Monday, 8 October 2007

A day in Hamburg - exploring the harbour

In late August I took the train from my parents' home to Hansestadt Hamburg, the second biggest city of Germany and home to the second biggest port in Europe (after Rotterdam).

Given Hamburg's identity as a port city I find entirely fitting to begin my post with a picture from the harbour. Identically coloured boats, some of them working as chartered boats, lie side by side.

A small part of Hamburg's gigantic waterfront here with a train from the city's metro system taking the scenic route with a view to the harbour.

A ship in dock at on of Hamburg Harbour's many quays.

Decorative maritime details.

Hamburg has many canals and lakes as well, giving the whole city - not just the harbour area - a nice fresh feel.

Today Hamburg's harbour is a hyper modern affair dominated by huge cranes and containers. But not so long, back in the days when it was a tax-exempt free port, all the activity was housed here in huge red warehouse with canals in between the buildings in the area known as Speicherstadt. This particular one was dried up, but back in the day the many small wooden prams would be collecting the crates and sacks (it was before the days of containers) of exotic goods from the large ships anchored further out and taking them via the canals to the warehouses. You can still see the many pulley systems used to hoist up the goods to the right floor.

Some pulleys are still in use. Here, the gentlemen of an oriental carpet store hoist down some goods to street level.

As the sun was temporarily hidden behind rainy clouds I took the opportunity to visit the small but nice Speicherstadtmuseum. The exhibits are nice enough, but for me the attraction was more to see the inside of an old warehouse. Even though it has been renovated, it still gives a good impression of what it looked like back then. The wooden floors and supporting beams are still there, adding greatly to the atmosphere.

My favourite item of the exhibit. An old tin case, which based on decorations must be from my adopted homeland, India. I don't know what it contained, but it could be coffee or spices, two popular items from India. It was funny to stand there and think how exotic that can must have been to those people of Hamburg who would purchase it, while I was on vacation from India and finding Hamburg a bit exotic. Strange, how perspectives can change.

Moving back in time I here show Deichstrasse, which is host to some of the oldest buildings of Hamburg which also face a canal and formed part of the harbour. As I understand most of them are reconstructions, but the originals were built in the 17th and 18th century. The great fire of 1842 which destroyed a big part of the city started here.

In my next post I will leave behind the harbour areas and explore the rest of the city.


Oxhomiya Jeet said...

"It was funny to stand there and think how exotic that can must have been to those people of Hamburg who would purchase it, while I was on vacation from India and finding Hamburg a bit exotic."
- I can totally relate to that! To add to that thought, increasingly in a wildly mutlicultural city like Toronto, there is little that's truly "exotic" any more. We're quite used to people and cultures and artefacts from around the world here. Which is sad in some ways. Though, as a social phenomenon, that alone is perhaps "exotic"! As it must have been for a group of elderly European tourists I recently noticed in downtown Tronto, watching us rush to work - asians, whites, blacks, arabs, you name it... I could see in the faces of the tourists that they were amazed at the mix of people. I'd bet where they come from, they may have some people from other races, but nothing like the crazy mix we have here. Us Torontonians must seem pretty "exotic" to them!


Esben said...

Yes, it's quite amazing how quickly you get used to the foreign and exotic. But at the end of the day, I guess that it is a good thing, since we all have to get used to each other in an increasingly globalised world. However, I find that I can still go place that amaze me and take my breath away. And I haven't even been to South America, Oceania or sub-Saharan Africa yet.