Hamburg – a journey in a port city, between reality and imagination – Germany

Spots of blue

I glance for a moment at one of those apps that shows in real time the location and movement of the vessels in the days and oceans of the world. The city of Hamburg looks congested with ships and ships of various sizes and types. not surprising. In terms of ship volume, Hamburg is the largest port city in Germany, and a port is considered among the largest in European ports. Who is responsible for this is the Elbe River for its various tributaries that runs through the city on its way to the North Sea, and also His Majesty, Frederick Barbarossa, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire who established a port here in the late 12th century. Over the years new canals and waterways were built in the city area, and the existing canals were widened and deepened to allow the entry of ships, cargo tankers and also cruise ships, containing thousands of passengers, directly into the city itself.

Hamburg – a port city far from the sea (MarinTraffic app)

A special relationship.  Hamburg at low tide

A special relationship. Hamburg at low tide

for further reading:
Hamburg – the top ten
The journey following the burgers in Germany

We, a small group of Israeli journalists, arrived in Hamburg by air. A few minutes before landing, as the plane emerged from the clouds, I could see a city stained with plenty of blue water stains, which made it a picturesque sight of a city on the water, even if the sea itself was over a hundred miles away! Later, as we set foot in the streets, alongside the many canals and bridges, we will better understand this special relationship that the city of Hamburg has with the water. With the water channels and with the tidal forces that turn, every day, the shallower water paths into alluvial and mud paths.

City of warehouses

A port city, naturally, requires, apart from deep waterways, also a complex system of cranes, terminals, loading and unloading docks, refueling tanks, garages and of course warehouses. In Hamburg, it seems, warehouses have a special status. In the HafenCity district of the port, is the area known as Speicherstadt. As is well known, the languages: Hebrew and German do not really get along, especially when it comes to spelling and pronouncing names. It might be spelled like this: Feicherstadt, meaning in any case something like: “The City of Warehouses”, today part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is actually the largest storage area in the world, whose buildings were built on oak foundations, somewhere in the years. 80s of the 19th century, and even then became a world trade center for spices, coffee and rugs from the East.

Adjacent to it is the Contorahs district built specifically for office use. It stands out for three magnificent buildings built in the 1920s and 1930s; The Chilihaus (pictured), Messberg and Sprinkenhof (Chilehaus, Messberghof and Sprinkenhof).

Chilehaus Hamburg (Photo: Wikipedia)

Chilehaus Hamburg (Photo: Wikipedia)

Music and war

The architecture of the warehouse city, laden with the colors of the dark and deep brown, seems to be challenged by the sight of a glass-like building towering to the sky. Its walls rise to a height of 110 meters, leaning against a group of old buildings, as if hovering over them. This is the Elbphilharmonie, the Concert Hall of Hamburg, a spectacular structure inaugurated about 5 years ago and located on the banks of the Elbe River, on the west side of the Open City. This extravagant hall, along with the river and canals, port buildings, offices and warehouses, is part of the city’s new visual profile.

The days are the war between Russia and Ukraine and at night we find ourselves seated in the main hall of the Albhilephi Harmony along with several hundred other guests who came to listen to a concert of fraternity and reconciliation, consisting of German, Ukrainian and Russian works.

Elbphilharmonie - Hamburg Music Hall (Credit: Wikipedia - CC BY-SA 4.0)

Elbphilharmonie – Hamburg Music Hall (Credit: Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 4.0)

Shadows and lights

Perhaps the best way to experience up close the almost intimate connection that exists between Hamburg and its port is by sailing on one of the cruise ships cruising the city’s waterways. A journey through the winding waterways of the port and the vessels that frequent it, gives an opportunity to peek, from a different angle, at the icons of the city, the Open City and the Feicherstadt district, the Maritime Museum, the Köhlbrand Bridge and of course the Music Hall: the Elbe Philharmonic. The night tour gives these buildings a special bonus; Shadows and lights and reflections on the surface of the water.

שייט לילי: shipping company Abicht.  At the St. Pauli Landungsbrücken.  Hamburg

שייט לילי: shipping company Abicht. At the St. Pauli Landungsbrücken. Hamburg


Not far from the Feicherstadt is the Miniature Wonderland – the largest miniature train site of its kind in the world. The truth is that it is much more than just trains. In the various halls of the building you can see, apart from carriages, miniature models of international cities in Italy, Austria (with the Alps), USA, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Germany and even a model of the airport in Hamburg. A particularly interesting scene takes place in the city of Knuffingen. You have not heard of the city which, by the way, has ten thousand inhabitants and about 400 vehicles, it is only because of the fact that Knopfingen is an imaginary city.

It is difficult to describe in words the wonders that take place here. Maybe the following numbers I found On the company’s website Will be able to give a more true picture as to what is happening in this land of trains. The entire complex covers about 7 square kilometers, and has 1,120 trains, 10,450 carriages and over 16 km of length of tiny railroads. There are also 289,000 human figures, some moving and sizzling, 137,000 trees, 990,000 different buildings, 10,250 cars and 52 planes with 250 daily flights.

Tour of the Wonderland of Hamburg…

Tour of the Wonderland of Hamburg…

Herring from another world

The world of Hamburg gastronomy is essentially cosmopolitan. For centuries countless sailors and seafarers have passed through the city, including cooks and chefs who left behind culinary fingerprints they brought with them from their kitchens overseas. The restaurants in the city represent almost every nation on earth, from exclusive luxury restaurants, and stylish modern restaurants to traditional port restaurants and seafood.

Good local food is always an appetizer and an essential ingredient in the menu of image trips, and our hosts tell us some unique dishes from the purity of the local table, such as Franzbrötchen – French rolls, allegedly influenced by Napoleon soldiers, currywurst, Labskaus – a mixture of meat, fish, eggs , Spices, with potatoes, and finally a kind of berry compote served with a vanilla pudding custard (Rote Grütze). As an avid fish lover I found myself one day in a narrow alley and a stall laden with mackerel, matias and herring sandwiches. I went for the latter. I sat down on a small railing and bit into a sandwich. As I tickle these lines, the juicy, slightly salty taste of the herring reappears in my palate (see small list of recommendations at the end).

Fish we tasted from the waters of Hamburg

Fish we tasted from the waters of Hamburg

Intimacy during Corona

Four days in Hamburg allow for just a quick taste, a kind of short taste of the mix that this city offers its guests in the fields of history, culture and leisure. When you arrive in Hamburg at the end of March there is a good chance that the temperatures of this northern city will be around zero degrees. The sight of people walking around the streets wearing coats, woolen hats, gloves and even masks against the Cubid virus 19, was strange to say the least. Somewhat reminiscent of the masks worn by epidemiologists in the Middle Ages.

In one place, on the deck of a ship, one of many kinds that take tourists on a tour of the city harbor, I could see a young couple holding hands intimately and looking at each other with a loving, garage-like look. The corona is still here. People are required to go with masks even in the open markets of the city. One of them is worth mentioning: this is the flea market in Schanzenviertel that is only open on Saturdays. The market is full and full of treasures and old objects with an aroma of yesteryear. Each of them, it seems, hides behind it a small and moving story.

Intimacy in the shadow of the cube

Intimacy in the shadow of the cube

The flea market in Schanzenviertel.  Every object has a number

The flea market in Schanzenviertel. Every object has a number

In a port city as in a port city

Hamburg has an active nightlife and a wide range of bars and clubs, including those offering all kinds of sex services. A large part is concentrated and thriving in the St. Foley district, on the right bank of the Elbe, mainly around Reeperbahn Street and the Red Light District. The area is packed with sex shops, strip clubs, and dubious nightclubs. Along with them is in St. Pauli a variety of clubs and musical theaters. It is also the place that many commentators believe served in the 60s of the last century, as the melting pot of the beetle band.

Stephanie Hempel, who has founded and performed the “Beatles’ Journey in Hamburg” for the past 15 years, leads us between clubs where the mythological characters of John, Paul, George and Ringo take their first steps as a band. She knows everything there is to know about this wondrous bunch, and every now and then she stops at some street corner to sing to us with the help of a little ballaika some of the beetle songs of yesteryear. She chooses to open with one of those beautiful longing songs: “There are places I remember all my life, even though some have changed, forever, not necessarily for the better…”.

Stephanie on a beetle tour around Hamburg

Places worth visiting. Some were mentioned in the article, some were recommended by the hosts:

Hall of Music – Elbphilharmonie Hamburg
place d. German Unity 4, 20457 Hamburg

Wonderland – Miniature wonderland
Kehrwieder 2/Block D, 20457 Hamburg

Maritime Museum – International Maritime Museum
Koreastraße 1, 20457 Hamburg

Cruises on the waterways in Hamburg – Shipping company Abicht
At the St. Pauli-Landungsbrücken 4
20359 Hamburg
Tel. +49 40 31 78 22 0

flea market – Flohschanze
The flea market in Hamburg’s Schanzenviertel, the “Flohschanze”, takes
place every Saturday, even in winter. From 8 am to 4 pm
Address: Flohschanze Neuer Kamp 30, 20357 Hamburg

The Beetle Journey in Hamburg – Hempel’s musical Beatles tour of St. Pauli
Stefanie Hempel is the founder of the Hamburg Beatles-Tour. Ms Stefanie Hempel
Car: +49 (0) 15 11 / 1 22 15 70

Museum of Arts and Crafts
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg


DESTILLE Restaurant in the Museum of Arts and Crafts for over 30 years, the Destilleis at an institution in Hamburg

Beautiful Life RestaurantThe Schönes Leben restaurant offers space to feast and relax in a particularly cosy kind of warm atmosphere.

Address: Schönes Leben Alter Wandrahm 15, 20457 Hamburg

Restaurant: “Underdocks” Fish fast food newly interpreted with highest quality is the goal at UNDERDOCKS in St. Pauli.Try the pulled salmon, the salmon tacos or a fried fish bowl. Adress: Neuer Kamp 13, 20359 Hamburg

“KITCHENS Restaurant & Bar” The menu at KITCHENS, for example, is inspired by thebest kitchens  20457 Hamburgand chefs in the world. Address: KITCHENS Restaurant & Bar at PIERDREI HotelAm Sandtorkai 46, Hamburg


Tel Aviv Air has launched direct, regular and exclusive flights from Tel Aviv to Hamburg that make the destination closer than ever, the flights operate twice a week on Thursdays and Mondays.

Map of Hamburg’s attractions:


The writer was a guest of the Hamburg Tourist Office and a company Tel Aviv Air

All photographs are by Ami Ben Best, unless otherwise stated.

Ami Ben Best Entrepreneur, project manager, including on another trip, and writer. In recent years, he has been specializing in the production of events and formats in the field of innovation and ‘creative type’ meetings for high-tech companies, organizations and academia, including meet-ups, workshops and non-conferences. Officer (part-time) in the MBA program for entrepreneurship and innovation at University. Tel Aviv. And when not looking: a writer, photographer, amateur astronomer and obsessive curiosity. Ami Ben Best’s Blog: A World Without Boxes, Found Here

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