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'Gateway to the world'

Phil and Sue Newdick write about their visit Hamburg in Germany where thousands turned up to greet them at the train station!

Leaving Leipzig we caught another train, this time to Hamburg. This city is about 400kms north-west of Leipzig but even with a change of trains in Berlin, the very comfortable German train managed the journey in under four hours.

When we arrived in Hamburg we were blown away — what a bustling place. The railway station and surrounding area, when we arrived was wall-to-wall people.

We had travelled through areas where life seemed so relaxed, even though it was Sunday afternoon, but when we climbed off that train, it felt like we had climbed into bedlam.

We were staying about 5-6 kilometres from the city centre and managed to find the right metro to get us there.

Our train ticket from Leipzig included passage on the suburban trains for that day, which saved us the task of finding tickets in the chaos.

Surprisingly, our suburb was so quiet in comparison to the downtown area. We never experienced the hustle and bustle anywhere in Hamburg that our introduction included.

We can only assume that they heard we were coming and turned out to meet us!

Hamburg, a city of 1.8 million people, is the second largest city in Germany. The Port of Hamburg is a sea port on the River Elbe 110 kilometres from its mouth on the North Sea.

It’s Germany’s largest port and is named the country’s “Gateway to the World”. Hamburg is the third-busiest port in Europe and 15th-largest worldwide.

Our choice of apartments had been limited and it turned out to be a bit unique. The décor was, by our standards, different . . . lots of leopard skins.

The slow internet which died completely and could not be fixed for us during our stay, provided us with a bit of a challenge. We do not realise how much we depend on our technology until it fails.

We found a selection of free Wi-Fi connections in the CBD and the communication problem was solved and after a couple of days our “different” apartment décor became just Hamburg.

'Tunnel was awesome' We used the Metro to travel each day in towards the centre then walked back to our apartment. Some days our wanderings covered as much as 14kms.

Our impression of Germany, fostered by the statues and monuments, is that the German society has become a very permissive society — the statues and street art leave very little to the imagination.

Hamburg being Hamburg, its permissiveness competes, quite favourably or unfavourably, depending on your point of view, with Amsterdam and its own red light district.

It is a very bustling city — although it is a fair way from the sea, the access via the River Elbe and the network of deep water channels makes it a very maritime city. We spent a full day exploring the “Warehouse District” which is a major tourist destination. Built on the city canals, it houses many museums, places of interest, eateries and apartments as well as the warehouses. The blending of the older construction, which was damaged during WW2 and repaired, with the newer construction has been very well done. Like the cosmopolitan population of the country, it is very diverse.

The walk through the Elbe tunnel under the river was very interesting. It proved the point that the journey is important, not the destination — the tunnel was awesome but the old shipyards were an anti-climax as they are no longer operational.

Our final jaunt involved using the metro to travel to the end of the line Blankenese. This was originally a fishing village and still has a few of the older cottages there as the original streets have been retained.

Sightseeing involved much climbing among the narrow alleyways and many stairways that access the hillside community which overlooks the River Elbe.

The river is a very busy waterway and there was a constant flow of boats carrying freight to and from the city.