I took a short weekend trip to Hamburg by bus from Copenhagen (7hrs total). Hamburg is a very old industrious port city in North Germany, sited on the River Elbe. It is the second largest city in the country. The city is quite unique because of the city's contextual mix of old and new as it has historically endured heavy destruction during the Allied bombing raids of WWII. The city is littered with cranes, bridges, warehouses and canals unmistakably identifying as a robust port city. What I was completely enamored with was the fervent industrialized character of this city. Everything was meticulously engineered, what I expect of a German city, and yet it was from an era where steel construction and the rivet was first invented. The structurally expressive character of the canal bridges suggest the city's infrastructure were the testing grounds for these new structural ideas, details and form during the Industrial Revolution. And yet today I was riding a public bus that ran on a hydrogen fuel cell, characterizing Hamburg as a city with a long tradition in innovation, science, and engineering.
The Warehouse District, Speiherstadt, is located at the heart of the city and is defined by the red brick warehouses that line the canals. It is the largest warehouse district in the world and has been designated as a UNESCO Wold Heritage Site. Many buildings remain used only for industrial storage of commercial goods while other buildings have been converted into museums or other attractions such as the Miniatur Wunderland. I would also be remiss not to mention the new Elbe Philharmonic Hall is located in the district but I will write more about this building in another post.
This site section offers an illustrated depiction of the character of Hamburg I was trying to describe previously. What was so captivating about this city was the mechanical nature of all the built infrastructure. The warehouses are punctured with large doors facing the canals at every level, and the gable above provides the crane that would lift goods to and from the warehouse floors to the barges below. Many of the canals and harbor wharfs are lined with gantry rails, with positioned old cranes that once serviced the waterways. It was an absolute fantasy for me.
The Elbe Tunnel is another unique industrial triumph from the pre-war era that is now a fascinating public attraction. The tunnel was built in 1911 to move pedestrians and vehicles across the Elbe River while not obstructing ship's passage in what was one of the busiest harbors in the world. The tunnel is roughly 1,400ft long and 80ft below the water. At each ends of the tunnel there are four huge elevator lifts that carry cars from street level to tunnel level, still in operation today. There was a historical building section showing a horse and carriage taking the lift down to crass the river. The lifts were under repair while I was there but I did see commuters by bicycle. Crossing the tunnel offers some of the best views of the Elbe Philharmonic Hall.