHamburg Travel Review
Following the Altstadt route, we crossed the Trotsbrucke Bridge which remains a symbol of the oldest connection between the old town and the new city. This took us to the remains of St. Nicholas Church where we climbed up the 75m high platform inside the Gothic spire which is still the second highest building in Hamburg.
We also found the two ancients streets of Deichstrasse and Cremon which occupies the opposite banks of the Nikolaifleet, one of the many canals that pass through the city centre, with their beautiful historic houses and traditional restaurants along the cobblestone path.
Hamburg Travel Review
We crossed the river to Speicherstadt, the largest warehouse complex in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Hamburg Travel Review
From here we walked towards HafenCity, the largest urban building project in Europe of the 21st century which aims to be a sustainable place to live and work, and where the beautiful Elbphilharmonie stands to be admired.
Hamburg HafencityHamburg Hafencity
Following the Neustadt route, we walked along the city's shopping district and crossed some of the more than 2,000 bridges with beautiful canal side reflections. 
Hamburg canals
We also found Peterstrasse, an area that was bombed during the war and was reconstructed to what is now a row of fine brick and half-timbered houses as how they would have looked before the war.

We also found St Michelis Church with its distinctive 132m high Baroque copper spire that is one of the city's recognisable landmarks. In a tiny street next to it hides the oldest assembly of townhouses in Europe.

This walk took us towards the busy port, passing by the Portuguese Quarter with some very tempting menus on offer and we gave a passing glance to the beautiful museum ship Rickmer Rickmers which is moored on the docks.

We crossed the Old Elb Tunnel to get to an island with a view of the city's landscape from opposite the docks.

We also went off the beaten track. Around the St. Pauli area, we stumbled upon an area filled with street art murals where we ran into fellow street art enthusiasts taking photos and street artists at work.

In Marktstrasse, we discovered a street covered with murals on its Gothic/Rococo buildings that has survived the war. There are shops, art galleries and cafes here and on the flats above we spied filled bookcases and some students coming out of the front doors with their bicycles.

But lest we get accused of child neglect, the little boy had plenty of fun too. From the many parks and playgrounds just around the corner to the afternoon spent in the DOM fairgrounds to a visit to Miniature Wonderland which claims to be the world's largest model railway attraction, there were many memories that Isaac would carry with him too (although he did complain about the long walks!).

And for a city with a far northern latitude, Hamburg has a surprisingly outdoor culture, with cafes in almost every street corner and the parks busy until late in the afternoons. There was also barely any traffic, with many people using bicycles as their main mode of transportation.

The trip to Hamburg really felt like visiting another world, a progressive metropolis where modern living can be sustainable too. It is a sort of place that makes you want to imagine a different kind of life. It is a city that is worldly, cosmopolitan and diverse, with so much to offer to its citizens and visitors alike.

Our visit to Hamburg, like the sunset we waited to capture on a bridge between the historic warehouses of Speicherstadt, was definitely worth it. 

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