Leaving behind a tumultuous past marked by destruction and periods of glory, Hamburg rose from the dust of war wealthier and stronger than before
Being in Lubeck for a few days already, as much as I loved that city I was starting to get bored. So, it seemed a good idea that since Hamburg was only 70 km away, I should take the train and pay it a visit. Definitely, it was not in my plans and being a big city was not on my “must see“ list. I still prefer smaller picturesque towns.
What convinced me though, was that fact that since I wrote a paper on propaganda in Germany during WWII when I finished university, maybe it should be a good idea to know better the Germany of today while looking at it through the mirror of the past.
Although is not my kind of city, it managed to impress me.
To understand Hamburg I should start with the beginning. Placed in North of Europe on River Elbe at the conjunction with two other rivers it has more canals than Venice that`s why it was named Venice of the North. It was a major port and a member of the Hanseatic League along with Lubeck and Rostock. This brought prosperity and wealth being for a long time a free city of the Holy Roman Empire.
It survived the Viking raids, it was burned down by Polish in the 11th century, the Danish raids, the decimation of the population by the Black Death in the 14th century, a major cholera outbreak in the 19th century, numerous fires from Middle age to WWII and a big flood. Despite all this the resilience of the city to recover is amazing.
The port and the position was a source of wealth during the centuries but it brought destructions as well. During the WWII in 1943 a heavy bombarding raid which lasted for a week, called Operation Gomorra, led to the almost total destruction of the city and the loss of 40000 lives. The aim was the destruction of the port and of the industrial zone. The incendiary bombs used and the storm that followed transformed into a tornado of fire 300m high reaching 800 degrees. Many people died by carbon monoxide poisoning of just being pulled into the fire by the currents.
Time has passed covering the wounds of the war. As a reminder of its destructions, the ruins of Saint Nicolas Church were preserved as it were after the deadly bombardment.
I sat there in awe, wondering how can the insanity of one man lead to all this? So many people died in the bombardments and in concentration camps. So much grief and so much suffering.
Hamburg rebuilt and reinvented itself. Its former glory it was restored little by little and a new modern city was taking the place of the old one. Part of the buildings was restored although little survived of the Altstadt( old city). The architecture follows the traditional lines but with an infuse of modernity.
The warehouse district or Speicherstadt is one of the biggest and like the buildings in Venice was build on timber pillars. It was half destroyed during the WWII bombardments and reconstructed becoming UNESCO Heritage site in 2015.
After 1990 the importance of the port of Hamburg grew becoming the second busiest port in the world and one of the most important ports in the world.
Despite wars and despite vicisitudes Hamburg had the power of being rebirth from its ashes like Phoenix. Maybe this is the curse and blesses of river Elbe or maybe it is the ability of people to overcome hardship and move forward.
The city shared its energy with me and although there were so many things I need it to see I decided that is time to return to Lubeck. Hamburg is throbbing and impetuous, but Lubeck suits more my lonely traveler soul…