Have you ever wondered where Hamburg’s true heartbeat is? Well, some might seek it on the Reeperbahn, others at St. Pauli’s stadium- but both of these are actually neighbours of Hamburg’s true hub.
Which is the river Elbe of course. Although it’s still some hundred kilometres from its mouth to the North Sea here, it is already huge. And without it, the city would probably never have been built to begin with- or remained an obscure village. For the reason that people founded a city here in the first place is the river-which ensured that the city grew and grew. Whole new quarters like the gigantic brick storehouse district were constructed from scratch out of swampy marshlands, so that goods from all over the world could be accommodated here. After all, a harbour meant economic power and riches-long before internet and planes changed our world, it ensured a link to the farthest corners of the world.
But the Elbe is also a sight in itself. On the Landungsbrücken, a huge set of landing stages, hundreds of people flock to the riverside each day, heading for boat trips downriver or harbor tours. But Hamburg’s “Gate to the World”, as the port was often called, continues to grow: the huge container terminals make it Germany’s largest seaport and one of Europe’s most important ones as well. Close to 400 metres in length are the containerships that regularly dock here. But that’s far from enough these days: fully loaded, the river’s not deep enough for these giants anymore, so excavations are constantly in progress.
Many places along the riverbed are a must-see. Here are some favourites of mine: the fish market, for example. With an early start at about 5 p.m., it opens every Sunday morning, offering every possible kind of fresh fish. The perfect place to just drift along at dawn and, after a long night of partying, to help yourself to some tasty fried fish.
But sometimes that spot might lead to wet feet! When high tide couples with stormy winds, most of the market area will be under water. Even so, that is a sight to take in: many a photographer has captured the first rays of the sun mirrored on the water.
Equally stunning views you can get from a terrace above Landungsbrücken (as you can see in the pic above). From here you can view the landing stages below, the entrance building of the old tunnel below the riverbed, right up towards the shipyard and its docks on the opposite shore.
And only a short bit downriver, you come across Blankenese. Once a riverside village of captains, pilots and fishermen, it is now rich and fashionable. The riverside becomes hilly here, and on the steep banks there are villas looking down on the river below. Anyway, whether villa or portside storehouse-the Elbe and Hamburg’s “Gate to the World” are absolutely worth visiting!