Tue 5 Nov - Hamburg, Germany

Walking in Hamburg...

And we did. We had booked ourselves into yet another one of Sandemans Europe free walking tours. The tour didn't start until 11am from the Rathaus, and we were ready by 9am, which meant that we had a bit of time to explore around our area beforehand.

This is how we spent the first part of the morning.... Green dot is where we are staying in Neustadt - very central, hey?

First, the view from Johannes' balcony...
Just across Ludwig-Erhard Straße is St Michael's Church, a very famous landmark of Hamburg.

And outside of St Michael's Church stands this guy. No, not Di, Martin Luther to the right.

The obvious place to explore was the Elbe, just a few blocks south of where we stay on Neuer Steinweg in Neustadt. Hamburg's harbour looked still very much like a working harbour and you could see and almost feel its rough and tumble past... and perhaps present too...

The yellow vessel to the right is a commuter ferry zigzagging the Elbe to the west from is point, called Landungsbrücken.

Di wondered why Hans took a pic of this demolition but Hans just liked the idea of tearing down the junky and ugly buildings from the 60s and 70s and building new. If only Sydney would do that a bit more...

The northern waterfront of Elbe was buzzing with activity and there were walkways and construction work and harbour vessels and restaurants everywhere. Hamburg's harbour is very much alive.

Das Feuerschiff, the fire boat, is apparently a restaurant now, but gosh, doesn't it just stand out with its bright red colour.

We left the harbour area and wandered north towards the Rathaus, which is the site of Hamburg's parliament. Hamburg has been a free city state for hundreds of years, which contributed to the city's commercial success, as they had no crazy kaiser calling the shots.

After a break at Starbucks, where incidentally the walking tour starts just outside (hardly a coincidence, as they had free Sandeman Walking Tour maps inside to pick up), we loitered just a little bit more before the tour was due to start.

The stretch of water behind us is called Kleine Alster and we are looking towards the Rathausmarkt, with the Rathaus to the left and behind of this picture.

And from the other side of Kleine Alster, along the Alsterarkaden, Di spotted the Rathaus...looks good!

Hamburg has two city lakes, the Binnen and Außer, on the Alster River. From Jungfrausteig, you could see Alsterfontäne, and with the sun reflecting on the water created a colorful rainbow. Aah, pretty...

We went back to our meeting point at the square outside Starbucks and the Rathaus. This is the local U and S station at Rathausmarkt.

There has been a lot of noise in media lately about the spy revelations from Edward Snowden, the computer specialist who worked for the American government, and the fact that the Americans had wiretapped Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

We assumed that this display on Rathausmarkt had something to do with that as it feel implausible that the US National Security Agency would be the real thing on Rathausmarkt in Hamburg (and certainly harder to believe they would be apologizing to the German people).

So, the walking tour started at 11am with our Californian guide, Brent, although he seems more German than American having been in Hamburg 15 years. This is how we ended up exploring Hamburg on our long tour (over 3 hours but with a 20 minutes break included). Our tour finished in Hafen City.

The Rathaus itself was the obvious first destination and it was really beautiful and interesting up close, very ornamental. The Dutch flag pointed to a dignitary visiting from the Netherlands.

Near here Brent stopped to give us a snapshot of Hamburg's history of the last 1200 years. We heard about the fortress built at Hamma Berg, the effort to convert the city to Christianity and the Vikings destroying it about 7 times. We learned about Hamburg becoming a free state, getting tax free status for trading, the temporary overthrow by Napoleon (lasted about 7 years) and the Great Fire of 1842. In fact many famous buildings were destroyed in that fire and this would become a recurring theme on our tour.

We moved onto some famous churches. The oldest door handle in Germany was decorating the St Peter's Church situated up on the Berg, a "mountain" at the tremendous height of... 10 meters according to our guide.

The door handle is apparently in the form of a... lion. The artist clearly had his own ideas how one of those looked like. The guy to the right is like a... tiger... not.

St Peter's Church from the outside. Rebuilt twice - after the Great Fire and also after WWII.

The tour then took us around the corner to Steinstraße, the oldest stone street in Hamburg, and the next church called St Jacobi (also called St James). The punters were allowed to take photos here so we took a few. This church also had a lot of art on the walls.

The organ here is old, it survived the fire and war, and is infamous for being an attraction to J.S.Bach, who applied for the organist job. The church elders said yes he could play their organ IF he paid the church. He declined. Their loss we think.

The female receptionist had spent several years in Australia in the 50s and apparently was always keen to talk to any Aussie coming there, so here was Di...

This building was built for a shipping company, in 1927, and modeled on skyscrapers from Chicago and from New York City at the time, although not very tall it was quite interesting. Di looked happy with what she heard...

A close up of the building, which formed a quadrangle with a square in the centre. The features all represent seafaring as this was the office for the shipping accountants, called a Kontorhaus.

The site was previously a slum and known, unfortunately for the start of a cholera outbreak that wiped out 10% of Hamburg's population. It was erased and replaced, with lots of improvements made to sewage, water treatment etc.

Just to the south of there was the Chile House, apparently one of Hamburg's most photographed buildings and another Kontorhaus. Chile House was also built for a shipping magnate (called Henry B Sloman), who had spent a lot of time in... Chile.

It is hard to see to in the lower left corner depicts animals that can be found in Chile, including a bear... which can not be found in Chile. Somebody did not get their facts right.

The Chile House is famous for its top, formed like the front of a ship. And the building is very very pointy which is part of its fame.

Next on our tour we stopped outside a fairly ordinary looking building but with a dark past...

At the front of the building, there is a plaque to note that the company that was here, Tesch & Stebenow, made the Gas Zyklon B used in concentration camps during WWII.

The owners of Tesch & Stebenow were later executed for war crimes as they;
  1. recommended their gas to the nazis, and
  2. suggested removing the "warning" fragrance so that people would not know they were being gassed.
Yep, not all evil people wore uniforms in WWII.

A side note, the company which now owns this building fought against the government for 10 years about this plaque being placed here. The government won as this plaque is now decorating the wall of the building.

The next stop was a building of another company with a chequered past.

They made their money trading with African nations - they got valuable imports from Africa and paid the Africans with schnapps and guns (not a good combination...). They were brought to account for this and made to pay currency. To protect their future they lobbied the Kaiser to create African colonies, which worked for a while too.

Hmmm...anything for money?

But the owners did love the African culture and all that it gave them.

Not quite the traditional door guardians...

"Tripping stones" are memorials to locals murdered in WWII and can be found throughout the pavements of Hamburg, usually nearby to somewhere important to the murdered person's history or where he or she lived.

This stone was outside the Patriots Charity, where Heinrich Meyer was known to contribute his efforts to that charity.

Hamburg has more bridges than Amsterdam, London or Venice together (or so we were told during the tour). We believed that fact and the photo below is from Hamburg's oldest bridge which linked the then old part of the city with the new part.

The bridge was also a common last route to an execution for a prisoner tried at the old Rathaus (before it was burned as a failed preventative measure in the Great Fire of 1842).

The statue on the bridge is the Patron saint of Hamburg - St. Ansgar - thought to be the first bishop of Hamma Berg.

Around the corner is the most solemn reminder of WWII - St Nickolai Chruch.

Largely all that was left after a 24 hour fire bomb campaign was this spire. Where we took this photo was once near the church altar inside. The local government chose not to rebuild this church so as to serve as a sad reminder to the war. It works and the whole experience of being there and hearing all this was quite sad.

After 2 hours of walking, we had a 20 minutes break at a chain cafe called Le Crobag.

We bought ourselves a hot kartoffeln (potato again) soup each which was fine. It served the purpose and kept us moving for another 2 hours of exploring.

We moved on to the oldest part of the city, where the Great Fire was started (on the right of the river) by an arsonist upset with a local cigar factory owner who had his warehouse here.

The Great Fire of 1842 started here...

The cigar factory largely survived but the wind whipped the fire quickly through the buildings behind Hans (the newer white ones and beyond) and then destroyed a quarter of the city in 3 days.

The older buildings to Di's left survived the fire.

Our tour took us to the canals beside the Elbe and this photo site is quite recognizable to Hamburg, looking back towards St Michael's Church.

One of the canals used by barges from the old port to move goods into the city.

Self portrait looking the other way down the canal with warehouses down both sides. These old warehouses have now been converted to theatres, museums, bars and restaurants.

We stopped walking behind the warehouses looking towards the new Hafen City. Hamburg city bought up the old industrial lands and reclaimed this area for rejuvenation including the building of apartment blocks and the still to be completed ElbPhilharmonic centre.

The building looks fabulous now, but is running 10 years behind schedule for completion and the original budget of $77m has blown out to more than $700m. To the locals, it is an embarrassment in planning and cost.

We finished our tour with a dramatisation of the story of Klaus Störtebecker, one of Germany's most famous pirate from the last 1300's.

The guys below are enacting out his beheading, from which legend has it that he walked away (after his head had been chopped off).

The story goes that after much successful pirating Klaus Störtebecker and his crew were caught and sentenced to die. He pleaded for his men' lives by first offering a bribe of gold (which did not work) then by saying if he could walk past his men after his head was cut off then the city should spare those men. The officials agreed.

Apparently, the pirate Klaus Störtebecker did walk past 11 of his 70 men with no head but the officials still executed the lot of them. That is, if you believe that story...

The "reenactment" marked the end of a great tour over more than 3 hours and as we felt quite cold at this time (a top of 7 degrees today) so we headed back north into town looking for a coffee shop.

Before we knew it, we were in home territory and very close to St Michael's Church again (where we started our day). As it was not quite 3 pm and the weather was clear we bought tickets for the tour and took the lift to the top platform. We were so glad we did this as, despite the cold winds, the views from the top were fantastic.

Our walking today started here - we walked through this park south to the Elbe shore.

Looking south-west to the harbour and port on the Elbe.

Westward over Bismarck Monument and towards the Reeperbahn.

Looking north over where we live and the local park

Us, and the city centre of Hamburg, with the Außer Alster in the distance

Up close with the spires - from left - The Rathaus, St Peter's and St Jacobi (St James).
Where we had finished our tour, south east at the warehouse district and ElbePhilharmonic (under construction with the roof profile of waves)

We explored the tower a little more - Hans headed up the stairs a bit, but was prevented from reaching the top as there was a closed and locked gate a bit up.

Still, looking down on other punters...

Di headed down (but turned around as she did not like the stairs ...and the drop down over the edge). Nothing scary there - Hans note.

Back at ground level - The inside of St Michael's Church was lovely and the organist was playing some music (the little grey haired man to the top right of this picture)

The main part of the organ producing the most amazing sounds.

We bought tickets for this crypt concert for tomorrow night. Sounded like something fun and different to do.

More evidence of how central our apartment accomodation is - this sign is on a nearby corner - and everything is less than 1km.

In saying that, today we walked about 13km in total. We certainly saw a lot.

A quick stop at our local grocery store for cake for afternoon tea (a piece of yummy apple torte to share) and ingredients for a salmon pasta dinner later.

At around 3.30pm, we were back at the ranch for tea and cake and then a bit of blogging and chilling and warming ourselves up. The persistent cold weather is taking its toll a bit as after a while it just feels like you just can't get warm anymore despite layers and layers of clothing.

After our afternoon treat, we switched on the dishwasher and... a load takes 150 minutes. So, in Noordwijk we had the slowest washing machine known to mankind and now the slowest dishwasher, and both machines were tiny tiny...

Smoked salmon pasta dinner, with a glass of wine was a success, and afterwards we chatted for a short while to Johannes and his girlfriend, Danielle. All good. Good night.


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