3 of 4) Hamburg, Germany

The third leg of the trip was to Hamburg, Germany, which is 305 miles from Prague.

Country Manufacturing Value-Added (% of GDP): 23% (World Bank) 

Hamburg has often been considered the most international of all German cities.  It has a notable history in trade dating back to the Middle Ages and is credited with helping to bring the Germanic region out of the Middle Ages because of its access to both import and export markets.  The city took the initiative in 1410 to draft a city constitution, known as “the first Rezeß”, which included dispute resolution policy and gave power of due process to citizens, which was a revolutionary civil liberty for the era.

The Hamburg-America line was a shipping company that was the world’s largest trans-Atlantic supply chain organization in the beginning of the twentieth century and known for its efficiency in operations.  Hamburg is central to much political historical change and chaos such as the 1923 Hamburg Uprising, a post-war plot to seize control of the city by Leon Trotsky-inspired local communists several years after the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the German defeat in WWI, when hyperinflation and economic chaos were rampant.  Famous blockades of German ports such as the port of Hamburg have been integral to wartime strategies to prevent vital goods from getting into the country.

Today, the city is multicultural and has the highest percentage of international residents in Germany at 14% (LabourEconomics, 2012).  Hamburg is known as the global economic trading center of the North Sea and Baltic Sea regions and the regional hub of international trade (Hamburg Business Development Corporation, 2016), and is home to 40,000 official millionaires.  While Munich’s residents comprise a traditional 70% Catholic to 30% Protestant demographic, Hamburg’s residents comprise the opposite percentage (not counting recent immigrants).

1) Multinational Automobile and Supply Chain Tours:

The Port of Hamburg is the second largest port in Europe, 106 kilometers from the open sea.  The city is named the “Gateway to the World” by German citizens because of the vast trade volume facilitated by the port, including more than 9.73 million TEUs which pass through it annually.  The city has 2,500 total bridges (second only to New York), and many connect portions of the Port to the City.  The port has a rich history, beginning from May 1189, when Kaiser Friedrich Barbarossa decreed that the Port be a customs-free zone for all merchants.  Smuggling products into East Germany through the port is credited as a rationale for the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the port saw a spike in business after the reunification of Germany and the fall of the Iron Curtain.  From 2000 to 2013, total trade grew by an average of 13% annually.  In 2015, the Port paired 45.8% of its services with rail (1,300 freight trains per week), 12.2% with inland water vessels, and 42% with trucking transportation of total hinterland traffic (Hamburg Port Authority, 2016).  Today, the Port’s main trading partners include China, Russia, Brazil, the US, and Norway.  Imports and exports are managed through a dense network of 120 liner services spanning the globe (Hamburg Port Authority, 2016).  The harbor’s birthday, which is observed during the first week of May in a festival called Hafengeburtstag, is one of the most celebrated cultural events of the year.

We learned that the container terminal area of the port can handle 20,000 foot containers, which is the largest type of container possible.  Yachts at the port cost €400 million.  We saw the 3 million TEU capacity Altenwerder Terminal, one of the most modern container terminals in the world.  Governmental action as it pertains to the port was also a focus because the relevancy of the port has increased and decreased over the centuries based on political decisions of the German government.

Our Port of Hamburg tour was by boat, which provided us enough speed to cover the massive port and its four modern container terminals.  We were fortunate to be able to see export cargo containers loaded onto transport vessels and import cargo loaded onto trains.  Dynamic supply chain capabilities allow the port to transport 138.2 million tons of goods per year.



We visited the Prototyp Car Museum, whose aim is to convey passion for beautiful design and powerful engines (Hamburg Tourismus, 2017).  Racing and sports cars from the past and current century were presented, and technology enthusiasts are their target demographic.  Included were the Porsche Type 64, considered a forefather of all Porsche sports cars, and Formula One racing legend Michael Schumacher’s first official car (Hamburg Tourismus, 2017).  Several students drove the simulated orange Porsche shown below in a video game format.


During our various excursions in Hamburg, we had the opportunity to learn the logistics of their U-Bahn subway system.  One student in particular (Matt) took the initiative in helping our group on and off the various lines so that we could more efficiently find our destinations.  The system seemed a bit more technologically advanced than that of Munich, with screens inside the trains showing soccer scores and updates (as seen in one of the pictures below).


Mercedez bus
Several students pointed out the Mercedes hippy van on the street.  Car brand/logo watching was a favorite pastime and differences in brands/logos were stark as we traveled from city to city.


2) Cultural Excursions and Immersions:

Our hotel was located on the campus of Hamburg University, which has an enrollment of over 42,000 and is located in the Harvestehude quarter of Hamburg, a historic area that does not allow buildings to rise above the level of the trees.  Hamburg University is the biggest research institution in Northern Germany and is often ranked as a global top 200 University by various ranking agencies.  During our stay, the students had the opportunity to hang out and chat with Hamburg University students.  The pictures below on the right show the campus and its various restaurants at night.


The Harvestehude quarter, where our hotel was located, is also near Außenalster Lake, and alongside a series of buildings first constructed by the German elite of the 19th century.  This area has recently experienced a green renaissance.  The picture below on the right promotes citizens to hike the Green Ring, which is a sustainable initiative put forth by Hamburg leaders that connects via hiking/jogging paths the majority of the city’s parks, gardens, recreational areas, and other destinations (Mishkov, 2016).  The goal is to make this area completely car-free by 2034 and to further promote public transportation.


As in many European countries, culture and societal values in Germany vary from region to region.  In fact, cultural characteristics should not be assumed to be the same in different regions of the same country.  For instance, the food of Northern Germany is different than the food of Southern Germany.  In Hamburg, carp is a favorite for Christmas and New Year’s meals.  Other popular cuisines include lobster soup, currywurst, savoy cabbage and duck and/or goose-related meals.  There is more of an emphasis on global spices and seasonings in Hamburg cuisine.  Many of the students commented that Hamburg’s food was much different than that of Munich, which seemed more stereotypically German.

Students can use their free time for any sort of experience and these are often the most rewarding times during these trips.  In most cities, student-initiated exploration during free-time often became a favorite part of the visit.  While we were in Hamburg, one student (Jake) had the opportunity to tour the facilities of the multinational aerospace manufacturer Airbus.


Hamburg hosts more than 100 consulates, the third largest number in any city (behind Hong Kong and New York City).  The US consulate in Hamburg, which we passed during a walk in the greenspace, was a great example of the 19th century upper-class Hanseatic architecture that was popular around our hotel.

US consulate2
US Consulate to Hamburg, Germany


We also took a walking tour of the Historic City Center.  The picture below on the left shows the Four Seasons hotel with its green roof in the background and the 279 meter-high TV Tower to its right.  The photo on the right shows the exclusive Jungfernstieg urban promenade, a 600 meter-long shopping street, with the TV Tower to its right in the background.


The City Hall is home to the Senate and Parliament.  Most buildings were destroyed by Allied air raids during the end of World War II, but this building was lucky to only have minor damage.


Another local cultural excursion included attending a Hamburg Rotary meeting.  Rotary has a special significance in this city.  “The first Rotary Club in Germany was founded in 1927 in Hamburg; it was the first German city to bridge the divide to the United States since the First World War” (Rotary International, 2015).  Our meeting took place on the top floor of the Hafen Klub, which overlooks the Port of Rotterdam.  The speaker, Director of the Hamburg Planetarium Thomas Kraupe, is the former President of the International Planetarium Society and a world-renowned physicist who recently oversaw the modernization and new launch of the Hamburg Planetarium.  We were ready for a German language presentation, but soon found that he changed his presentation to English to accommodate us.  The hosts were very gracious and welcoming, and the food was excellent.  This was a semi-formal evening for everyone and a nice opportunity to enjoy German culture at its best.

rotary main
Hamburg Planetarium Director Kraupe compared the space-age quest for new information to the quest for trade in Hamburg’s earlier centuries.


Students were able to see the traditional cultural exchange of flags and were also fortunate to witness a newly loaded container vessel shipping off, which we saw out of our windows from above (seen below).


3) History of Capitalism/Trade:

Attached to the City Hall is the Stock Exchange Building, where the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce resides.  The building also houses the second oldest stock exchange in the world.  It began in 1558 and is younger only than London’s.  The photo below shows the Chamber of Commerce display of the Wapen Von Hamburg II vessel, a 1722 warship that was commissioned to accompany the lucrative Hamburg merchant ships and defend them from pirates.  After many successful voyages, pirates attacked the merchant ships that the Wapen Von Hamburg II protected Admiral Berend Jacobsen Karpfanger was able to fend off most of the pirates while the merchant ships got away, but was killed toward the end of the fight in heroic fashion.  His bravery in defense of Hamburg trade is depicted prominently in the Chamber of Commerce today.


The Port contributes to the profits of 7,300 organizations in the Hamburg city limits, many within Speicherstadt, or Hafen City, which is the world’s largest warehouse district.  It has recently been awarded the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a designation of a location deemed to be of special significance, as the site has been called “a unique symbol of the rapid international growth of trade in the late 19th and early 20th century” (Deutsche Welle, 2016).  Speicherstadt was the first office-only section of a town in Europe (Deutsche Welle, 2015).  Nearby is the Speicherstadtmuseum, focusing on the history of the coffee trade and other notable industries.

The Maritimes Museum in the newly gentrified Hafen City, the former warehouse district off the Port.  You can see the old cranes at the top of the building, which were utilized to lift goods from vessels below when it was originally built.

Also in Hamburg is the Beatles Hamburg voyage, which includes visits to the clubs where the Beatles first toured and sharpened their musical skills and synergies from 1960-1962 before they became famous in Liverpool, England.  Students found out why, after the city was bombed to rubble at the end of World War II, the Hamburg live music scene quickly became world-renowned and was receptive and influential to the Beatles’ style of music due to their port’s imports of global music. During this time, the locals had grown accustomed to American rock and roll because of access to imported records that they could buy locally via the Port of Hamburg.  They grew to enjoy and appreciate 1950s-style rock and roll artists such as Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Bill Haley, and understood and paid money to see the similarly-styled Beatles in their local clubs.  The Beatles and the music-lovers of Hamburg were truly ahead of their time in the early 1960’s.  The venues in which the Beatles played live are located on the Reeperbahn, a famous street in the St. Pauli district of Hamburg.  


In the spirit of both the historic and modern Hamburg music scene, several students watched a progressive-metal live music show at the Knust music venue, a popular nightspot featuring indie bands and rock bands.


The historic Hamburg Stock Exchange, the building attached to the Town Hall (which the Chamber of Commerce now partially inhabits), was another interesting visit.  Founded in 1558 because of the progressive international trade in the city, it is the oldest stock exchange in Germany and the second-oldest in Europe behind London’s exchange.  The picture on the right shows the stone-carved city crests of the time to show respect for the major international trading partners of Hamburg in other parts of Europe and other continents.


As we learned from our tour of the BMW factory, automobiles produced in Germany are often transported and exported via train.  We had the opportunity to see this firsthand at a train station en route to Rotterdam (see below).


We also learned that there is often a carriage on European trains designated for those that want to work instead of chat.  The picture on the right shows the word “Silence” on the top part of the window, to signify the designation of this carriage as a work carriage for its passengers.


Several of us sought out a local restaurant “Boilerman Bar”, a popular establishment in the Hafen City district of Hamburg.