Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany. Its official name is The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Hanse dating back to the 13th century, when several European cities formed a trade alliance. While the origin of the word “Hamma” is uncertain, “burg” means “city” or “town”. The first settlement was founded by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808. Hamburg was practically destroyed several times in its long history, the last devastation happening during WWII. Many historical monuments were restored, and Hamburg was rebuilt, becoming one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. There are many theaters, museums, churches, residential areas, parks and gardens which will catch a tourist’s eye, not to mention all the lovely promenades along the river Elbe and the two lakes, inner Alster and outer Alster. There are plenty of pedestrian streets where one can walk, enjoying the sights, relax in cafes and restaurants, or do some shopping. The Port of Hamburg in itself is a great location to visit; it also hosts several amazing events annually, with entertainment, food and shows. It so happened that one of the first buildings I saw was das Rathaus, the City Hall. “Rat” actually means “council” in German. It is a vast structure, with beautiful clock towers, turrets and gables, fountains and statues. One can walk around it and go inside. It is one of those buildings which make you marvel at the human genius. Take a few minutes to sit on a bench in the square, tilt your head, look at the soaring top, let your spirit soar. Walk along the river, feed swans, geese and ducks. Stop and look at Alster with its tall fountain right in the middle of the lake. It is an image which will stay with you, and you will want to go back there again and again.
If you come to Hamburg in spring or summer, be sure to visit Planten un Blomen, the famous botanical garden right in the center of the city, where one can see the most luxurious trees and flowers in bloom. There are plenty of little ponds, you can sit on a bench and relax in the shade. If you are a health nut, you can jog along the many scenic paths in it.
Be sure to save some money for a really serious shopping expedition. Mönckebergerstrasse, located just off the Rathaus square (turn your back on the Rathaus, cross the square somewhat to your right and look for the street name, or ask), is the main shopping street in town. One can also look around, then walk in circles from Jungferstieg subway station and street. Europa Passage, the biggest shopping mall in Europe, is also nearby. THALIA belongs to the well-known bookstore chain. The one in Europa Passage has a huge selection of books in many languages, as well as multilingual helpful staff. If you are a shoe person, find the big sign which says Collonnaden, or ask where Collonnaden street is (Alster should be to your right, the Rathaus and the river behind you). It is a pedestrian street with lots of shops and pretty little cafes catering to all tastes. On it, you will find several nice shoe shops, including an amazing American Shoes store. Prices may seem a bit steep, but the shoes are real leather, often handmade, which means that you can practically sleep in them and still feel comfortable.
Public toilets are to be found in any railway station, in the underground crossing near Jungferstieg subway station, in various parks and even big shops, not to mention all the cafes and restaurants.
In 1961, The Beatles performed at variousHamburgclubs.
Hamburg is probably the one place on Earth where the word “Hamburger” does not mean food 🙂
Hamburg is the newspaper and magazine publishing center. When you buy a magazine in German at Hamburg international airport, remember that it was put together right here in the city.
Last but not least: in Germany, most people speak German. It is impolite to address someone in the street in another language, without first asking if they speak it. Chances are that most passers-by will speak at least some English. Hamburg is a tourist-friendly city. If you simply say, for example, Collonnaden, with a question mark at the end, and with a helpless look on your face, people will point out the directions for you. Use a map, try to prepare for the trip by learning a few simple phrases in German. If you start by saying, Entschuldigen (excuse me), you may actually get an answer in English. People value our efforts to communicate in their own language, and reciprocate by replying in the language we really understand.