Tag Archives: Germany

Lübeck: Queen City of the Hanseatic League

When Natasha and I learned we would be in Hamburg, we realized we would be close to a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Hanseatic City of Lübeck! Since the train ride between the two was less than an hour, Natasha and I squeezed a day-trip into our time in North Germany. My most distinct memory of that morning was when I reached over to hug Natasha on the train platform, when a hidden wasp nailed me on my right wrist!

Walking from the Lübeck train station to the historic city center takes very little time, since the first bridge to the island is just a couple hundred meters from the train station. Immediately, we were treated to the classic view of a fifteenth centry gate to the city wall. The Holstentor has its own museum inside, but we had our minds on a different museum for our limited hours there. The former city gate is just as irregular as heck, with slumpy walls and asymmetries in the conical roofs. It’s full of personality, though, and I am delighted we could pass through to the city beyond.

The 1464 Holstentor was the western city gate of medieval Lübeck. The twin towers at the left are Marienkirche, and the tall steeple immediately to the right is St. Petri.

If you like classic horror movies, you might have encountered “Nosferatu.” The location scout had a stroke of luck in spotting the Salzspeicher, the warehouses that held salt for export to the Baltic region. We encountered the “Speicherstadt” in Hamburg, representing a “warehouse city,” so the same root term shows up here, too. There’s a lovely viewing platform across the Trave River for a good morning gaze.

The Salzspeicher (16th-18th c.) were warehouses for salt, a sought-after commodity in the Baltic.

The international trade network centered in Lübeck was at the heart of our interest in the city, so we made our way clockwise around the island to come to the European Hansemuseum. I hadn’t purchased tickets in advance, so we reserved a pair for the early afternoon. We left ourselves a couple hours to lunch and visit the city interior.

The Heiligen-Geist-Hospital (constructed 1276-1286) featured a church and dormitory for patients. It continued in use until after World War II!

Our feet first brought us to St.-Jakobi-Kirche. The stately church stands much taller than everything else in the neighborhood. It is worth mentioning that while in France it is natural to assume the largest church in town is Catholic, in northern Germany you might make the assumption that the biggest churches are Lutheran. Natasha’s attention, however, was drawn by a massive raised-bed flower garden on exhibition in the square. While she moved from planter to planter with a contented smile on her face, I snapped some photos of the Heiligen-Geist-Hospital, a building which first entered service as a hospital in 1286 CE. It’s the oldest elder care facility in all of Europe (thought Santo Spirito might contest that title).

Marienkirche (constructed 1250 and 1350) coexists with modern business blocks.

Natasha had read about a noodle restaurant with gluten-free options near the town hall of Lübeck, so we marched south in search of it. We found some really nice views of landmarks along the way. I particularly liked spying Marienkirche from the east, since it is very hard to photograph up close; I craned my head way back to see the tops of those towers when we were across the street from it. The Kleines Nudelhaus in Fleischhauerstraße was a revelation for Natasha. The way the manager presented her with the gluten-free noodles was like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat. I was really happy with a photo Natasha took of me eating noodles. I recently replaced my Twitter profile photo with it!

With a few minutes to spare, we made it back to the northern edge of the island for our scheduled visit to the museum.

Hanse Museum

The reason we prioritized visiting Lübeck relates is the same reason its historic core is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In many respects, Lübeck was the center of the medieval “Hanseatic League” trading network. One might think of it as the 12th-16th-century successor to the first-millenium Viking trade networks. It was dominant in the North Sea and Baltic Sea at roughly the same time as the Silk Road was resurgent under Mongol rulers. I mentioned that Lübeck and Hamburg were not far from each other, and the watercourses on which they are sited flow to different sides of the Jutland Peninsula (which houses all of Denmark), so a short land transit between the cities could substitute for a relatively long sea transit.

The cog was an ideal vessel to handle coastal trade in the northern waters of Europe, transporting up to 90 tons of cargo while retaining the ability to operate in shallow waters.

The five most-developed trade centers in the Hanseatic League were Novgorod, Lübeck, Bruges, Bergen, and London. These cities developed “kontors,” cities-within-cities specialized in trade, often with some degree of extraterritoriality; trade disputes might, for example, be governed by Lübeck law even if the contested events took place in Novgorod, Russia.

This depiction of a Russian fur trader from Lübeck Cathedral refers to the centuries-long contact between Lübeck and Novgorod.

I was really pleased to see how much Novgorod was emphasized at the museum, since I had the chance to visit that city back in 2017. Its kontor was located across the Volkhov River from Novgorod’s historic center, adding physical separation to legal separation. Novgorod was a supplier par excellence of furs to the Hanse, and its exports of wax were also notable. I liked the idea that Novgorod could export hunting birds via its connection to the Hanseatic Leage; just how do you convince a falcon to stay on a ship?

In Medieval times, tools like these enabled cities to construct massive churches and palaces!

For some reason, I was really struck by the display of medieval building construction equipment at the Hanseatic Museum. I don’t think anyone who reads this blog would be surprised that I marvel at the rude tools used to create massive structures like Notre Dame Cathedral. When human-power was the only force available for construction, it is not surprising that major projects could require decades for completion.

Amber results from the fossilization of tree resin. These fragments are 14th-15th century production waste.

When we hear the term “Crusade,” we often imagine armored knights en route to Jerusalem. If you have read more broadly, you might know that the Reconquista in Spain also pitted Christian armies against the Muslims of Al-Andalus; the Pope used the term “Crusade” there, too. I did not expect to learn about “Northern Crusades,” though. As trade developed with the areas now occupied by Baltic States Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, amber exports revealed considerable wealth in the region. The Northern Crusades sent Teutonic Knights to the Baltics to convert pagans at the edge of the sword; naturally, one could imagine that the real goal was to increase the area under control by Christian rulers.

Jürgen Wullenwever (1488-1537), Dr. Heinrich Sudermann (1520-1591), and David Gloxin (1597-1671) each presided over different aspects of administering the Hanse in the centuries of its waning power.

I hope it will be okay for me to offer a criticism of the Hanse Museum. The last parts of the tour might logically be assumed to cover the loss of dominance suffered by the Hanseatic League at the end of the 16th century. One of the rooms did discuss the on-and-off status of the Steelyard kontor at London as the kings and queens of England attempted to regain tax authority over trade (as early as the 14th century until expulsion of Hanse merchants by Queen Elizabeth I in 1598). As the museum is structured, we were sitting in a small mockup of the Lübeck Hanse meeting hall in one room and then stading next to a bunch of wax clergymen in the next. If one is sleepy from travel, one might get the mistaken impression that the church ended the trade dominance of the Hanse. The London story is actually the more correct explanation; other trade groups, tied to particular nations, became jealous of Hanse profits and found their own ways to muscle the Hanse aside.

A return to wandering the city

Having finished our circuit of the museum, Natasha and I spent a moment exploring the Maria Magdalene Monastery, also described as the “Castle Friary” on the museum website. The oldest part of the structure dates from 1229 CE (it replaced a ruined fortress at the point of the island that would be exposed to ships coming in from the Baltic). The beautiful vaulting of the chapterhouse was delightful. We could only see the sacristy through glass, but the fresco work was on point. I recall that the paint work was much more recent than the structure itself, but it complements it beautifully. I liked the pair of Dominican friars carved in stone that we saw in the long hall; they date from 1400 CE. Natasha captured a photo of me with two friars molded in wax that appears at the top of this post.

Sacristy of the Maria Magadelene Monastery

We continued back toward the center of the island, passing on the eastern road (Große Burgstraße) rather than the western one we had followed to find lunch. It seemed like every building had some sort of interesting gable or architectural history or some famous German (the town was home to three different Nobel Laureates).

The detail work on the Lubeck Rathaus is subtle and beautiful.

The rathaus complex at roughly the center of the island is really eye-catching, having almost 800 years of history behind it. Adjoining the massive 13th-century Marienkirche, the complex sprawls through a variety of galeries and courtyards. Just walking past it on Breite straße, I loved an ornate projection on the building and a delicately carved staircase climbing the exterior.

The Rathaus complex completely surrounds the plaza, so this is one corner of it!

As people who know me well will attest, I am a fiend for sugary treats. As a consequence, it was clear that I must visit the Niederegger Marzipan Museum! The ground floor shop had me drooling right away. We picked up a few presents for our loved ones, certainly (and my wife found some treats for her beloved husband), and then we passed upstairs to see the museum. The first floor above the salesfloor was a cafe, and we continued to the second floor where we found the museum. We were the only people upstairs during that visit, so perhaps not many tourists know about the site.

Marzipan started as a medicine of sorts, with early production largely sited in monasteries. By the 16th century, apothecaries began supplying the candy medicine. Only in 1714 did confectioners in Lübeck gain approval to produce it themselves. Marzipan could only become a widely-enjoyed treat after sugar beet factories were established in 1801. In the 19th century, Lübecker Carl Schröder gained renown as an artist with marzipan, crafting sulfur molds with rich detail for his creations. For me, the highlight of the museum was an amazing array of twelve life-size statues created by Johannes Kiefer. I do not think I could eat my own weight in marzipan, but at least I know what that would look like!

Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen is part of a table full of life-sized figures crafted from 500 kilograms of marzipan by Johannes Kiefer

Natasha and I were pretty tired after our romp through the historic island of Lübeck, and we made our way back to the train station. I paused as we passed a monument to Otto von Bismarck. A group of young people had gathered around the plinth on which his statue stood. It seemed like a good reminder that the past meets the present all around us!

Otto von Bismarck stands next to the walking path from the train station to the old town.

Hamburg: the Museum for Hamburg History and the Alter Elbtunnel

Our walking path

Natasha and I can never resist a history museum, and so we decided to spend our Saturday visiting the Museum for Hamburg History. We headed for an area on the border of St. Pauli and the Hamburg Neustadt along the Elbe River. Helpfully, our hotel near Berliner Tor positioned us well for a train running directly to the Landungsbrücken (“Landing stages”) stop.

The type of stone used to build the landing structures is called “volcanic tuff.”

We emerged from the train station to see the waterfront. We had arrived around 9:30, and relatively few people were out and about. The stone landing buildings (constructed 1907-1909) are really pretty, and a modern promenade extends in either direction along the shore for quite some distance. The landing is two-thirds of a kilometer of length. We “bookmarked” the site, knowing we would want to return later in the day. For now, though, we wanted to reach the museum early in case we were only able to schedule our visit at a later time; neither Natasha nor I could determine how to purchase tickets from the website.

The 35-meter Bismarck Monument stands atop a catacomb of World War II air raid shelters.

We should have realized that marching to the museum would require us to climb quite a height above sea level. We huffed and puffed up the stairs to the Hotel Hafen Hamburg, but soon we realized we were on the wrong side of the ravine centered on Helgoländer Allee. We walked across the bridge of Seewartenstrasse to the east side. We thought we would walk north through the park there, but a heavily graffitied wall around construction pushed us further east. We had a tantalizing glimpse of an imposing white stone statue of Otto von Bismarck. When we reached it, we were looking across an active basketball court at Otto’s back. We had just another block or so to the museum, and Natasha was happy to spot berries growing wild at the side of the road.

Museum for Hamburg History

The Museum entrance

It is no mistake that the Museum for Hamburg History appears just east of a ravine; it was constructed atop the 17th century Henricus Bastion, part of the western wall protecting Hamburg from attack. The museum is run by the city, rather than the nation, and that makes it quite similar in role and administration to the Carnavalet Museum in Paris. The current structure was purpose-built for the museum (founded 1908), with construction spanning 1914-1922. You might imagine that other challenges were besetting Germany during this period of construction. I particularly like that the building incorporates elements saved from much older buildings that were destroyed or replaced in the period before it existed, some remaining from homes that were built in the sixteenth century!

If you’ve ever been curious about the phrase “breaking on a wheel…”
Some “miniatures” were much taller than I am!

From looking at a map, it might not be obvious that Hamburg is a marine city, but the Elbe River widens to an estuary (mixing area for salt and fresh water) just west of the city. As a bit of shorthand, we can find the boundary where an estuary becomes a river by asking where it was possible to build a bridge with medieval technology. For the Elbe River, that boundary is Hamburg. We often think of pirates as being special to the Caribbean Sea, but Hamburg was apparently the haunt of a great many medieval and early modern pirates. The museum exhibits a few skulls from that period, because the penalty for being a pirate was to have your skull nailed to the pier! The original dock area of Hamburg was relatively compact, but a light-show connected with a model of the docks illustrates just how much this harbor has been expanded over time, particularly as Hamburg became a key shipbuilding area during the World Wars. If you are a fan of miniatures, I would definitely say do not miss this museum, because it features them everywhere, particularly on its top floor display of a massive model train network.

I think we would have to pay quite a premium today to acquire a hand-painted pianoforte or harpsichord. Hamburg has featured some very prominent musicians over time.

I think many contemporary visitors to the museum will be a bit confused by a prominent seventeenth-century model of the Solomon’s Temple; it essentially gets a room by itself due to its size! In 1604, Juan Bautista Villalpando wrote a commentary on Ezekiel’s vision, trying to develop a fully-realized schematic for the Temple. For some architects of the period, Solomon’s Temple was considered the apogee of earthly design and as the reflection of the celestial temple. In 1680-1692, Gerhard Schott commissioned a scale model to be constructed in wood, lead, silver, leather, and gilt. It fascinates me that so much effort went into the realization of this model starting from fewer than 100 verses drawn from a book of the Old Testament!

This downscaled image from Wikiwand is a much cleaner image of the room-sized Temple of Jerusalem model; have I mentioned I loathe shooting photos through glass? In this case, the second story has been removed from the foreground wings to allow a better view of the temple itself.
This Wikiwand photograph emphasizes the temple proper at the center of the model.

The city history museum is well worth the time for a visit. I found it a little hard to stitch all its material into a single timeline in my my mind. I would find it difficult, for example, to answer a question like, “what events marked the biggest turning points in Hamburger history?” A question that frequently bothers me is, “why did the principalities, baronies, and free cities of Germany coalesce into a single nation relatively slowly?” I am not sure how to answer that even now.

St. Nicholas, carved in the early 16th century, was regarded as the patron saint of seafarers.

It is worth noting that the marked pathways in the museum anticipate that each visitor will follow a single path through all the displays of the museum. Because Natasha and I were skipping past some sections, we frequently found ourselves having to pass through doors that had been marked with “do not enter” signs since the museum wanted us to follow their prescribed route.

The inner atrium has been covered by a glass roof to create a pretty cool event space!

I have frequently explored topics in Jewish history on the blog, and I would say that the exhibits on the Jewish community of Hamburg were worth a look. Natasha and I spent a while exploring that area when I came across this sentence in an area with a schoolroom exhibit: “On June 30th, 1942 all teaching of Jewish schoolchildren was prohibited and those few Jewish pupils and teachers still living in Hamburg were almost all deported and put to death.” I don’t know what about that matter-of-fact statement affected me so much, but I had to sit down for a while. We humans must learn some lessons from our past to avoid destroying ourselves.

The Anglican Church, consecrated in 1838, was a nod to the English-speaking members of the Guild of Merchant Adventurers

Our museum visit had come to an end, and it was time for lunch! Natasha is a friend of phở, and she realized we were only a couple of blocks from a Vietnamese fusion restaurant called “Nom.” We had almost reached it when we stumbled upon the Anglican Church of Thomas à Becket— just as the Museum had reported, the church had few external features that announced it as a church, though more recently a gold cross had been emblazoned on its facade. The Vietnamese food was excellent, by the way. I had the chicken coconut curry soup and a jasmine tea. They really hit the spot!

St. Michael’s Church

Hauptkirche St. Michaelis

Since we were just a couple of blocks away from it, we decided to visit St. Michael’s Church. We did not brave the line to enter, but we did pause for a photo or two. An epic statue of St. Michael braining a demon stands above the main portal; it’s a particularly lurid design. Much more modestly, Martin Luther stands around the corner, facing a parking lot. At least, I think of him as more modest; the statue had him looking rather pompous!

Saint Michael and Martin Luther

Natasha and I descended once more to the waterfront. We followed a shaded path through the Michelwiese. Halfway down, we had quite a surprise when we encountered a statuesque head carved from stone, dubbed “Angelito,” that was brought here from Easter Island in 1999 (the image appears at the top of this blog post).

The park at Michelwiese

Alter Elbtunnel

The Hambuger Elbphilharmonie was constructed during 2007-2017 atop a 1963 brick warehouse in the Elbe River.

With only a little more walking, we had returned to the Elbe Waterfront. I paused for a photograph of the symphony hall, built with many delays and added expense atop a building at the west end of an island in the river.

Natasha and I walked along the waterfront toward the west. The sidewalk had become far more crowded by the early afternoon. We tried to merge with the traffic, but we had plenty of stops and starts as people sped up, slowed down, ducked in and out, or pushed bikes and strollers into the mix.

Gustav Adolf Church of Sweden, Hamburg, Germany

Rather suddenly, a cacophony broke loose on the road running alongside the jetty. A parade of decorated cars, flanked by police cars, protested the infringements of basic rights, perhaps agitated by enforced mask wearing or vaccine pressures from the government. For my part, I would really like it if people would follow public health guidance so this plague can finally end.

Another few steps forward, we encountered another protest, this time by vegans. I felt at least a bit sympathetic to their cause. What drew my eye, though, was that a protester was dressed in a shark onesie. Where do I sign to get my shark onesie?

North entrance to the Alter Elbtunnel

At long last, our feet brought us to the grand, round entrance hallway of the Alter Elbtunnel. The Old Elbe Tunnel was constructed during 1907-1911 to connect the St. Pauli waterfront to the Steinwerder shipyards. Today Hamburgers can use it any time of day to traverse the Elbe by bicycle or foot. Natasha and I opted to descend to the level of the tunnel by the stairs since it seemed a great press of people were using the large and small elevators. I don’t think we realized just how far down those stairs ran…

Looking downward at the stairs leading to the Elbtunnel
Looking upward from the Elbtunnel at the elevators in motion

The tunnel itself was not so different than one might expect, with tiled walls, a bike pathway down the middle, and pedestrian sidewalks on either side. If motor-powered traffic had ever been used for moving cargo this way, there’s little sign of it today. The massive elevator that drew us back up to ground level, though, was rated to handle 10,000 kg / 130 people!

If you have claustrophobia, you might avoid the Elbtunnel.

Since the tunnel was a bit claustrophobic, we thought we might take a ferry back across. We found the ticket machine at the landing, but it insisted on our paying the 6.80 euro in coins rather than card or notes. We didn’t have enough change in hand, so we trudged back toward the tunnel. Our return walk was less enthusiastic than our first pass. With our feet sending messages of unhappiness, we returned to the Landungsbrucken station. The ticket machines, however, had become quite uncooperative, arguing against my using a French bank card and then refusing to recognize my euro notes. Natasha and I piled in all of our change to acquire our tickets, and in no time flat we were back at Berliner Tor.

This skyline of Hamburg from the south side of the Elbtunnel shows Bismarck right by the Landungsbrücken tower at the left. St. Michael’s tower appears near the center.

Hamburg: Altstadt and Speicherstadt

Natasha and I briefly visited the city of Hamburg, poised at the mouth of the Elbe River. With just two days in Hamburg and one day in Lübeck, we had an admirable taste of maritime Germany! Natasha picked the Park Hotel for our stay, located in the Berliner Tor neighborhood, which gave us good access to both the airport and the main train station of Hamburg.

Our wander in Altstadt

Our first brush with the old town or “Altstadt” came in the evening hours of Saturday, August 14th. We started in the Rathausmarkt, the marketplace adjacent to the town hall. We hopped the subway from Berliner Tor to Jungfernstieg, a lakefront walk where the wealthy daughters of Hamburg could promenade in public. We came aboveground to discover a busy shopping area, but we turned toward the Rathaus, the first stop on our tour. We had a lovely surprise waiting for us. The Philharmonia was playing an open-air concert!

The Hamburg Rathaus is a bit of a fairy tale! The blue arc at left is the bandshell for the symphony performance.

The Rathaus was a beautiful site, with its high spire visible throughout most of the Altstadt. My eye decoded the outside as “Victorian,” and Natasha called it nineteenth century. Maiken Umbach noted that the design competition for the town hall took place in 1885, with a “Neo-Renaissance” exterior that featured twenty statues of emperors from the Holy Roman Empire. That high spire I admired shows the imperial eagle above the coat of arms for the City of Hamburg.

The passage behind the Rathaus allowed for a much closer inspection.

We followed a passageway between the Rathaus and the Chamber of Commerce behind it to find an enclosed plaza with an impressive fountain. As we exited the plaza, we were surprised to find a little fuel station at the exit! The Chamber of Commerce is pretty impressive in its own right, though the view of its facade (marked as “Handelskamer Hamburg”) is somewhat obscured by the construction taking place on the next building.

Who doesn’t like a stately chamber of commerce building?

Natasha reminded me that it was time for dinner, and she had located a restaurant that seemed a good prospect for gluten-safe food. We moved a couple of blocks northwest to the Bok Imbiss Cafe, located in a food court behind the mall space along Bleichenbrüke. We crossed the former city wall and then two canals in two blocks to reach the restaurant. It’s a reminder that Hamburg’s wealth came from maritime trade, and these inlets and canals (“Venice of the North”) produce a lot of surface area for businesses to access the water. I was also reminded of the incredible water channels in St. Petersburg.

That tower to the left belongs to the Alte Post building (1847).

The Bok Imbiss Cafe was an excellent choice! I enjoyed a teriyaki tofu and Natasha relished a lovely red Thai curry salmon salad. We still had a bit of light in the sky, so we continued our tour to the southeast. We reached the Trostbrücke bridge, the original of which was constructed in 1300 C.E. The bridge has a really cool pair of statues, one of Archbishop Ansgar and one of Count Adolf III, two figures associated with the origins of Hamburg. The bridge also offers a stellar view of some astonishing brick buildings, one of which features copper models of sailing ships at its crest.

This stately building appears to be the home of the F. Laeisz group of shipping companies. At lower left, you can see the archbishop’s statue.

When we passed those two buildings, we found another surprise. St. Nikolai Church occupies a site that has been home to a church since the late twelfth century. The current structure was constructed in 1874, but in 1943, the Allied bombing of Hamburg obliterated the building. I liked that the stabilized ruins have been turned into an art gallery of sorts and as a monument against war. For a couple years after its construction, the tower was the tallest building on earth, so it’s cool that people can visit its top to see the city from above (during business hours).

As the daylight fled, I captured an image of St. Nikolai, now a memorial against war and art gallery.

We exited the park to the west where we marveled at a massive pedestrian overpass with its own escalators. We struck out toward the Rathaus again to finish our tour since the light was fading. When we reached the city hall, the music from the symphony was reflected between buildings, so I paused to shoot a video while panning across the Rathaus exterior. Natasha and I strolled hand-in-hand to the waterfront, looking at the Binnenalster with its central fountain. it was a lovely image to savor at the heart of Hamburg.

Looking across the Binnenalster toward the headquarters of Hapag-Lloyd

The Kontorhausviertel and Speicherstadt

Our walking course was only a mile, but it crossed water six times!

Natasha and I resolved to spend more time learning about Hamburg’s trade history. The following morning (Sunday), she and I set out for the Speicherstadt, the “warehouse city” of Hamburg. Starting from the Meßberg underground station, our first priority was finding a quality cup of coffee for Natasha. It seems a bit of an oversight now, but we turned our backs on the Chocoversum, the chocolate museum of Hamburg, in search of a cafe.

Much of the Hontorhausviertel is constructed in “clinker” bricks, but I think the building housing the chocolate museum is constructed of more conventional ones.

We were happy to find ourselves in the middle of an historic area, the Kontorhausviertel (office building quarter), where massive buildings to support Hamburg’s commerce were established in the early twentieth century. We particularly liked the Chilehaus, designed by architect Fritz Höger and constructed in 1922-1924. It’s a fine example of “Brick Expressionism” for that era, with an acute corner like the prow of a ship!

The Chilehaus was named for the trade that won Henry Brarens Sloman his fortune; he imported saltpeter from Chile.

Right next door in the Sprinkenhof (constructed between 1927 and 1943), we found our cafe. Natasha and I arrived in the middle of Sunday Brunch, which looked pretty tasty! Nonetheless, we limited ourself to coffee and tea, and we enjoyed the happy patter of relaxed munchers around us. I was pretty impressed by a copy of the “Kontorhaus Journal,” a glossy publication detailing the businesses in the area.

This photo of the Speicherstadt warehouses was taken from a bridge on Bei St. Annen since the sun was shining when I crossed that one!

Natasha and I crossed the Wandrahmsteg (bridge from 1962) to the Speicherstadt, getting a pretty good view of the trend-setting building for Der Spiegel. The Speicherstadt itself is an artificial island created by driving oak piles into the riverbed. The motivation was the occasion of Hamburg’s joining the German Empire in 1888. Since the free port would be excluded from import sales taxes and customs, Hamburg was very motivated to have its warehouses located in the free port. They responded by building a massive warehouse district between 1883 and 1927. World War II’s Operation Gomorrah destroyed the western section of the warehouse district in 1943 (along with much of the rest of the city). The operation was notable for its use of “chaff” to prevent radar detection of the bomber wings bringing incendiary and high explosive bombs to the city. To talk about the military technology or loss of buildings is beside the point, though. The 9000 tons of bombs dropped in this operation resulted in more than 37,000 fatalities, largely civilians.

The misty morning supplied some drama to the warehouse district.

I was taken by an interesting museum at the northeastern end of Alter Wandrahm. The “Dialog House” has exhibits dedicated to enabling participants with normal sight to experience the world from the perspective of guides who lack sight. If we had more time in Hamburg, I would have liked to have tried it. Instead, we crossed to Brooktorkai and walked southwest to the Fleetschlösschen restaurant. We might have continued down that route to reach Miniatur Wunderland, but we hadn’t reserved tickets weeks in advance as would be necessary! We might have taken in the Maritime Museum, but we had other plans. We turned back to the northwest to cross on Bei St. Annan, because we knew our next destination. It was time for the coffee museum!

I believe the building with the copper domes is the headquarters for HHLA Hamburger Hafen und Logistik. It is rather pretty.

Coffee Museum

Since the late nineteenth century Hamburg and its free port had become the main hub for importing green coffee to central Europe. In the huge warehouse district, around two hundred coffee merchants at a time occupied the Sandtorkai, their offices and the coffee exchange just a short walk away from the city center, the town hall, and the chamber of commerce.

German History as Global History: The Case of Coffee by Dorothee Wierling in German History in Global and Transnational Perspective, edited by David Lederer (2017)

The Burg coffee roastery has been based near its current address since 1923. It’s a lovely place to stop for coffee, and we saw lots of lovely gifts that family members might enjoy. I was tempted to try one of the coffees, but I am really a tea person at heart. Natasha lingered over a cup of Burundian roast, with a smile that would not leave her face. I munched my way through a lovely chocolate cake with mighty chunks of pear.

This portable coffee making kit includes a roaster and spice kit.

The outstanding aspect of the roastery, however, is that it sits above a museum of coffee history. Helpfully, the museum starts the story long before Hamburg was involved. It was my first time to learn of the “dancing goat” legend, of Ethiopian shepherds who saw strange behavior from goats eating from particular bushes. Gradually the coffee bean migrated outward from the sahel, particularly once Arabian trade began featuring the commodity. Portuguese and then Spanish traders moved cultivation much farther afield, to east Asia, Brazil, Guatemala, and many other places. We might today think of Central America as the natural home of coffee production, but cultivation on a large scale there only began in the 1840s.

Early espresso makers brought Italian style to Germany.

Hamburg’s connection with coffee is tied to the rapid industrialization that took place in Germany throughout the 19th century. Coffee was a means to an end by early capitallists: “Coffee turned out to be ideal because of the enormous advantages of its triple effect: it helped workers stay awake, it apparently muted hunger and it optimized the capitalist goal of raising profits by increasing worker output. On the downside, coffee masked medical problems and exhaustion, causing premature worker death.” (Justus Fenner 2013)

An early professional-grade high-pressure coffee maker of contemporary type

Hamburg’s enviable position in maritime trade had persisted for centuries, and by the 1860s, coffee had become the most valuable agricultural product imported into its harbor. “The strategy of the Hanseatic coffee firms to assure steady profits had three components. First, they would step up importation of low-quality coffee from Brazil. At the same time, they would make a direct incursion into high-quality coffee production in order to control that part of the coffee commodity chain. Third, they would create a bifurcated consumer market in Germany, where more profitable sales of high-quality coffee would compensate the lower prices and potential risks of importing lower grade coffee.” (Justus Fenner 2013)

Turn-of-the-century grinders or roasters

In many respects, Germany was a Johnny-come-lately to colonization. Its merchants, however, found ways to benefit from Guatemala’s openness to external investment. After Guatemalan coffee gained a reputation for high-end coffee exports, German firms gained control of existing plantations within the country and cultivated new ones. Hamburg had soon become the pre-eminent supplier of coffee to Central Europe.

Natasha and I wandered north to Hauptkirche Sankt Petri, close to the Rathaus. At last the sun had come out, and we were able to enjoy our wander from the harbor to the old town in style.

The Hauptkirche Sankt Petri is our beacon back to the old town.