Hamburg from a Height
A three hour train ride from Bielefeld is Hamburg, a port city located on the Elbe river. Hamburg has always had an international atmosphere due to its historic role as a major port between Europe, Scandinavia, and America. Now, it’s the hub of Germany’s media and the European headquarters for many financial and tech companies.
Hamburg is a popular weekend trip for Bielefelders. It’s close enough to travel with the football team for a match (HSV is a major rival), there is plenty to do, and it’s not overwhelmed by tourists like other big cities. Though we were there in the early Spring, I expect in the summer months (when the weather is good) it turns into a mini New York City.
During our trip, we saw Hamburg from every angle. We climbed buildings, walked the canals, and saw the city under a microscope. Now it’s your turn.
A Miniature Wonderland
Hamburg has tons of museums, but the most popular is the Miniatur Wunderland. The museum is located in the Speicherstadt, in an old storehouse used in the early 1900s. Now, it houses Germany’s largest model train collection (and most visited museum in the country). It is the most German museum I’ve ever visited.
We spent hours watching trains zip through tiny European towns, watched Pompeii erupt and cover an Italian city, airplanes take off, mini-Oktoberfest celebrations, and cars cruising the Las Vegas strip. We saw mini-people, dinosaur bones, protests, and concerts. It was like being a part of an I-Spy book.
A Glimpse of the Past
On Saturday, we spent a lazy morning in a Cafe before visiting the St. Nikolai Memorial. 5 Euros buys you entry to the museum, and an elevator trip to the top of the church tower.
The church is a memorial for Operation Gomorrah, a bombardment that lasted nearly 3 months in the summer of 1943. During the operation, nearly 70 percent of Hamburg was destroyed and 40,000 people were killed. The church remains as a reminder of the destruction. The only parts that survived is the basement and the bell tower. In the basement, a small exhibit describes the role the church had in the Nazi regime and the events around the bombing.
From the top of the church tower, a 360-degree view shows how Hamburg has rebuilt and progressed since then.
Hamburg’s Speicherstadt and Hafencity
We took a walking tour through the Speicherstadt (warehouse district) and Hafencity, a newly built area of Hamburg. The city’s history as a hub for commercial trade and business is very similar to Amsterdam; less emphasis on religion, race, government rule, and more focus on money, diversity, and prosperity.
Germany’s Best Kept Secret
Our last day in Hamburg was spent walking the observation deck at the Elbphilharmonie (it’s free!). I’m pretty sure we saw Hamburg in every way: miniature, birdseye, and streetview. It was diverse, and a good mix of history and modernity.
For tourists visiting Europe, Hamburg is a must. One of Germany’s largest cities, it’s often passed over by visitors for Berlin, Munich or other popular tourist destinations. But it has a lot to offer between history, architecture, sightseeing, and activities. There was plenty we didn’t do or see, and I know that any future trip to Hamburg has the potential to be completely different, with new quarters of the city to see and new places to experience.