Last time with the Travelerette, we explored the quirkier side of Hamburg. We checked out the hipsters and their Park Fiction in St. Pauli, the hard working police officers of Reeperbahn, and the ghosts that haunt St. Michael’s Church. But today we are going to see the historic side of Hamburg. We’ll visit the stunning Rathaus, see some tragic WWII sights, and learn all about Hamburg’s history of maritime exploits. We may even unleash the Kraken. Lass uns gehen!
Morning: Maritime Museum
Address: Koreastraße 1
Hours: 10-6 Daily
Price: 13 Euros. I take it the people who run this museum aren’t superstitious.
The Maritime Museum, like all great achievements and Steven King novels, was born out of one human’s mad obsession. In this case, it was the obsession of a man named Peter Tamm, who began collecting model ships at the age of six. His collection grew and grew, until the Hamburg Parliament agreed to let him open up a Maritime Museum which now contains Tamm’s collection and many other treasures relating to the Maritime Arts.
Appropriately enough, as Tamm explains in a letter on the museum’s website, the location for the museum is in the oldest remaining warehouse in Hamburg. This warehouse would have been used to store goods coming into Hamburg Port, which makes it an ideal location for a Maritime Museum. There is a wealth of information about any naval subject, but let’s just stick to…
three fun facts about ships and their ways
1) Though Germany was famous for its navy in the 20th century, it actually didn’t even have a Navy until the 19th century, when a dispute with Denmark over the territories of Schleswig and Holstein prompted the creation of armed forces on the sea. It’s very hard for me to imagine thinking, “We’ve been safe without a navy until now, but since those warlike Danes are breathing down our necks, we’d better arm ourselves!” The Scandinavians in general have such a peaceful reputation in recent decades. But Denmark did used to have an empire, so perhaps I’m just underestimating their martial tendencies.
Anyway, once Germany did develop a navy, they more than made up for years of slackitude by terrorizing the world with giant underwater torpedoes like this rusty fellow pictured above. So I guess the moral of this story is: Do not encourage Germany to develop a navy.
2) A good portion of the museum is dedicated to depictions of maritime exploits, and they have a great collection of paintings of ships. I certainly did not know that Dutch painters were the first people to really popularize ship painting as a genre. This painting is by 17th century Dutch painter Abraham Storck. He apparently paid extremely careful attention to accuracy when he was painting the details on his ships, so his works are a great record of what ships at the time would have actually looked like. Nerds: what would we do without them?
3) The museum also has an incredible collection of Naval hats and uniforms. Most of them look pretty typical, but I was surprised to see a fez listed here as being a hat worn in the Austrian navy. According to Wikipedia, it would likely have been worn by Bosnians serving in the Austro-Hungarian empire, but since it’s Wikipedia, who knows if that’s true. I could go there right now and say that the fez is a hat traditionally worn by moon men as they eat their green cheese and I bet no one would notice for months.
Travelerette Tip: The English signage is poor in this museum, so get the audio guide if you want to know the historical deets.
Also be careful, because I’m pretty sure I saw a troop of hook-handed fisherman from I Know What You Did Last Summer hanging out here. And I’m pretty sure the Kraken lives here too.
See what I mean? The Maritime Museum is a dangerous place.
Travelerette Treasure: My favorite exhibition in the museum was the part dedicated to luxury liners. I enjoyed this replica of a glamorous stateroom complete with evening gown. I like to imagine that I was a passenger on this ship in some long lost Agatha Christie novel like Murder on the Queen Mary. As long as I wasn’t one of the people to get murdered of course…
Early Afternoon: Free Walking Tour
Hours: 11 AM and 2 PM Daily
Now that we’ve gotten a taste of maritime history, it’s time to get to know the history of the fair city of Hamburg. I wanted a walking tour of the historical buildings that left in the afternoon, and the one I found with the best reviews was the Sandeman’s free walking tour that left at 2PM. Our guide was an entertaining young man named Eddy who showed us as many Hamburgian landmarks as our hearts desired. But I will get you started with…
the approximately top five historic landmarks in hamburg
1) Perhaps the most striking building in Hamburg is the gorgeous 19th century city hall, aka the Rathaus. This is still the seat of Hamburg’s government. Unfortunately, it is also where Hitler liked to speak when he was in power–Eddy told us that Hamburg was one of Hitler’s favorite cities–and so the square outside was named Adolf Hitler Square while the Nazis were in power. (Unsurprisingly, the name was changed back to Rathausmarkt after WWII.)
2) On a much less tragic note, we went to visit the interior of St. Peter’s Church. This church is known for its tolerant and welcoming community. Eddy said that you can often see signs here saying, “Kein Mensch ist illegal,” which means “No one is illegal”. This slogan indicates to refugees that they are welcome here. I appreciate that we were given some time to walk around this church on our own and see the artwork here as we pleased.
Aside from being an open and tolerant community, St. Peter’s is also known for its giant lion doorknockers. I want to get some of these for my apartment, but I think they’d scare the neighbors.
Travelerette Tip: There’s a nice public toilet in St. Peter’s, if you are in need.
3) My favorite building in Hamburg is the Expressionist Chile House. The building doesn’t actually have much to do with Chile except that it was designed for a wealthy tycoon who had made most of his money selling Chilean exports. Can you tell what the house is meant to resemble? Hint: what is Hamburg famous for?
That’s right! The house is supposed to look like a ship. I think that sounds like a swell idea. You could pretend you were a pirate captain or a mermaid or lots of other fun things.
4) After exploring a fun pirate ship house, it was back to darker days with the ruins of St. Nicholas’s Church. This church was destroyed during the Allied bombing of Hamburg during WWII. The bombing was called Operation Gomorrah by the Allies because Hamburg had a reputation for debauchery, just like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible. The church ruins have been left intact as a memorial for those who have been killed in war, though not specifically the Germans who were killed during the bombing. For obvious reasons, there are not many monuments to Germans killed during WWII in Germany.
5) On the more adorable side of the street, we headed to Deichstrasse, which is the oldest street in Hamburg. That is because most of the rest of Hamburg was burned down in the Great Fire of 1842, which started on this very street at, appropriately enough, a cigar factory. But because of the direction of the wind, a good portion of the street where the fire started was spared, which is why these cute brick buildings are still standing today.
6) Our final stop on the tour was at the Elbphilharmonie, which is a bit reminiscent of the Chile House to me even though it looks more like a wave than a ship. Eddy told us that the building had become a symbol of the gentrification of the neighborhood, especially since it was so expensive to build. But I thought it was a nice place to end the tour. Hamburg began as a trade center, and now it’s almost more known for its cultural accomplishments like the Elbphilharmonie.
Travelerette Tip: I feel like I give this spiel every time I go on a free walking tour, but it’s important, so bear with me. Sandeman’s tours are not really free. The guides have to pay the company about 3 Euros for each person who goes on a free walking tour. So it’s actually possible for a guide to lose money on the tour. Don’t let this happen! Give your guide a good tip!
Late Afternoon: Miniatur Wunderland
Address: Kehrwieder 2-4/Block D
Hours: Hours Vary, Check Here
Price: 13 Euros
Oh my goodness! Someone has shrunk the Elbphilharmonie! How terrible! Who could have allowed this wickedness to occur?
Well, fear not, Internet Stranger. This is actually just a miniature replica of the Elbphilharmonie at Miniatur Wunderland, which is the world’s largest model railway exhibition. But even if you are not a train enthusiast, you will still enjoy seeing the models of places such as Germany…
the United States…
But Mini Hamburg is the coolest because you have just finished exploring Life Sized Hamburg. Now you can see a tiny version of the whole city, from the Port to the Rathaus.
I wonder if it’s possible to pay to get a miniature version of yourself put in Miniatur Wunderland. This seems like a real money making opportunity to me.
Travelerette Tip: Lines for Miniatur Wunderland are hideous. Buy your tickets online here. Purchase your ticket for 5:30 PM and you should have plenty of time to make it after the free tour.
Travelerette Treasure: It was definitely the technological marvels at the Minatur Wunderland that were the most impressive. I can’t decide whether I preferred the airport, with planes that actually appeared to take off…
or the way that the miniature city looked all lit up at night. Both were pretty spectacular.
Evening: Zum Brandanfang
Address: Deichstraße 25
At Eddy the tour guide’s suggestion, I went back to Deichstrasse for dinner at Zum Brandanfang, a restaurant that serves traditional Hamburg cuisine. I wanted to feast on labskaus, which is that mess of bright red corned beef, pickles, herring, and fried egg pictured above. (The red color comes from beetroot.) It seems like exactly what you would eat to put fat on your bones during those cold Hamburger winters. Basically it’s three proteins in one. You will feel like a hearty German sailor when you are done eating it!
I liked the briny taste of the pickled herring, corned beef, and pickled…pickles all rolled into one,and the fried egg added a nice dollop of fat to finish the whole thing off. But it’s definitely something for a more adventurous eater. You can try their Pannfisch if you’re not as brave an eater.
I hadn’t really tried a dessert in Hamburg yet, so I opted for the Rote Grutze, which is a red fruit pudding topped with sweet cream. Usually red currants are involved in the dish. I liked the tart lightness of the red fruit mixed with the heavy sweetness of the cream on top. It was a delicious study in contrasts.
And That’s How to Have a Perfect Day in Hamburg!
What would you do with one day in Hamburg? Have you ever been menaced by evil fisherman in a maritime museum? And which is scarier, the Kraken or eating Labskaus? Please leave your thoughts below!
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