Harbors are the gateway or entry to any country. In my being observant I find harbors are the best gauge to see how progressive and developed a nation is. Hamburg holds the distinction of having the largest port that contributed a lot to the economy of Germany. This is my personal choice for the best place to stay when I take a break from my medical work in America. My love for this ideal city started in 2010 and I have been coming back there yearly to spend the holidays with my husband Philip. Hamburg, Germany always surpasses my expectations, leaves me fully impressed and completely captivated.
My husband and I are no railways or railroad collectors but we dare not miss seeing the railway exhibitions at the Miniatur Wunderland. The long lines to see this place was not so good but we were relieved by entertainers, clowns, snacks and drinks to make the waiting time pass quickly. Inside the wunderland the exhibition space is huge, enormous with its impressive engineering and the filigree works of the artists were very admirable. It features many familiar sights, landscapes and scenes which are laid out along remote controlled passing trains. Even the whole scenes are under remote operations like firefighters arriving at a burning castle and the cars stopping, it was really worth seeing. We have seen it many times but every year a new detail and features are added. I admire the great attention to detail and accuracy the artistic department put in every piece.
After half a day of seeing miniatures we proceeded to the nearby Park Planten un Blomen. The horticultural place is an oasis of charm in Hamburg that attracts young and old. A rose garden, Japanese garden (Europe’s largest) and water games are available. Admission is free and anywhere there is a small place to rest right in the center of the city. The visit to the fountains in the evening is highly recommended.
A visit to Hamburg will not be complete without a harbor tour. Every year we always look forward to it and just like any other tourists enjoy the harbor tour on Hafen Hamburg. First, we made the so called large harbor cruise and then the equal harbor tour. Both tours are totally different. The large tour takes place on a larger ship and the little one takes place on a barge. At high tide, the barge can drive into the warehouse district which does not go with the large tour. What both tours have in common is that they drive past docks where one can see larger ships that are currently in the dock for maintenance. While there we were lucky enough to see the luxurious Abramovich yacht on the docks of the famous harbor. The tour can last approximately two hours with a complimentary drinks and snacks on the side. Afterwards we visited another oasis called the Aussenalster (Outer lake). It lies around the outer Alster Lake and along the many luxury villas of the city. A large number of consulate offices and consular missions line this outer port area. The Binnelnaster (Inner Lake) is also interesting to check out. Along with joggers or people who work in the area who enjoy their lunch on one of its bench parks, it is also interesting to watch the fowls in the lake.
After roaming along the park and having late lunch on one of the German cuisine fine dining restaurants there, we explored the nearby Alster Lakes. Been around here many times but the lakes fascinate us again and again. It is the largest lake in Hamburg and consists of the inner and outer lakes and separated only by the bridge. The lakes can be travelled by the available steamboat, canoes and pedal boas for rent along its banks. A sunset in a clear weather is simply unforgettable. In the summer the lake is filled with many rowers and sailors, in winter the lake is a ski playground for locals and tourists. The US Embassy is the most striking consular office that line along its green banks.
Later that day we visited the richly decorated and immense beauty of Church of St. Michael (Michaeliskirche). The Gothic Church is centrally located just minutes from downtown and the Elbe River. Inside we saw a wonderfully large and imposing organ but the real highlight of this church is its tower. This can be climbed during the day and also at night. When we got to the tower we had a wonderful view over the harbor and the warehouse district. The view is really nice; Hamburg is such a great green city that should not be missed.
Every year, we never fail to visit the building that instills a sense of grandeur and leaves us breathless, the Town Hall (Rathaus) of Hamburg. This is the building that I liked the most on this city because it has a beauty that renders me speechless. It consists of green roofs that are typical of the northern cities and the many decorations that do not weigh the entire building. The waiting room for the tourists who want to do the guided tour is massive but elegant with its vaulted ribs and lions symbol of strength of the Hanseatic city. Our tour inside includes a visit to the hall of the parliament and senate. We also saw its social or dancing hall as they call it there and I got wowed by its wood and leather decorations. I still marvel at the beautiful stretch of white archways that are located on the channel to the left of Rathaus. The Warehouse District (Speicherstadt) is a place where the traditional and modern meet in a pleasant way. The storage center with old warehouses and buildings is worth the visit. The most impressive way to check it out is by a boat ride through the canals. It is best appreciated at night as everything lights up beautifully. Before the day ended we watched the great stage performance of Tarzan the Musical. We really enjoyed the good actors, great effects, and wonderful music.
Actually, art appreciation is not my thing but I found it interesting nonetheless when we visited the Hamburger Kunsthalle. From the outside it looks just a beautiful old building standing next to the newly designed buildings. The ticket prices were affordable and we get to enjoy its fine exhibitions. I find the “Slanting Water” totally awesome. The documentation is excellent and the constantly running small film on the widescreen TV gives good background information about the museum. It is an exhibition that is fun and so widely distributed that it can be approached with ease and plenty of options to the tourist. The collections were arranged nicely, not too tight and narrow for better appreciation. I recommend this art gallery for art lovers and for those who want to be there and just immerse their minds to appreciate contemporary German Art.
We ended our tour with a visit to the Alter Elbtunnel located at the height of the piers and can be explored by foot, bike and by car. Sightseeing by car is the most convenient way to go. Cars are driven by an elevator from the ground level road into the tunnel area. While inside we get to see what happens as the cabin opens and take the cyclists and pedestrians. The walk through the tunnel is very impressive too as one gets an idea what people were already capable of more than 100 years ago.
Hamburg is like my second home and just like the adage says, home is where the heart is. Every year it just keeps getting exciting, more varied, and my unending joyful enthusiasm about the city never diminish even if I have seen it many times.