Things are happening in Hamburg!
On a small scale, Knuffingen Airport opened this summer, well, a teeny tiny version of it anyway. Covering approximately 150 m², the installation is the most recently completed section of Miniatur Wunderland, a museum housing the world’s largest model railway. Detail-wise, nothing was missed. The airport has been outfitted with every sort of technical feature imaginable, even airplanes that take off and land. (Presently, they are navigated manually but a revolutionary autopilot system is in development). Be prepared to queue – one can spend hours ogling the museum’s outstanding layouts, from the Austrian Alps to a fleet of ships on the North Baltic Sea to the crowd-drawing, gravity-defying attractions of the USA. If you look closely, sometimes you’ll find random bizarre scenarios intermixed in the minutiae of detail – like monks stopped for highway speeding – small moments of humour injected by the exhibits’ builders, whose jobs couldn’t be more enviable! Until you get a chance to see these miniature marvels for yourself, the museum’s exquisitely rendered official video, a 5-minute engineering feat encapsulating many ‘wunderbare’ scenes, is the next best thing. Take a peek.
And the construction doesn’t stop there. A striking new full-size landmark in the Hanseatic city’s port is nearing completion. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the 37m high Elbe Philharmonic Hall is a tent-like superstructure sheathed in glass perched atop a brick warehouse where cocoa beans were once off-loaded. This entire cultural complex, which will house a ‘great hall’ and two other concert halls, a five-star hotel, and apartments is the latest highlight in HafenCity, an entirely new quarter emerging between the historic Speicherstadt warehouse district and the River Elbe, and one of the largest inner city urban expansion projects in the world. There’s no underestimating the lengths Hamburg will go.
For all the ongoing building activity, Hamburg was still bestowed the title “European Green Capital 2011” by the European Commission to acknowledge the city’s commitment to environmental protection. It is taking great measures to cut C02 emissions by creating sustainable buildings and businesses, maintaining nature-protected areas, and manufacturing the world’s largest fleet of hydrogen-fuelled buses. Even its immense port, for which Hamburg is best known, wants to make its entire transport chain environmentally friendly. It just goes to show how a major (growing) industrial hub can have a successful balance between business interests and the environment. Eligible cities vying for the top honour are assessed on the basis of 12 indicator areas, including biodiversity and eco-innovation. Applications are being accepted for 2014. Anyone, … anyone?
A city of parks and waterways, Hamburg should be experienced from the water, say, on a boat cruise along the Alster lakes and river. Start in the lake harbour and tour through narrow canals – a boggy oasis for water lilies, reeds and ferns – past secluded gardens, town houses and villas. Did you know that there are more bridges within its city limits than in Amsterdam and Venice combined?
Head to the rustically decorated Gröninger brewery for drinks and the usual heavy German fare. You can order a 10-Litre beer barrel for 75 Euro and then get tanked serve yourself right at the table. Better yet, visit the traditional Fischmarkt in St Pauli on Sunday mornings where hundreds of traders sell their wares, bands play deafening oompah music, and the beer is a-flowin.’ It’s a trip to watch the vendors auctioning off ‘variety packs’ of fresh fish to the throngs of onlookers. They holler and wave and try to underbid the guy in the next stall. Their ease and confidence is no doubt built upon the centuries-old foundations of harbour trading and loose bargaining that goes along with it. Get to the market at 5am if you can – for some the party just continues and for others it just gets started.
Until October 20, you can see an interactive urban environment exhibition on the „Train of Ideas“ – a “rolling ambassador for the city of the future” – at Jungfernstieg (Reesendammbrücke)