Roger St. Pierre 2013-01-07 22:03:55
The lovely German city will showcase the beauty of Lions’ service at the upcoming 96th International Convention Surprisingly green and architecturally beautiful, Hamburg is admired for its enormous port, historic, lovely downtown and village-like neighborhoods. It’s a city full of quaint cobblestone alleys, centuries-old churches and vibrant nightlife. The city also will be full of thousands of Lions for a grand week in July as it hosts the 96th International Convention. Hamburg will not be just a venue for Lions. The city will embrace Lions and integrate its charms with convention traditions. The Parade of Nations will start at the majestic Rathaus, the town hall and the city’s symbolic heart, and then snake its way around the Binnenalster, an artificial lake bordered by a stunning array of buildings. At the march’s end Lions will spill into a “market of nations,” where 30 pavilions will serve international foods and highlight Lions’ service around the world. The parade will not just display the diversity of Lions but also celebrate the diversity of our service. The convention runs July 5-9. Future issues of the LION will detail the speakers and attractions. Here is what you need to know about Hamburg and why it’s a wonderful place for Lions to gather to celebrate their service and move the association ever forward. Berlin may be the capital of Germany, but Hamburg, the nation’s second-largest city, resolutely refuses to accept a provincial label. It proudly sports all the airs and graces of a major player on the world stage, not just in commerce but also in culture, the arts, sport, the media and tourism. Hamburg feels like a capital in all but name–a fact reflected by the unusually large number of foreign consulates it hosts and the truly cosmopolitan make-up of its population. A linchpin of the solid German economy, Hamburg is a thriving manufacturing center. Its role in the global aircraft industry rivals that of Seattle and Toulouse. Airbus employs 13,000 people here. The city also is a major banking center while tourism generates close to 10 million overnight stays annually and provides 175,000 people with full-time jobs. As Germany’s busiest port, Hamburg has always been an outward-looking city, its horizons stretching far beyond the broad, winding River Elbe to the big wide world beyond. It’s an open-hearted place–quintessentially German yet a melting pot of many other cultures. In earlier times a free city powerhouse of the Hanseatic League (the potent medieval trading precursor of the European Union’s common market), Hamburg straddled the late 19th and early 20th centuries as one of the key gateways to a new life far away across the great Atlantic pond for millions of Central, Eastern and Northern European emigrants. These hordes may simply have been in transit, but they left an indelible mark on Hamburg. That story is brought to life at Ballinstadt, Port of Dreams, an emigration museum that evocatively carries visitors back through the mists of time. Today the bustling port is a haven for gigantic cruise ships and for cargo vessels of all shapes and sizes. Europe’s second most important port after Rotterdam and the ninth busiest in the world, Hamburg handles nearly 150 million tons of goods annually. Though located 68 miles from the yawning estuary of the Elbe, the docks have enough depth of water to accommodate large oceangoing vessels–and to build them, too at the renowned Blohm + Voss shipyards. The primacy of water and boats extends to the entire city. Extensive canals crisscross Hamburg, and no less than 2,300 bridges span this city of waterways. Once you have your bearings, getting around is easy. Bus, rail and ferry companies are all independently owned and operated, but they sensibly operate a joint ticketing system under the HVV or Verkehrsverbund (Hamburg Transit Authority) banner, and recognize one another’s tickets. The U-Bahn, the underground railway system, the S-Bahn and its nine mass transit rail lines, 600 different bus routes and the six ferry services plying the Elbe allow tourists to reach the main sights as well as the city’s nooks and crannies. On the other hand, if you like to amble, Hamburg is an eminently walkable place. There’s simply so much to see you’ll be constantly lured into exploring further down the street you’re on and beyond. The harbor may be one of the world’s largest, but most of the city’s main places of interest are fairly close to the city’s center. However, to ensure you don't miss out on any of the major sights it’s a good plan to kick off with an open-top sightseeing bus tour. Or head for the harbor and its 700- meter long floating dock that serves as Hamburg’s floating boat station and take a rather slower paced guided boat tour along the river and canals, passing the massive red brick warehouses of the Speicherstadt district, once abandoned relics of a pre-container ship past, now transformed into chic–and very expensive–loft apartments. It’s hard to believe that this now thriving area and much of the rest of the city was levelled by the all-consuming fire storm created by the Allied “Operation Gomorrah” 1,000- bomber air raid of July 1943, when the heat was so intense that the waters of the canals reached boiling point. More than 42,000 civilians perished in a raid so devastating that Hitler refused to visit and never set foot in the city again. The renaissance of Hamburg since the war has been remarkable. Today it boasts the highest per capita GDP in all Germany. That success can be put down to the resilience and industriousness of it citizens–people who work hard and play hard. This is, after all, the city renowned as the nation’s sporting capital, the jewel being the Hamburger SV soccer club. A guided tour of their massive 60,000-seat stadium and its trophy room and related facilities is a revelation. FC St. Pauli has now joined Hamburger SV in the league’s first division. The twin man-made Alster lakes, created by damning the river, are prime strolling grounds both for first-time visitors and longtime residents. Prestigious homes and imposing hotels like the Atlantic Kempinski and the Vierjahrezeiten line the lake’s banks. An air of solid prosperity wafts over the nearby leafy avenues, and the Jungfernstieg is justly renowned as one of Europe’s great promenades. It’s an easy walk from the lakes to the Altstadt–the old town. Its charming 16th-century ambience is somewhat illusory because this was another of the areas totally flattened in the war. In the first wave of Hamburg’s post-war rejuvenation this pleasant little district was faithfully rebuilt. Buildings from various architectural eras were similarly recreated throughout Hamburg. The diversity of styles, many of them executed in a grand manner, should encourage passersby to look upward rather than just at often glitzy shop window displays. Fine examples of empire art nouveau, art deco and 21st-century style abound. Culture vultures are drawn to the city’s magnificent State Opera House, 31 theaters, 10 cabaret rooms, six music halls and more than 50 museums and art galleries– both publicly and privately funded. Another site worth a look is the Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railroad. Its seven miles of tracks are laid out in an old warehouse near the Landungsbrücken bridge. The Reeperbahn thoroughfare in the St. Pauli maritime district is one the world’s most famous red-light districts. Beware, some of the side streets are decidedly not familyfriendly. The main street is a thriving entertainment district with pubs, bars and dance clubs, in many respects no bawdier than the French Quarter in New Orleans. The Fischmarkt is an easy five-minute stroll from the St. Pauli waterfront. At each end of the market’s jam-packed hall there’s a stage on which bands play their raucous sets seamlessly, rock giving way to funk to old school rock ‘n’ roll to garage, to hiphop to jazz. In the middle, a host of stalls offer all manner of food for eating on the hoof between swigs of wellchilled local beer. Holsten is the locally brewed “hair-of-the-dog” favorite. On chilly mornings, throat-burning schnapps find favor, as the smells of exotic herbs and spices float through the air. Outside the hall are stalls selling clothes, tourist trinkets and mementos of Hamburg’s hippy past. Hamburg has always imported and exported people as well as goods. In the early 1960s the city’s booming club scene drew certain mop-topped lads from Liverpool. The Beatles performed at clubs on Reeperbahn, famously honing their skills and emerging as the band that energized rock ‘n’ roll and an entire generation. John, Paul, George and original members Peter Best and Stuart Sutcliffe played night after night at the fabled Star Club, which burned down in the 1980s. The Beatles live on. At Reeperbahn and Grosse Freeheit streets are stainless steel sculptures commemorating the band. Feel free to hum your favorite Beatles song here. Hamburg is a magnet for the country’s movers and shakers–and for the international set too, so it’s no surprise to find an abundance of worldclass upmarket shops and first-rate restaurants, from the chic and funky to Michelin-starred havens of haute cuisine. There’s truly a global gourmet cookbook at play here. Consequently, the smell of the city is a mix of taste-tempting aromas. Turkish kebabs, Thai noodles and Italian pizzas are as much a part of the local culinary scene as such tasty local delights as matjes (salted North Sea herring served on a bread roll), hearty fish stews and labskaus, a traditional seafarer’s hash made with minced beef, chopped herring, leek, celery and other vegetables and topped with a fried egg. The dish’s distinctive and attractive red hue comes from the addition of cooked beetroot. Look for birnen, bohnen und speck on the menu. No, it’s not a firm of German lawyers but another unusual dish that’s worth seeking out. It’s an odd-sounding but delicious combination of pears, beans and speck ham. In season, sharp-tasting kale is the local veg of choice, along with the ubiquitous potato, which is the anchor of classic North German cuisine. Tiny North Sea shrimp are another staple. For a genuine local dessert, try rote grütze–red forest berries simmered in red wine and served up with cream or a silky smooth vanilla sauce. On the street, taste buds are tempted by sizzling bratwürst, currywürst and other styles of sausage plus the hamburger-like fricadelle patties and bratkartoffeln–the German- take on sautéd potatoes, prepared over an open flame in pans that can measure three-feet across. Load up on the cuisine–there’s so much to see and do you’ll need the calories. Try to explore beyond downtown so you can sample some of Hamburg’s residential and working suburbs, which make the city more a collection of strung-together comfortable villages than an unwieldy, amorphous big city. The Neue Stadt, Altona and HafnCity are all ready to bid you welcome, while Bremen, Hanover and even Berlin are but a short express train ride away. London-based travel writer Roger St. Pierre has travelled in 130 countries and all 50 U.S. states but confesses to being a confirmed Europhile and has been a frequent visitor to Hamburg. 5 Must-See Sites Rathaus Hamburg’s imposing city hall was built in neo-Renaissance style between 1886 and 1897 and remains iconic. The lofty tower looks down on the Old Town while its ornate exterior and 647 rooms carry many references to the city’s proud maritime traditions. St. Michaelis There’s been a church on this site since 1649, while the current edifice dates from 1907-12. In a city of churches and towering spires, St. Michaelis nevertheless dominates the skyline. Undergoing a lavish restoration, the interior features a grandiose 65-meterhigh neo-Baroque altar. Cap San Diego The world’s largest museum ship still occasionally puts to sea but is usually found docked by the Überseebrüche. Launched in 1961 to ply the Hamburg- South America routes as a cargo vessel, she offers permanent displays and seasonal exhibitions and guided tours of the bridge, the living quarters and the engine room. Planten und Blomen “Plants and Flowers” is an apt name for this delightful and tranquil retreat from the city bustle. A superb rose garden, a Japanese garden, masses of other seasonal blooms, water features and summer concerts all add to the charm. Clever planting ensures the gardens emit touches of color year-round. Hamburger Kunsthalle Hamburg has more than 80 first-rate museums and galleries. This massive collection doesn’t come with fries but does offer the varied styles of a range of great artists, from the great masters to the modernists. Northern Germany’s most important collection since 1817 became a gallery open to the public in 1869. The four-story extension is an excellent piece of modern architecture. 5 Dining Destinations Rickmer Rickmers Landungsbrüchen, Pontoon1a. 49 040 3 19 59 59. www.rickmer-rickmers.de You will not be served any culinary masterpieces–snack-type meals being the order of the day–but what an atmospheric setting: between decks on an old, three-masted sailing ship that’s permanently anchored beside the harbour promenade. For many years a Portuguese training ship, she has now been lovingly restored. Fairmont Vier Jahrezeiten Hotel Neuer Jungfernstieg 9-14. 49 040 3494 0. www.fairmont.com/vier-jahreszeiten-hamburg Afternoon tea in the plush Wohnhalle or cocktails in the famous Doc Cheng bar–this is the place to see and be seen. When it’s time to eat you take your pick of the in-house restaurants and opt for classic French, exciting Euro- Asian fusion or traditional North German fare. The food is divine, service impeccable and ambience breathtaking. One of the world’s great addresses. Daniel Wischer Spitalerstrasse 12. 49 032 52 58 15. www.danielwischer.de Looking for an authentic taste of Hamburg and great value too? They’ve been frying straight-from-the-boat fish here in the Old Town since way back in 1924. There’s a range of species available and portions are generous. Lovingly house-produced potato salad makes a welcome change from fries. Old Commercial Room Englische Planke10. 49 040 36 63 19. www.oldcommercialroom.de A longtime tourist favorite in New Town, this is a good place to savor labskaus, the tasty fisherman’s hash, or hearty meat dishes served with dumplings and red cabbage. The plush décor is unashamedly traditional in its style. Schönes Leben Alter Wandrahm 49 040 18 04 82 680. www.schoenes-leben.com Head toward Speicherstadt and the docks for the original of this busy three-venue German equivalent to a French brasserie. It’s open for breakfast, there’s a lunchtime buffet and you can dine late when calorie-laden cakes and strong coffee are specialities. Digital LION Watch videos on Hamburg and last year’s convention in Busan at www.lionmagazine.org.
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