Last time with on Around the World in 24 Hours, 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 as Scarlett O’Hara said, “Today is another day!” and this time we are going to get acquainted with the historic side of Hamburg. We’ll visit the stunning rat-free Rathaus, take a pause to mourn at some tragic WWII sights, and become experts on 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 six-years-young German Peter Tamm whose demented devotion to the model ship we must thank for this museum’s existence. 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 (who I assume is now older than six) 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 once been used to store goods coming into Hamburg Port, which makes it an ideal location for a Maritime Museum. The collection contains a wealth of information about any naval subject, but this hook-handed fisherman standing behind me is insisting that I limit myself to…
thE APPROXIMATELY FIVE BEST THINGS TO SEE IN HAMBURG’S MARITIME MUSEUM
1) An Ugly Torpedo
Given how famous Germany was for its navy in the 20th century, it was shocking to learn that 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 Teutonic 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) Historical Ship Paintings
A good portion of the museum is dedicated to depictions of maritime exploits, so it makes sense that they have an abundance of paintings of ships. Before visiting this establishment, I certainly did not know that Dutch painters were the first people to really popularize ship painting as a genre. This masterwork above 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 an important record of what sea-faring vessels at the time would have actually looked like. Nerds: what would we do without them?
3) Naval Hats and Uniforms
Most of these look like what you’d expect to see on your average admiral or swabbie, 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.
4) An Exhibition Dedicated to Luxury Liners
Of course my favorite part of this exhibition was 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…
24 Hour Tip
The English signage is poor in this museum, so get the audio guide if you want to know the historical deets and you don’t sprechen any deutsch.
Also be careful, because I think 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.
Afternoon: Free Walking Tour
Hours: 11 AM and 2 PM Daily
Price: Nothing’s free in this lifetime, pal! Leave your guide a good tip!
Now that we’ve gotten a taste of maritime history, it’s time to get to know a more general history of the fair hamlet 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 which departs at 2PM. Our guide was an entertaining young man named Eddy who showed us as many Hamburglar landmarks as our hearts desired. But I will get you started with…
the approximately top five historic landmarks in hamburg
1) 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 running things. (Thankfully the name was changed back to Rathausmarkt after WWII.)
2) St. Peter’s Church
This cozy house of worship is known to all Hamburgers 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 is used in different parts of Germany to indicate welcome to immigrants and refugees. Germany has come such a long way since the days of Adolf Hitler Square! 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 its fame as 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.
24 Hour Tip
There’s a clean and convenient public toilet in St. Peter’s, if you are in need.
3) The 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, aside from lion doorknockers?
That’s right! The house is supposed to look like a ship. I think it sounds simply marvelous to live in a ship house. You could pretend you were a pirate captain or a mermaid or a giant rat carrying the plague…lots of fun stuff.
4) The Ruins of St. Nicholas’s Church
This landmark 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 anywhere in the world, even Germany.
5) Deichstrasse: The Oldest Street in Hamburg
Before you start oohing and aahing, keep in mind that it’s not that impressive to be the oldest street in Hamburg because most of the rest of the city 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) The Elbphilharmonie
This very modern building 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 even though this concert hall might make some Hamburglars mad, I thought it was a nice place to end the tour. Hamburg began as a center of commerce, and now it’s almost more known for its cultural accomplishments like the Elbphilharmonie. So take a tip from Hamburg and live your dreams, cities of the world! Today you might be housing an abandoned warehouse, yet tomorrow you could be home to an incredibly over-budget work of contemporary architecture. Live your dreams!
24 Hour 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!
5-7 Interlude: 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. Ordinarily, I recommend spending the hours between 5 and 7 on any given day going for a pleasant stroll, sitting in a quiet place and reading, or perhaps even relaxing in your hotel room. But as the Miniatur Wunderland is open late, you can simply have that pleasant stroll in here, avoiding any possible rain.
On your relaxing walk, you can take in the Miniatur sights from all over Germany…
the Miniatur United States…
and Miniatur Scandinavia.
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.
24 Hour 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.
24 Hour 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. I suppose you’ll have to check out the Miniaturs and help decide for me!
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. Unlike the cuisine of the French or the Chinese, classic Hamburg dining has not really taken off in other parts of the world, unless you count the hamburger, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to acquaint myself with the delights of Hamburglar cuisine.
24 Hour Treat: Labskaus
Labskaus is that mess of bright red corned beef, pickles, herring, and fried egg pictured above. (The red color comes from beetroot. Beets are nature’s candy!) I have no idea which Hamburglar first invented it, but the dish 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! ARRRR! Now you’re ready to go home and curl up in bed at your pirate house.
The briny taste of the pickled herring, corned beef, and pickled…pickles all rolled into one made me feel as salty as the Dread Pirate Roberts, 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 think pickled herring + corned beef = No Thank You!
24 Hour Treat: Rote Grutze
Rote Grutze is a traditional German red fruit pudding topped with sweet cream. Usually red currants are involved in the dish. (According to my research, there’s quite a few different ways to prepare Rote Grutze, and I’m aware that I haven’t listed all possible variations, so please don’t comment to tell me that I don’t understand the Way of the Rote Grutze.) 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!
My next travel goal is to visit all 50 states (and DC) in five years! If you want to contact me, I am available at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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