April 2024
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Sunday In Germany: City of Hamburg

by Ken Yeager

Bobbie Sheehan Mauch may come to regret her last comment to me but here goes…Another Sunday in North Germany.

My subject today is the city of Hamburg.  Now I suppose just about everything you may want to know about Hamburg is available through Wikipedia, but living here (or at least nearby) makes one appreciate the city which is really a lovely place.  I suggest a Google Earth tour of the city to look at some of the older buildings, but especially the Rathaus or city hall.

I first came to Hamburg in May of 1975 following my evacuation from Phnom Penh, Cambodia and after about four weeks of leave in Florida.  Unfortunately, I didn’t speak a word of German or received any area studies before arriving, so my knowledge of anything about Germany was pretty slim (read zero).  Hamburg, at the time, was sort of going through a second rebuilding after the war, meaning that the first rebuilding took place directly after war’s end – now it was time to renovate and there was a lot of construction working going on.  Hamburg was badly damaged during WWII but many of the facades of the old buildings had remained and German architects rebuilt the buildings, retaining the outer walls and installed all new interiors and converting them into some lovely shopping malls.  Of course, some building were so badly damaged that they had to be torn down and newer structures erected.  Still, the newer buildings were designed to fit the existing style of many of the older buildings, making for a very, in my humble opinion, eye-pleasing city.

You will note, using Google Earth’s bird’s eye view of the city, that there is a lake in the middle of the city.  The lake is named the Alster and is really a small river (Wikipedia “Binnenalster” which will bring you to the Innen Alster and yes, there is an outer Alster as well,  “Aussenalster”).  The lake, or lakes if one chooses to think of them as two lakes, are very popular with the locals for sailing, some swimming in certain areas, tour boat cruises, walking and biking around the lakes and of course, sitting in a lake-side café and enjoying the sunshine (when there is sunshine which was rare this summer).

Despite the occasional summer without much sunshine, a German newspaper recently reported that Hamburg citizens are the happiest folks in Germany.  Hamburg is clean, a fairly safe city, good local transportation with great bus, ferry and U-Bahn (subway) transportation, a large number of cultural sites with music, opera, cinema, and numerous museums.  Because Hamburg is a seaport (although it is 100 kilometers from the Atlantic) it has a somewhat international flavor and English is widely spoken in the city, but not so much in the surrounding areas.  The harbor area boasts restaurants from all parts of the world.  At one time, Hamburg was the number two city in the world for consulates after New York, but unfortunately, that has changed with less ocean passenger traffic and of course, the general economic downturn.  The U.S. Consulate was a large one in 1975, but now is very reduced and its closure is periodically discussed.  The Consulate (Little White House on the Alster) can be located at 53°33’43.61” N, 9°59’49.55” E in Google Earth, but type in American Consulate General Hamburg, Germany in the “Fly To” box and it will be pointed out.

Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany with a population of over one and three-quarter million inhabitants and over four million if the suburbs are considered.  We live in the suburbs, a 45 minute subway ride to the middle of town.  Don’t quote me on this but I believe I once read that Hamburg has more millionaires that any other city in Germany.  The harbor area is a major employer and also a part of the Airbus aircraft manufacturing is done in Hamburg and is located near the harbor.  The Queen Mary makes port calls here fairly often and a number of the Aida cruise line ships stop here.  Major ship overhaul work is done in the Harbor by Bloom & Voss.


Shopping in Hamburg is about the same as most German cities although food prices might be more expensive than other large cities and towns.  The main shopping district is from the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) and includes both side of the Binnenalster.

While not exclusive to Hamburg, I find that men’s clothing is less stylish than in, say, Paris or London.  Germans tend to be drawn to subdued colors and generally, again, in my opinion, not very well dressed.  In the mid 1970s they dressed much better than today, but today everything is jeans and t-shirts.  I recall a few years ago it was almost impossible to find an off-the-rack two button suit or sports coat.  Three-button was “in” and nothing else was to be had, whereas a couple of business trips to Paris presented choices not available in Germany.  Of course, prices were far higher in Paris than in Hamburg or Frankfurt so out of my range.  What I did find was a tailoring firm chain that does custom clothing at reasonable prices, so I got my two-button suits and blazer.  As is probably in the U.S., we find that women’s clothing stores tend to cater more to the younger folks while finding clothing suitable for more “mature” women can be, at times, difficult.  Plus chain stores are slowly squeezing out the “mom and pop” shops which make shopping more regulated with fewer choices.

Tourism in Hamburg has increased over the years but the city is not as well known as Berlin or Munich.  Many tourist come here for the museums and the music (did you know the Beatles got their start here in Hamburg, down on the Reeperbahn).  Ah yes, Reeperbehn….this is the entertainment and red light district of Hamburg (again, check it out on Wikipedia for a pretty good explanation).  Bars, restaurants, sex shows and shops, as well a night clubs, music, theater, it’s all there.  I went there a few times with a couple of the Consulate’s Marine Guards after a night of discoing, looking for restaurants that would be open at 2 AM and of course, strolled around.  Haven’t been back since but have driven through the area on the way to a clinic that Gisela used to use.  It has changed over the years, but it still is a big draw for night life people.

Hamburg is getting a new philharmonic concert hall that is turning out to be a very attractive while elephant, costing hundreds of millions of euros more than originally intended.  The Elbe Philharmonic Hall is also listed in Wikipedia with a small photo.  The hall is being built in the Speicherstadt which is an old part of the harbor that has been renovated.  Unfortunately,   a number of the old multi-storied warehouses have been torn down and replaced with modern office buildings and apartments.  The Speicherstadt also contains restaurants, coffee shops and other attractions….one being a model railroad display that is absolutely fascinating and supposedly the largest in the world <http://www.miniatur-wunderland.com/>.   Of course, in the area there are the harbor tours, always interesting; the Old Elbe Tunnel, opened in 1911 (Wikipedia – Elbe Tunnel); and just walking along the promenade.

*** Best viewed in Full Screen mode ***

Had enough?   OK,  I hope everyone has a wonderful Sunday.  Take care and do a post now and then.  Regards to all – Ken

4 comments to Sunday In Germany: City of Hamburg

  • Mike McNally

    Ken, another great post. I found the Miniatur Wunderland video at the link below. I’m sending it to family and friends. Also, I’ll be visiting the Reeperbahn online, as soon as I can find a couple Marine Security Guards to accompany me. LOL. Thanks…Mike McNally


  • Steve Gregg

    I enjoyed your piece on Hamburg. In the early 80’s I had the good fortune of commanding the 294th Artillery group in Flensburg. The family and I spent several nice week ends in Hamburg. My young lieutenants spent many wonderous weekends there.
    Thanks for the memory

    • Steve Gregg! My classmate! Of whom it’s written in the 1961 Gecko: “Steve, a Maryland boy, would like nothing more than to be ‘an officer in the army’. He likes geometry the most out of all the subjects he is taking.” Well, at least now we know you achieved the army wish. And Artillery, the King of Battle, certainly fits well with a love of geometry. 😉

      I, too, like reading Ken’s Germany musings a lot, for a similar reason: I (another artilleryman) was with SASCOM (commanding B Team, 52nd Artillery Detachment, part of the 557th Artillery Group) during 1967-69 — in the tiny town of Waldbroel, east of Bonn — supporting a Luftwaffe battery. I never made it to Hamburg, alas, but we were close to Bonn, Cologne, and Dusseldorf.

      If you happen to live near Atlanta, we’ll need to meet up!


  • don schaudt

    Enjoy all your articles on Germany and life’s trials and tribulations. I certainly related most on the one about HOMELESS etc.——-guess all us military brats can but I would’t trade all those years for anything.Did you ever get in touch with the Clower clan? Any more Elvira info? Hope you will respond from time to time. Your military , Saigon and Dalat Brat Don

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