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The city of Hamburg lies in Germany´s High North. It is a much-loved place and many have written about this “Gate to the world”. Wolfgang Borchert, who was born here, once stated: “Oh Hamburg! It´s more than a heap of stones, roofs, windows, beds, streets, bridges and streetlights! It´s more than factory chimneys and cars blowing their horns – more than the screeching of seagulls, noise from the streetcars and the thundering of the railway – it´s more than ships sirens, cranes than creak, curses and dancing music – oh, it is so much more!” Even Heinrich Heine, famous for mocking the city, voiced some praise and returned to the city, just as most visitors do. Hamburg just has an air about it – on the one-hand, it´s the epitome of a metropolis and on the other hand, it has a cosiness and elegance about it. It is idyllic, mundane, hectic and cosy all at the same time, but never boring.

Hamburg´s city centre, which lies between the Binnenalster, Alster and the Elbe, sets the pace for the rest of the city – economically, politically and socially. The magnificent boulevards lined with shops and the smaller shopping areas are nothing short of unique. Who would think that virtually all of this area was in ruins after the allied bombing campaigns of the Second World War. Those in search of culture need look no further: The Kunsthalle, the opera and the two main theatres (the Thalia Theater and the Deutsches Schauspielhaus are here, as are the stock exchange and the city’s extravagant town hall. The old town is also incorporated into this area, as the ruin of the Hammaburg, built in the 9th century reminds us. Also worth exploring are St. Michealis, St. Katharien, St. Jacobi and St. Petri which are the Christian communities main places of worship and the ruin of St. Nikolai.

The historic Kontorhäuser that lie between Steinstraße and Meßberg are architectural rarities. Indeed, the Kontorhaus Quarter can be described as a different world: The relatively narrow streets around the Burchhard-Platz are lined with massive brick-fronted buildings (Chilehaus, Sprinkenhof). Despite their size, these impressive buildings are not unfriendly, only proud, solid and extremely dignified. Built from North German red brick, they stand in ordered rows, their windows all in line with one another, giving this district its distinctive feel.

On the Außenalster´s western shore, lie the upmarket Pöseldorf/Harvestude. This quarter, which is dominated by rows of spacious houses and neo-classical mansions, is a favourite with wealthy young people. Everything is chic and smart/trendy, which contributes to this areas renown as a somewhat posh part of town. Some people even go so far as to call it Schnöseldorf (Snot´s village). The Harvestuder Weg, where many consulates and top companies´ administrative buildings are situated, is no doubt one of the city´s most sought-after addresses. The Alteruferweg is perfect for a stroll throughout the year.

The university quarter lies to the west of the Rothenbaumchausee. As is to be expected this is a hip young part of town where there is always something going on. The majority of people that hang out in one of the many bars, cafes and clubs here are either students or media types. The main building of the university which was founded in 1919, can be found in the Edmund-Siemers-Allee. If you venture westwards, you get to the Grindelhochhäuser (Grindel tower blocks), built 1924-1928.

Eppendorf is a favourite residential area. The streets are lined with elegant town houses dating from the turn of the century and small rivers flow through the district. If you are in Eppendorf, be sure to visit the curious Isemarkt, which can be found under the train viaduct on the Isestraße. Literary fans should also visit the Eppendorfer Marketplace where there is a memorial to the Hamburg-born writer Wolfgang Borchert. Inscribed with the words of his poem “Say No!”, the memorial reflects his deeply held anti-war beliefs.

Altona was an autonomous Danish City until it was incorporated into Hamburg as part of the Greater Hamburg Decree under the Nazis. It is the city´s most heavily populated area and is multi-cultural and original in character. Traditionally, it was a working-class area with Kontorhäusern and picturesque factory halls. Architecture junkies will love it here, there is so much on offer. The Palmaille and the villas of the Elbchausse are excellent examples of classical architecture and the Altoner Town Hall is built in the typical style of the Wilhelmine Era.

The Elbchausee, which is ten kilometres long, leads the way from Altona to Blankenese, which is a beautiful but expensive district. The splendid villas, some of them built very near the Elbe, reflect the city´s prosperity. Blankenese is famous for its little white fishing huts, historic country residences, parks, gardens and of course its narrow stairways and winding paths. White houses from the 18th and 19th centuries, which have little terraces, border these paths. The ships cruising by and the splendid views of the Elbe make this a favourite haunt for locals and visitors alike.

You would be forgiven for thinking that time had passed the Schanzenviertel and the Karolinenviertel by. These two districts are multicultural and you may well find the most interesting mix of characters anywhere on earth here. The many watering-holes, tea-rooms and exotic shops make this a perfect place to visit night or day. Be warned though: The fact that these areas have become increasingly trendy means that their original character is struggling to survive.

The St. Pauli quarter is Hamburg’s world-famous entertainment quarter. Often used for TV shoots, it is a vibrant place and the 30,000 people that reside here are an eclectic mix. The Reeperbahn runs through the Kiez, which is the nightlife and red-light part of town. It is all happening here. There are clubs, sex shops, fast-food joints and bars as far as the eye can see. Be sure to explore the side streets as well, who knows what you will find. At the eastern end of the Reeperbahn is the Heiligengeistfeld where the Hamburger Dom (Hamburg Fair) takes place every year. St. Pauli stretches from the Wallanlagen (today called Planten un Blomen) to the Hafenstraße and the Landungsbrücken.

The harbor is the heart of the city. Visit it and you will soon find out why people started calling Hamburg the Gateway to the World. It is one of the world´s largest harbours and its 75 square kilometres take up one-tenth of the city´s space. Especially worth seeing are the Köhlbrandtbrücke, the Landungsbrücke, the Old Elbtunnel and the Speicherstadt, whose warehouses contain goods worth millions. In the 90s, building begun on Harbour-City, which once completed, will be a modern living and business quarter on the Kehrwiederspitze.

History of Hamburg

There is no firm evidence of settlement in Hamburg before the 4th century. Most city history´s use 810 as their starting point, when Karl the Great built a fortress called the Hammaburg, which was meant to serve as a focus point for Christian missionaries. This was built where the Alster flows into the Elbe. Despite numerous attacks by the Vikings, the settlement managed to establish itself. It was the battle against the Slavic Obriots in 832 that led to the demise of the archbishopric. The ascendancy of the Schauenburg Counts, who reigned until the 13th century enabled Hamburg to once again flourish and expand to the south of the Elbe.

May 7th 1189 is a very important date: Legend has it that this is the date that Frederick Barbarossa declared that merchants in Hamburg could trade freely. Although “Barbarossa´s Charter” was not formally drawn up until 1265, this declaration led to the founding of many merchants´ guilds and foreign trading houses. Every year this event is remembered and the Landungsbrücken are the venue for big celebrations, which celebrate the birthday of harbour.

1190 is the year in which the citizens of Hamburg actively attempted to release themselves from their aristocratic stranglehold. Unfortunately, everything they gained was lost eleven years later when the Danes conquered the city. They ruled until defeated by a militia, composed of citizens and various counts. The following years saw Hamburg become an important trade and merchant city, thanks to virtual autonomy.

In 1235 the damming of the Alster was carried out, giving the city one of its features that so many people admire today. When Hamburg joined the League of Hanseatic Cities in 1300, the city´s fortunes took a turn for the better. More extensive trade relations and the annexation of surrounding towns meant that there were ever more opportunities to exploit. At the end of the 14th century, over 7,500 people lived in the area known as Hamburg.

Around 1400, the piracy on the North Sea became ever more threatening for Hamburg. The city founded its own navy, which finally defeated the threat of priracy in 1525. Despite the second occupation by the Danes, the Hanseatic city was able to maintain its privileges and trade freely both within Germany and with other nations.

In 1510, the Emperor Maximillian I made Hamburg an Imperial City. This meant that the city was directly subordinate to his person and therefore formed an important step in gaining emancipation from the Danes.

During the religious disputes of the 16th century, many Protestants and Jews sought refuge in Hamburg, thus adding a new dimension to the city. The resulting increase in population provided an economic and cultural stimulus.

The discoveries of the 15th century provided new opportunities for trade. In the span of a few years, the Hafen became one of the most important in the world and the city became one of Europe´s biggest trading venues. The fort of Wallanlagen, erected in 1616, is an indicator of this rise in significance. The city´s internal disputes, between the citizens and the city council almost laid the city lame. These disputes continued to dog the political scene, until intervention from the Kaiser in 1712, finally brought them to an end.

In the 18th century, the economy of Hamburg continued to grow steadily and at the turn of the century, the population totalled 130,000. The end of the old German Empire meant that the city could finally become fully autonomous. From this time on, Hamburg has been known as the Free Hanseatic Town. In 1810, Napoleon invaded Hamburg and this led to a significant downturn in fortune until the French left the city again in 1814. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 guaranteed the freedom of the city and it subsequently joined the German Federation.

The year 1842 marks one of the darkest periods in the city´s history. Nearly 20,000 people lost their homes when fire reduced nearly a third of the city centre to ashes. The building of railway lines to Kiel and Berlin and the development of steam ship routes led to an economic upswing that financed the systematic rebuilding of the city.

In 1867, Hamburg joined the North German League and in 1888, it joined the German Customs League, both of which proved to be crucial events in its historical development: Hamburg became known as Germany´s Gateway to the world. By 1912, Hamburg’s harbour was the thrid most imporant port in the world, after London and New York.

The new stock exchange was opened in the middle of the 1800s. The end of the 19th century also saw the construction of two of the city´s most popular attractions: the Speicherstadt and the neo-Renaissance Rathaus (Town Hall). The latter´s extravagant style reflects the city´s perception of its own importance and today, as then, it is seen by citizens as a symbol of the free, hanseatic spirit of confidence.

40,000 men died in the First World War (1914-1918) and the trade blockade meant that the city was cut off from world trade. Despite this, the city made a relatively quick recovery in the post-war period, which resulted in economic growth. Many shipping companies and other business began to move to the Speicherstadt. Reminders of this are the statuesque Kontorhäuser, built in red brick and buildings such as the Chilehaus, Sprinkenhof and the HAPAG-Lloyd office. The University of Hamburg was also founded in 1919.

In the Third Reich, Hamburg was not allowed to maintain the status of a free city and the Council of Citizens was dissolved. As a result of the 1937 the Greater Hamburg decree several surrounding Prussian towns were incorporated into the city and as a consequence, Hamburg could claim to be a city with 1.7 million inhabitants.

The Allied bombing campaigns of World War Two changed the face of Hamburg: Approximately 50% of the city´s living area, 40% of its industrial and 80% of its harbour areas were laid to ruin. 55,000 people lost their lives in the air raids, with another 70,000 men lost their lives in battle. In the nearby Neuengamme concentration camp nearly 70,000 people were killed. The tower of St. Nikolai, blackened with soot, was almost all that remained of this important church. On the April 3, 1945, Hamburg surrendered and was occupied by British troops. In October 1946, a new city counil was elected and in 1952, a new constituion, which is still valid today, was drawn up.

During the night of the February 16th 1962 a storm tide, which came from the North Sea, ruined much of the old part of the city. For days buildings were flooded and more than 300 citizens died. Since the coming down of the iron curtain and the reunification of Germany in 1990, the hanseatic town of Hamburg has once again begun to increase trade with the East, thereby making use of old contacts.

Today, Hamburg is one of Germany´s most important business locations. Many companies have their headquarters here and it is an important city for the media and publishing industries. Architecturally, Hamburg can boast many futuristic pieces of architecture. One need only think of the various modern shopping arcades and the
Gruner & Jahr Pressehaus. The current population of Hamburg totals 1.7 million. Hamburg is a city state and part of the Federal Republic of Germany. There are 94 consulates in the city and the city has contacts throughout the world. Some of its partner-cities include Shanghai, Chicago, Osaka, Prague, St. Petersburg and Marseilles.