Hamburghers for a day

Folks who live in New York would be called ‘New Yorkers’ right? And rightly the people of China would be called the Chinese…so what do you call the folks who live in the city of Hamburg?

Well, the burghers of Hamburg.

Location of HamburgYep. The world ‘burgher’ is an old Germanic word that describes a person who is a citizen of a city or borough. This is the definition when one looks up the web these days. Essentially it referred to an inhabitant of a city. So where is Hamburg and its burghers.

The biggest port of Germany and one of Europe, Hamburg is (was) an industrial city. Being located on the sea meant that it was historically linked by trade to the rest of the continent. So it should not be a surprise that the city was a member of the medieval Hanseatic league that wielded significant power beyond trade. Repeatedly damaged or destroyed, the city was granted a charter of freedom in 1189. Its location made it important to trade with and eventually its alliance with the city of Lubeck led to the establishment of a powerful trade federation. Look it up!

Old city yet new

Hamburg Station 3Now our story of the city was rather short, in fact extremely. So why would we write about this?

You see, we were dropped off in the middle of town by the tour group after dinner. We were on the way to Scandinavia and took the land route through Germany. This wasn’t a stop that we looked forward to. But since it was summer, it was still bright around 8pm in the evening. And where did they drop us? The main train station. Great. Hamburg Station 1What is one to do around the train station? Why we stood around and took photos! Looking back now it was kind of strange. A couple of Asian dudes and ladies posing in front of the exit of the station taking photos. Would that seem odd to you today?

Hamburg Station 2So you’d know we did some research on the station. Built and opened in 1906, this station is used by nearly half a million commuters every day. It is the most busy in Germany and second only to the Paris station of Gare du Nord. Not so it seems when we were there because it was after dinner time. And apparently Germans have their meals on time, like they are said to for everything else… Do you agree?

What else we did while we were here

Now without a map and wondering about almost “blind”, we somehow managed to gravitate towards the old town hall – the Rathaus it is called in German. Not sure why it’s called the Rat-haus, but it sure is large. Perhaps it’s where the politicians gather.

Hamburg City Hall area3In fact, it straddles what looked like a canal to us. Only that it wasn’t. It was the lower end of the Alster river that eventually links up with the Elbe river. When we were there, the city hall was under extensive restoration works, so we did not see its full glory though the apartments on the sides were no less glorious. Did you know this building has 6 more rooms than Buckingham palace? That is the immensity of this government building and a clue to never allowing governments to expand too much in our opinion.Hamburg City Hall area1

A large market is located in front of the city hall full of people browsing. Probably because it was a Saturday, thus the vendors were out in force. Sausages and sauerkraut along with pretzels etc were sold along with various handicraft. We wondered if this was set up for us… Because it sure was no festive celebration going on! Wow. Do they do this throughout the summer?

Not far away was the Alterkaden, a 100m stretch of shopping filled with luxury shops. Well it was rather late when we got here, so the shops were mostly closed. But the nice thing was the number of swans that seem to congregate there. So many of them. They were so friendly coming up close. Probably looking for a handout or two. People were sitting on the steps, probably working off the drink they had been downing.

Perhaps we can come back

While we may have stayed barely a couple of hours in the city, it seems that we had seen quite some of it with no real plan at all. This was because we hardly did any research. We were there on a tour group and had expected some form of guidance. But alas it was not to be.

And it was time to get back to the hotel on our own to rest.

Yes there are many more places to visit – least of all the great port that one can sail past from the comfort of a tour boat. Or the warehouse district (Speicherstadt) where one can enjoy fantastic night scenes. There has been suggestion that the origin of the American hamburger was from Frikadeller, a sort of pan-fried patty though not normally served with buns. But we know of the same in Holland too. And surreally it spells quite similar too.

This was our first visit to Germany. Our “first time”… Now you know why we had to write about it. Little did we know that it would be a country to drive often to from our future home in the Netherlands (here).

We stopped for a day in the city of Hamburghers in July 1996

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