Last weekend was the 822nd birthday celebration of the Port of Hamburg, Germany. It is the largest seaport in Germany and the 8th largest in the world. They hold a huge festival every May. We were told they expected over 1 1/2 million people this year! The Crown Prince of Norway opened the festivities on Friday and the sail away of the Queen Mary 2 on Sunday helped to close it.
We arrived Saturday night and on Sunday morning took a guided walking tour of the central district of the city. The Rathaus (Town Hall), constructed of sandstone, took over 10 years to build starting in 1886. It has 647 rooms!
Hamburg has many canals and a huge lake in the middle of the city that flows into the Elbe River. It has more bridges than London, Amsterdam and Venice combined. It has lots of parks and pedestrian zones too.
The swans have been protected since the middle ages.
St Jacobi Church had the finest organ in northern Europe and J. S. Bach applied to be their music director in order to play it. He was accepted for the job but they could not come to an agreement on how much he should pay the church for this opportunity so Bach moved on to Leipzig.
This was also a starting point for religious pilgrimages to sites around the world.
The Hanseatic trade was important to Hamburg and many shipping companies have their headquarters here.
The architecture of the Chilehaus is reminiscent of the bow of a ship. One company’s mascot is a poodle, derived from the owner’s pet name for his wife! The castle on the flag is the symbol of Hamburg found all around the city.
Here is one of the many bridges. And here is St Ansgar – this for my cousins who grew up in St Ansgar, Iowa.
St Nikolai Memorial is the 3rd tallest church in Germany. It was the tallest building in the world for hundreds of years. It was burned down in WWII in the Hamburg firestorm of 1943. Now it is a memorial for the victims of war, violence and persecution.
The Elbe River is the life of the city. One area filled with old warehouses is being redeveloped into a new urban center – apartments, restaurants and shops.
There were boats from all over the world here for the birthday festival – tall ships and navy ships to little power boats. The party stretched along the river front with over 500 stalls and sideshows. Several boat races took place over the weekend and a huge parade of ships closed the festival. The QM2 sailed down the river as part of the flotilla. We were amazed; every dock, pier and riverside space for miles was packed with people!
We’ve never seen anything like this and probably never will again!