Travels with V
City between bridges and water
Hamburg part one
In April 2019 we went to Hamburg, and this time by car. This big North German city is perfectly reachable for us living in the very south of Sweden. We just take a ferry to Helsinore,Denmark, drive south and via another ferry (with perfect timing for lunch), Rödby – Puttgarden, we reach Germany. A five-hour drive in all.
We had both been there before, but separately, for work. This time we would have time to see a Hamburg transformed, where just like in Liverpool, Copenhagen and Gothenburg the old port with its empty warehouses and deserted docks has been replaced with modern buildings or completely rebuilt ones, with apartments, companies and institutions that enjoys the closeness to the water.
In Hamburg they now boast that they have more bridges than Venice, the old murky quarters in Speicherstadt ar now teaming with new life, museums, cafés, restaurants and universities. And as the jewel in the crown, the utterly magnificent concert hall Elbephilarmonie. It took ten years to complete at a cost of almost 900 million Euro. It is built on top of an old warehouse (the lowest eight floors), and the new building (eighteen floors) lie behind a heavenly blue wavy shield. It dominates the new harbour as it sits right at the front of the Elbe river.
You can visit the hall and via a long escalator get on top of the old foundation and out to a balcony that goes around the entire building – and get a fantastic view of the city.
Right next to it you’ll find the impressive St Pauli docks, or St Pauli Landungsbrücken in German. Along the river’s edge there are some brick buildings in almost oriental stile with portals leading out to bridges with restaurants and cafés where you’ll have a great view of the bustling life on the docks. It’s from here You can go on cruises in the harbour or just go shuttling across the Elbe.
In the area you’ll also find the Elbetunnel, a fascinating construction from 1911. That year the 426 m long tunnel under the Elbe opened to pedestrians and bikes and even motorcars to transport mainly dock workers to their jobs on the river’s south side. On both sides elevators lifted or lowered people and vehicles.
Aerial bombings during WW2 destroyed parts of the tunnel, but it’s now restored to its former glory with tile decorations. Walk through, get up on the other side where a shuttle can take you back to the north side.
A city walk through Hamburg most likely starts by the City hall, the Rathaus. It’s a typical neo-romantic building richly decorated with statues and ornaments. Don’t miss the “back” of the building, it’s even more impressive!
In front of the Rathaus there’s a square with a canal (here called “vleet”) on the side. This particular vleet transports the water from the river Alster that just beyond a bridge widens to become a lake. In the opposite direction the Alster as a vleet runs down to the Elbe river. There are some nice restaurants along this vleet.