Europe Day 1 – Hamburg Hafen City

Arriving into Hamburg at 11.40am, we were out of the airport around 12.30pm. The airport is relatively quiet in the noon time and there were no queues for taxi. Figuring that we were tired after the long haul flight from Singapore, we took a taxi. Hopped onto a VW Touran Taxi, and was a bit disappointed it wasn’t a Benz or BMW since the Sixt Rent-a-Car advertisement in the Hamburg Airport had beautiful photos of BMW models. Back to the trip by taxi, Hamburg doesn’t actually feel like a city based on the airport and highway infrastructure. Considering that the road linking the city centre and the airport is a 4-lane two way traffic road, I was thinking of large town. There was no jam or extreme noise from traffic though, giving the city a very lovely serene ambience. It is passing by the Alster Lake district of Hamburg though that left me the deepest and best impression of Hamburg. The area is occupied on one side by large waterfront estates with the lake and park on the other side. All these covered by large swathes of trees providing shelter from the winds and sunshine. The Alster Lake is actually divided into two, with the smaller Inner Alster or Binnenalster Lake being the main focal point of Hamburg’s City Centre. Thus, seeing the sights of the Lake means one is close to our hotel. However due to construction, there was traffic diversion from the roads leading to the hotel. Thus the taxi driver advised us to stop at Dammtorstrasse and take a walk since it would be a long drive around. We agreed due to the wonderful sunny but balmy weather of around 22 degree celcius. The whole trip via taxi was around 15-20 minutes and there was another 3 minute walk to our hotel. Germans in Hamburg are very helpful and eager to help when approached. Thus it wasn’t difficult to get help for directions. Since our hotel, booked along with the Association for our trade show in Hamburg was on a side street, it wasn’t visible amongst the buildings.

SIDE Design Hotel Lobby
SIDE Design Hotel Lobby

Our hotel for the next 4 nights at SIDE Design Hotel, however, did not disappoint the high expectations I had for it after reading the reviews at Trip Advisor. It is a minimalist-chic boutique hotel in the heart of Hamburg, close to 2 U-Bahn stations and within walking distance to Gansemarkt. We had a larger Deluxe Room which allows the accomodation of an extra bed for 3 persons. Reception at the hotel are made up of young faces which were very friendly and welcoming. They provided maps and information which was great for first timers to Hamburg and spoke excellent English. It just seemed that the Germans speak very fluent English indeed. Upon reaching the hotel, we met up with the other members of the Association which were planning to visit the office of one of the clientele in Hamburg. The group of us headed out in 3 taxis which the receptionist was able to arrange. After depositing the luggage in the room, we proceeded to the client’s office which is located opposite the old Harbour of Hamburg, along Zippelhaus. For those who are keen to know, Hamburg is actually one of the biggest city in Germany and is also one of the largest port in the country and Europe. Its maritime location allowed it to be of the leading cities of the powerful Hanseatic League in the medieval times. Till today, Hamburg holds a unique position being a city and province at the same time. Anyway the trip to the client office at Hamburg was a good choice with the client bringing us to a Thai Restaurant at Hafen City for lunch. One unique observation was this restaurant is called Sala Thai, similar to my favourite Thai joint in Vancouver. The walk allowed us to pass by St. Katharinen Hauptkirche, one of the prominent churches in Hamburg which is under renovation.

Office Buildings along Zippelhaus
Office buildings along Zippelhaus
Zollkanal Scenery
Zollkanal Scenery

After the meal, our hosts brought us around for a mid-afternoon walk around the waterfront that is becoming Hafen-City. Modern glass and steel buildings were under development, contrasting greatly to the stone and bronze buildings that occupy the Mitte area of Hamburg. Hafen City is fast becoming a modern and upcoming waterfront area comprising a mix of residential, commercial and leisure developments including a cruise center. The harbour, meanwhile has been moved to the western end of the city.

Spire of St Katharinen
Spire of Hamburg’s churches form a stark contrast against the modern architecture

The walk around Hafen City also showed the age of the bridges and they still managed to retain the cobblestone roads, as many ancient cities in Europe. I was also told by our hosts in the town that the residential complexes in this area form some of the most expensive apartments in Hamburg. A penthouse in this area would cost a cool 1 million Euros and above. Our hosts in Hamburg are in the coffee business, and after the walk we took the opportunity to view their coffee tasting area and tour their offices. After the short rest in their offices, we took our leave and decided to walk back. In retrospect, it was a bad idea, especially after my long flight and all, but the walking distance was actually 2.0km as measured by Google Maps in the map I have generated in the attachment. However, one good thing out of the walk was that we would pass by St. Nikolai Church, one of the tallest building in Hamburg, and what used to be the tallest in the world.

Walking directions from Zippelhaus to SIDE Design Hotel
St Nikolai Kirche
St Nikolai Church Spire

By the time we arrived back at the hotel, there was only limited time for us to take a short rest and bathe before the group re-convened at the lobby to head to the Indonesian Consulate in Hamburg for a dinner reception held there. The Indonesian Consulate is located in the northern part of the city, between the airport and our hotel. In fact it is close by the Outer Alster Lake, along a tree lined avenue of tidy mansions. One of the most beautiful residential areas in Hamburg! There was also a back garden which looks into a river. Indonesian food is naturally served in the reception after a formal welcome by the acting consul-general on the group’s arrival into Hamburg and a short briefing on the association’s exhibition along with the Indonesian Trade Centre. After the reception, we took a short walk to a nearby U-Bahn station at Hudtwalckerstrasse to take their subway to Stephensplatz. Being in Hamburg, we found out that one of the must tries in the city is Currywurst, a German sausage snack topped with tomato-and-curry gravy, though I have to say sausages taste better without the sweet gravy. There was one such snack shop along Esplanade, opposite the Casino Esplanade. Europe is perhaps one continent where most major cities have a casino and the casinos are usually reserved for well-to-do locals as a strict formal dress code is adhered to and entrance fees are compulsory for all. Due to the need to wake up early for the opening of the trade show, the group returned to the hotel after the currywurst snack.

Wide Pedestrian Walkways in the Commercial District
Cyclists and pedestrians share the space in summer at Hamburg
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