Hamburg, Germany's second-largest city, is both an incorporated municipality and one of the 16 states that make up the Federal Republic of Germany.

It is located on the Elbe River about 110 km (68 mi) from the point at which the Elbe empties into the North Sea. Hamburg covers an area of 754 sq./km. (291 sq./mi. ); the city has a population of 1,688,785 (1993 est.) that is overwhelmingly Lutheran. Because of Hamburg's low elevation and proximity to the sea, its weather is humid and mild.

Fig 1.  The alte Fischmarkt in Altona,
Hamburg [FMH] (2005)


Fig 2.  The port of Hamburg in the 1850's

Hamburg is laid out in the form of a semicircle that is based on the eastern bank of the Elbe and is bisected by the Alster River, a tributary of the Elbe, which is dammed to form a lake. The old part of the city, which is traversed by many canals, lies on the eastern side of the lake and the newer part on the western side.  During the 19th and 20th centuries Hamburg grew to its present size by incorporating the numerous communities around it.  In 1842 much of the old city was destroyed by fire. After the destruction caused by bombing during World War II, Hamburg was again largely rebuilt.

The Hamburgschatz
Fig 3. Hamburg's (visual) 'treasure-chest.'

Hamburg's main economic asset is its port, which ranks among the largest and busiest in Europe.  Shipping is also the basis of the city's highly developed industries. Many raw materials imported from abroad are processed there, for example, oil, iron ore, copper, wheat, wool, cotton and hides.  The city's international airport is one of the busiest in Germany.  Educational and cultural facilities include the University of Hamburg (1919), several music conservatories, symphony orchestras, museums, and theaters.  The world-famous Hagenbeck Zoo is also in the city.

Cuxhaven to Hamburg Map
Fig 4.  The Elbe from Cuxhaven to Hamburg.

Hamburg originated early in the 9th century AD, when Charlemagne built the Hammaburg fortress at the confluence of the Elbe and Alster rivers. He also founded (811) a Christian church there.  Hamburg became (834) an archbishopric, which was given the mission of Christianizing Scandinavia.  In 845 and several times thereafter, however, it was plundered and burned by Danish and Slavic invaders.

The mouth of the Elbe

Fig 5.  The mouth of the Elbe at Hamburg,
in two adjacent outlines,
with an inset profile of the city in the 1870's.
(Note: North is to the base of the Jansonnius map)

In 1189, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I granted the city substantial privileges, including its own judiciary, exemption from tolls, and the right of fishery from the city to the mouth of the Elbe. During the 13th century Hamburg became a member of the Hanseatic League. In 1815 it joined the German Confederation. The city was incorporated into the German Empire in 1871.

Fig 6. The contemporary port of Hamburg (1998)

Fig 7. The old 'Chile Hause', within Hamburg city (2005)

- Dedicated to all of the passengers of the Skjold, 1841 -