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Germany's second largest city, Hamburg offers visitors impressive buildings as well as bridges, lakes, parks and fashionable avenues galore, not to mention Europe's busiest harbor.
As the sun keeps sneaking in and out of the clouds, I watch the frenzied construction activity going on in front of the railroad station. There's a crane atop almost every building here, as if the city is being rebuilt from head to toe. It's a perfect day for a stroll... And Hamburg is a city to be explored on foot. Immediately opposite the railroad station, I pass the Art and Trade Museum, which is under restoration, and check my position on the map to locate the famous Rathaus or Town Hall. Steinstrasse will be my best bet, because this avenue will also take me past the Churches of Saint Peter and Saint Jacob whose red steeples pierce the grey sky.
MAJESTY AND SPLENDOR: THE RATHAUS
Arrayed in all its splendor at the end of the avenue is the facade of the Rathaus, adorned with flowers and the statues of kings. As I stroll towards the square in front of it, a group of rosy-cheeked blondes decked out in traditional German costume pass me in a phaeton. One minute on Rathaus Platz and you know this is a place where the action changes from minute to minute. Suddenly the strains of a nearby violin permeate the entire square. This is also the meeting point of everyone who visits Hamburg. A flurry of preparation continues apace for China Time 2008, which will include numerous cultural, commercial and environmental activities. Tourists pan their cameras across the facade of the 111-year-old Rathaus. A building displaying at once Neo-Renaissance and Baroque style, the Rathaus's left wing houses the parliament, its right wing the government offices. At the rear of the building I pass inside through a courtyard with a fountain and sculpture. A photography exhibition is under way in the foyer of this building of 647 rooms. The clock tower is visible from almost all over the city, and those eager to climb it for a bird's eye view of Hamburg are already waiting in line.
CHIC SHOPS AND GIANT CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
On your right as you face the Rathaus, the Neuer Wall stands out immediately for its chic shops. The brightly lit arcades connect to the bridges and from there to other points in the city. Vying for chicness, Hamburg's elite sip coffee at dusk in stylish cafes. A brief stroll through these streets is sufficient to make you realize that Hamburg is Germany's most favored city for shopping. I head south now, to the Stadthaus Brücke; various routes are possible from here using the metro, but I prefer to walk to the gothic tower that rises among the modern buildings. Taking one of the almost 2500 bridges in the city, I come to Willy Brandt Strasse. Largely destroyed in the Second World War, the anti-war St. Nikolai Memorial has watched over the city continually for a hundred years. As I stroll from here to Deichtorplatz one of the city's most imposing structures, the Chilehaus, rises on my left. One of the best known buildings in the city's business district, Chilehaus is a fine example of German Expressionist architecture and the harmony of brown and white. As it continues, this avenue brings me to the Deichtorhallen, a venue for modern art. From here I head for the harbor, or HafenCity, where one of Hamburg's largest urban projects is in progress. Based on the concept 'Life with Water', the project will give Hamburg a modern new harbor and tourists a fascinating place to visit.
WINDOW ON THE WORLD
There are many places to visit in the buildings that line up left and right as I stroll down to HafenCity and the harbor that bustles with maritime trade: Kesselhaus, Speicherstadtmuseum, Miniature Wunderland, Hamburg Dungeon, the Afghan Art Museum, Spicy's Gewürzmuseum (Spice Museum), the International Maritime Museum, and the Elbephilharmonia Concert Hall, to name just a few. After a whirl through the museums, a brief rest stop is in order on the banks of the Elbe, which empties into the North Sea. The cafes on the Magellan and Marco Polo terraces serve lunch as well, if you are so inclined.
My stroll down to the Fischmarkt clinches the truth of a claim made by all the tourist brochures that 'Hamburg is a city unthinkable without water'. Those who prefer to explore this aspect of the city are already filling up the tour boats. Ships, yachts, in short everything that floats, add to the harbor's bustle. The museum ship Cap San Diego, a former freighter, along the river walk and the Elbe Tunnel on the Bundesautobahn are two places worth seeing. The old Elbe Tunnel, a 426 meter long underwater pedestrian and vehicle tunnel from Sankt Pauli to Steinwerder on the banks of the Elbe, is currently undergoing maintenance.
When the coastal strip extending from Sankt Pauli reaches the Fischmarkt, you come to the city's oldest market. For many years the place where Europe got its fresh fish, there are still plenty of fish restaurants on hand here. This avenue also intersects with Hamburg's famous red light district, the Reeperbahn. To reach it I take the steps up from the riverbank and then the back streets. Opening onto streets chock full of hotels, gift shops, cafes and bars, the Reeperbahn itself boasts restaurants of every type imaginable from gyros joints and kebab shops to fast food chains and sandwich bars. The district also marks the location of the clubs where the Beatles' inimitable sound was once heard and where famous names have been performing for years. A virtual paradise today for German and international music groups alike, John Lennon is said to have once remarked of it that “The Beatles hailed not from Liverpool but from Hamburg!” Everyone follows closely the young talents that perform in the festivals here, wondering if a new Beatles group is about to burst onto the scene. Checking my map again on the Reeperbahn, I head now for Milerntorplatz.
CITY WHERE STATUES SPEAK
At the Planten und Blumen Park just opposite the square I encounter streams, vegetation and ducks! Not far from the city center, this park is also home to the Hamburg Museum of History. Leaving the park you can savor the taste of German architecture in the back streets off Holstenwall Strasse. The tiny neighborhood cafes in these streets lined with beautiful houses and flowers are also your ticket to the life of the Hamburg natives. And at the end of Holstenwall stand the Palace of Justice and the Brahms Museum. The statues scattered amidst the greenery show how art has carved out a niche for itself in the city. After visiting Hamburg's prominent buildings and other attractions, it's time now to experience life in the city, and our first options are the theaters, operas and concert halls. Even the streets! The fruit-growing village of the Altes Land with its old farm houses and the historic towns of Stade and Lüneberg can be reached in a short time from the city center on the Elbe and Aster rivers. And the province of Lübeck and the beaches on the Baltic are only an hour away by car.
THE FACE OF GERMANY
Europe's largest port, Hamburg ranks seventh in the world in maritime transport. Its strategic location between northern and eastern Europe has made it a thriving port city. Not only that but the city is also highly advanced in medical and biotechnology as well as in airplane manufacturing. The giant-bodied Airbus A380, for example, was produced here. For whatever reason you come here, you will notice that Hamburg has everything to make a city wonderful: history, nature, architecture and dynamism... In short, if we were to compare Germany to a person, Hamburg would be its face.
Turkish Airlines flies round trip to Hamburg from Istanbul everyday.