Hamburg

The next chapter in our story inevitably leads to Hamburg. The city of Hamburg is known for nothing if not its resilience. After being almost destroyed several times by Vikings, fires, bombings, the city still proudly remains. Due to its strategic geographical location, surrounded by the river Elbe, Alster and Bille, Hamburg was the perfect first partner to step in and form the beginnings of what would later become the institution of the Hanseatic League.

A Brief Historical Overview:

The earliest mention of what we know today as the city of Hamburg, came from Cladius Ptolemy around the 2nd Century CE where he referred to the area as Treva. In 808 AD, the Emperor Charlemagne ordered that a castle should be constructed in the area, this is presumably where the word Hamburg came from.

Since the construction of this castle on the rocky banks of the Alster river, Hamburg has endured many trials. From almost being destroyed by 600 Viking ships in 845AD, to being burned down, occupied by all manners of rulers from Kings to Napoleon, to its population being almost obliterated by the Black Plague in 1350, Hamburg always remained and would end up playing a vital role in the Hanseatic League, and would remain being one of its proudest supporters until the League’s demise in the 17th Century.

Hamburg in the Hanseatic League:

Hamburg was essential in helping the Hanseatic League grow into such a powerful institution. Lübeck established a trading agreement with Hamburg in 1241, and the relationship between these cities would remain a close and powerful one until the League’s decline of power.

The trading agreement was initially established because Hamburg controlled access to salt-trade routes from Lüneburg. The two joined cities made a formidable team and very soon they gained the monopoly over the salt-fish trade. Most notably they gained control over the Scania Market, a major Swedish fish market, dedicated to salt fish and especially herring. However, this monopoly as well as the gain of power and control over the Baltic sea in general would lead to a lot of strife between Scandinavian traders and the Hanseatic League in later times.

The flourishing economic relationship between Hamburg and Lübeck also convinced Cologne to join the Hanseatic League in 1266. Hamburg, together with Lübeck and Bremen also remained proud supporters of the Hanseatic League and continued to promote the cause of the League up until the very end.

Hamburg Today:

Despite the demise of the Hanseatic League, Hamburg remains up until this day one of the biggest ports in Europe, and has since grown into the undisputed economic and cultural hub of Germany. Hamburg is a vibrant cultural hub alive and humming with over 1.7 million residents, and many more tourists as it’s such an attractive destination.

Due to the mass rebuilding Hamburg had to do after the many WWII bombings, the city is an eclectic tapestry of building styles, with no one style ruling. Hamburg is lined with canals and waterways, having approximately 2500 bridges.

With about 40 theatres, 60 museums, and over 100 music venues and clubs, it’s easy to see why Hamburg is a considered the cultural hub of Germany. Other than Hamburg’s strong focus on culture, it has emphasises the importance of creating a sense of community, safety and better living. Approximately 14% of Hamburg is made up of either green vegetated spaces or communal recreational spaces. Hamburg is also home to Europe’s largest urban development: HafenCity.

Trivia:

  • Hamburg has more bridges than Venice, London and Amsterdam combined.
  • Hamburg pioneered the first zoo with no cages, Tierpark Hagenbeck in 1907.
  • Hamburg is home to the largest funfair, the Hamburger Dom which stretches over 3km.