Hamburg

By Bruce Woelfel

For American tourists, Hamburg is off the beaten track. Our Bruce Woelfel visits this stylish city of canals and lakes and declares it his favorite in all of Germany.

Big and complex, Hamburg is spread around a network of large and small lakes and canals.

These water areas allow for breathing space which compensates for the big-city congestion, as well as providing a reflective backdrop to the variegated peaks and towers of hotels, tall apartments, office buildings, shops and department stores. It is my personal favorite of German cities.

The target of numerous Allied raids in late World War II, Hamburg suffered severely for the sins of its country. It was bombed almost to extinction, with nearly as many civilian casualties as Dresden. For more than a year its survivors lived without water, gas, or electricity.

One woman I know who survived the war remembers ice skating on flooded bomb craters and, at the end, her family sheltering a shipless submarine crew assigned to home defense.

After the war, while Dresden and other bombed cities of East Germany retained their scars, Hamburg, the largest West German city, was rebuilt. Bombed-out building shells became enclosures for modern shopping malls; roads were closed to automobiles and linked by escalators that crossed boulevards for shopping convenience. Lakeshores were landscaped and provided with walkways for strollers and sightseers needing access to the lake and canal boats as well as the many lakeside restaurants and cafés.

The new Hamburg downtown is a combination of sophisticated shopping and leisure activities unique for a city its size.

Hotels

Hafen Hamburg

(Editor's Choice)

From below, on the pedestrian pier across from Landsbrücken Port, an imposing elevated site and classical-modern architecture, gives the Hafen Hamburg the look of a five-star hotel. Once inside, the impression remains. The hotel has gracious public rooms in a lovely art-deco style, with period chandeliers, stairways ornamented with spidery ironwork, and graceful hallways.

Many guest rooms have spectacular views of the port and the Elbe River.

Though imposing, the Hafen Hamburg's location is not perfect, particularly if one is without a car. The nearest transit station to downtown is a five to 10-minute downhill walk from the hotel (through a park with a prominent statue of the statesman Bismarck) and the city center is another 10-minute ride on an elevated S-Bahn train.

Nonetheless, this is the best hotel for the money we saw in Hamburg.

• Address: Hotel Hafen Hamburg Seewartenstrasse 9, D-20459 Hamburg
Phone: 040/311130
Fax: 040/3192736
Location: St. Pauli district, overlooking Elbe River
Rooms: 100 singles, 150 doubles
Proprietor: Kai Hollman
Prices: Singles 166-180 DM ($115-$124), doubles 186-206 DM ($128-$142)
Meals: All available
Facilities: Restaurant and two bars including tower lounge open at night
Credit Cards: All
Disabled Access: Level entry, no special rooms
Closed: Never
Parking: 10 DM ($7) per night
Rating: Above Average 15/20

St. Raphael

Located in a semi-residential district accessible to the harbor, train station and downtown shopping, this well-maintained hotel has been in business since 1940. Since then, the St. Raphael has been continuously remodeled and the current owners took over in 1970. St. Raphael and nearby City House Hotel (reviewed below) are adjacent and operate under the same management.

Guestrooms are furnished in contemporary style with muted colors. Number 344, facing the quiet, pedestrian side, is a large double with European-style beds and rents for 310 DM ($214) in high season. The bathroom is done in marble tile. Similar in price is Number 412, a quiet double with twin beds, overlooking a small stand of trees. Number 405 is an average-sized single in white with natural wood furnishings and a city view for 200 DM ($138).

• Address: Best Western St. Raphael, Adenaueralle 41, D-20097 Hamburg
Phone: 040/248200
Fax: 040/20820333
Location: Five minutes from train station, 10 minutes from central shopping area
Rooms: 50 singles, 81 doubles
Proprietor: Jorg C. Kutta
Prices: Singles 160-240 DM ($110-$166), doubles 220-300 DM ($152-$207)
Meals: All available
Facilities: Whirlpool bath, sauna
Credit Cards: All
Disabled Access: Level access, no special rooms
Closed: Never
Parking: 8 DM ($6) per night
Rating: Above average 12/20

City House

Located on a quiet residential street behind the St. Raphael and sharing the same management, is this small, homelike apartment-hotel.

Built in the 1920s as a private home, the building was converted to its current use after the War. The present owners took over in 1993. With a small lobby and no public rooms, meals are obtained from the restaurant in the St. Raphael.

The larger-than-average size guest rooms are attractively furnished in contemporary style. There are two suites with kitchens and some double rooms have kitchenettes. Number 10 is a spacious double with shower and European beds facing a very quiet rear courtyard. It rents for 198 DM ($137). Number 12, another large double, has two single beds, a sofa and the same quiet outlook for 280 DM ($193). Number 17 has European-style beds (twins together with common headboard), two easy chairs, both tub and shower, and a pleasant city view for 208 DM ($143). Number 23, a double which rents for 198 DM ($137), has a small kitchen.

Some single rooms, for less money, do not have private facilities.

• Address: City-House Pulverteich 25, D-20099 Hamburg
Phone: 040/2803850
Fax: 040/2801838
Location: Near main station and shopping district
Rooms: Three singles, 23 doubles
Proprietor: Alfons Kutta
Prices: Singles 98-138 DM ($68-$95), doubles 118-280 DM ($81-$193)
Meals: Restaurant in adjoining hotel St. Raphael
Facilities: Breakfast room only
Credit Cards: All
Disabled Access: Good access, no special rooms
Closed: Never
Parking: 8 DM ($6) per night
Rating: Average 11/20

Continental

Built in 1929, the number of rooms in this hotel was reduced a few years ago from 70 to 35, leaving mostly large L-shaped suites. These are very comfortably furnished with pseudo-antiques and furnishings and reminds one of the American chain, Embassy Suites.

Like most hotels the Continental has its good and bad points. On the positive side are its large rooms and convenient location, especially for train travelers.

Not so convenient are the small, rather primitive bathrooms (linoleum floors, tiny wash basins and showers, no tubs). In addition, the room we occupied was poorly lit; too dark to read a newspaper. This was corrected, however, when we discovered six light bulbs in a chandelier had been unscrewed apparently to save electricity. After that the light was adequate.

Service, too, fell short on occasion. Arriving tired and jet-lagged from our long flight, we asked about dinner reservations in a nearby restaurant. A surly concierge wouldn't lift a finger: "call from your room," was his reply.

Later, however, the hotel's young director apologized for the incident and things did improve after that.

• Address: Hotel Continental Hamburg Kirchenallee 37, D-20099 Hamburg
Phone: 040/2803357
Fax: 040/2803174
Location: Diagonally across the street from the main train station, 10 minutes walk from the central shopping district
Rooms: Nine singles, 22 doubles
Proprietor: A. Resa Etmenan
Prices: Singles 205-250 DM, doubles 250-300 DM
Meals: Breakfast only
Facilities: Breakfast room
Credit Cards: All
Disabled Access: Level entry, no special rooms
Closed: Never
Parking: 10 DM ($7) per night
Rating: Average 9/20

Germany's Best Small Hotel?

No report on Hamburg hotels should omit the delightful little Hotel Abtei, which we first visited in July, 1990. Meticulously and flawlessly run by Fritz Lay, this 11-room jewel is on a quiet street of fine old homes in Hamburg's Harvestehude section, about a 30-minute walk from the city center.

The Abtei offers amenities that would make most five-star hotels envious. The house abounds with antiques and fresh flowers. Herr Lay personally records the classical music on the dozen or so tapes provided for the individual stereo systems in each guestroom and bathroom. Coffee is brewed half-liter at a time and not until ordered by a guest. Nothing on the breakfast buffet comes in a jar or can; jams and jellies are made on the premises, as are the fresh-each-morning croissants and brioche. Even the Abtei's wash basins are works of art; several guest bathrooms contain these extraordinary, hand-painted beauties which were personally commissioned by - you guessed it - Herr Lay.

Five years ago, Lay told us of plans for an intimate restaurant of "six or seven tables, no more" that would be open only to hotel guests and what he called, "friends of the house." The restaurant recently opened and was quickly awarded a Michelin star.

We have seen no better small, city hotel.

• Hotel Abtei, Abteistrasse 14, D-20149, Hamburg, phone 040/442905, fax 040/449820. Rooms range in price from 260 to 500 DM ($179-$345). Major cards o.k.
Rating: Excellent 19/20

Restaurants

Ratsweinkeller

(Editor's Choice)

This huge, high-ceilinged, 100-year-old restaurant in the basement of the city hall is decorated in an elegant style reflecting the seafaring traditions of this Hanseatic city.

On this occasion, the vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and dark wood paneling were enhanced by several large, lighted Christmas trees.

We arrived before noon without a reservation and had no difficulty obtaining a table, but the room soon filled and we felt fortunate for our early arrival.

The menu features a large variety of German favorites: seafood of various descriptions, beef, pork, goose, rabbit and venison.

Service was excellent with a cheerful waiter anxious to explain and answer questions. We chose a large marinated pork foot with prune gravy and apricot marmalade a dish that tasted much better than it sounds and a wonderfully strong-flavored Sauerbraten with red cabbage, potato dumplings and raisin gravy. Liters of excellent beer were perfect with the meal. The bill for two, including service, came to 80 DM ($55). Lunch here was a highlight of our Hamburg visit.

Ratsweinkeller, Grosse Johannisstr. 2, D-20457 Hamburg, phone 040/364153, fax 040/372201. Moderate to expensive.
Rating: Excellent 16/20

Schiffer-Borse

This is a popular restaurant near the main railway station. The decor features ship models in glass cases and wood paneled ceiling murals and paintings all depicting ships in various settings.

The atmosphere is informal and, as it was crowded when we arrived for dinner, we were pleased to be invited to sit down with a hospitable German couple.

Service was quick and friendly in spite of the rushed atmosphere. Thick asparagus soup, shrimp salad and fried cod, which arrived with a huge portion of potato salad, were all good basic German fare. The bill for two, including glasses of the house Riesling, came to 46.50 DM ($32).

• Restaurant Schifferborse, Kirkenalle 46. Moderate.
Rating: Above Average 12/20

Brauhaus Johannes Albrecht

This simple and very informal downtown restaurant has wood tables, plain white walls and windows that look out on the Canal. Though it is essentially a bar with food service, we very much enjoyed a plate of sausage and roast potatoes served in a hot frying pan and a side dish of cole slaw. With two small beers the bill came to 20.80 DM ($14).

Brauhaus Johannes Albrecht Adolphsbrücke 7, Hamburg. Phone 040/367740. Inexpensive
Rating: Above Average 11/20

Flötkenkeiker

This pleasant fish restaurant is on the pier overlooking the Elbe River, a short walk from the St. Pauli S-Bahn station and near the Hafen Hamburg Hotel. A simple meal of very good dark beer and sausage with Sauerkraut and potatoes was 17 DM ($12).

Restaurant Flötkenkeiker, St. Pauli Pier. Inexpensive to moderate.
Rating: Average 10/20

Peter Lembcke

Based on our experience, tourists get the cold shoulder at this handsome, antique-filled, club-like restaurant.

The staff's attention seemed to focus on those among the fashionably dressed over-45 crowd who appeared to be regular patrons. For us, service was inattentive and slow. Our waiter had no time for us and seemed indifferent to our requests.

With its antiques and 19th century paintings, we like the Lembcke's ambiance, but prices are too high for the quality of food (a forgettable beef Stroganoff and a nice mixed green salad with half-liter of house white wine came to 118 DM/$81). And, of course, the attitude toward tourists needs a major tune-up.

Our inclination is to give Peter Lembcke an "Unacceptable" rating but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume we there on a bad day thus the "Average" rating.

Restaurant Peter Lembcke, Holzdamm 49, Hamburg, phone 040/243290, fax 040/4804123. Expensive.
Rating: Average 8/20

Hamburg Facts

At a population of 1,688,000, Hamburg is second in Germany to Berlin and has the best air quality of any large German city. It has the most bridges and tunnels of any German city. Nearly one-third of Hamburg's housing units are connected to a central heating system. its port is Germany's largest and employs 40,000.

Distances &Travel Times from Other Cities-City Distance by Train by Car

* Amsterdam 300 miles 5.0 Hrs. 5.0 Hrs.
* Berlin 180 miles 3.0 Hrs. 3.0 Hrs.
* Cologne 270 miles 4.0 Hrs. 4.5 Hrs.
* Frankfurt 320 miles 3.5 Hrs. 4.5 Hrs.
* Munich 500 miles 5.5 Hrs. 7.0 Hrs.
* Paris 455 miles 9.5 Hrs. 8.0 Hrs.
* Vienna 690 miles 14 Hrs. 15.0 Hrs.
* Zürich 582 miles 7.5 Hrs. 8.5 Hrs.

Hamburg Tourist Offices: 38 West 32 Street, Suite 1210, New York, N.Y. 10001

* Phone: (212) 967-3110
* Fax: (212) 629-6052

Burchardstrasse 14, Hamburg D-20095

* Phone: 040/300510
* Fax: 040/3005 1220

Public Transportation

The Hamburg Card provides:

* Unlimited travel on all mass transit
* Free entrance to many museums
* Price reduction for city, harbor, and Alster tours
* Price reduction for entrance to museum ships

One-Day Card
* Individual Card 12.50 DM

Multi-Day Card
* Individual Card 24.50 DM
* Group/Family Card 39.00 DM

1996 Events

Spring Dom

Amusement Fair at the Heiligengeistfeld

Mid-March to Mid-April

1996 Port Birthday

Annual Port Birthday Celebration with numerous performances and activities on both land and water

Beginning May

22nd Hamburg Ballet Festival

Hamburg Opera

May/June

Schlieswig Holstein Music Festival 96

Classical concerts with international soloists, orchestras and conductors in Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg

June 30-August 25, 1996

West Port

Germany's largest jazz festival.

July

International Summer Theater Festival Hamburg

Germany's largest theater and dance festival

August

Kampnagelfabrik

Alstervergnügen

Art and culture Inner Alster Lake

August/Sept.

Hamburg Summer

A summer-long arts festival including open-air theater, concerts, film and art, mostly in downtown Hamburg.

May to October

Musicals

Cats

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Daily except Mondays

Operettenhaus Hamburg

Phantom of the Opera

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Daily except Mondays

Neue Flora

The Buddy Holly Story

Alan James

Neue Metropol

Musicaltheater

Museums

Hamburger Kunsthalle

* Paintings from the Gothic period to the present day, 19th and 20th century sculpture, coins and medals, drawings and prints.
* Open Tue to Sun 10 a.m. to 6 p.m..

Museum of Arts and Crafts

* European sculpture and applied arts from the Middle Ages to the modern era.
* Open Tue to Sun 10 a.m. to 6 p.m..

Krameramtswohnungen

* Historic almshouses for merchants' widows.
* Tue to Sun 10 a.m. to 6 p.m..

Altonaer Museum/Norddeutsches Landesmuseum

* Municipal history, shipbuilding, pottery, textiles, ships figureheads, toys.
* Open Tue to Sun 10 a.m. to 6 p.m..

Hamburg Museum of Ethnology

* Exhibits featuring major civilizations of all continents, gold work from Central and South America, African Art.
* Open Tue to Sun 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

House of Art/Art Club

* Ferdinandstor Hamburg 1
* Open Tue-Sun 10 a.m.-6 p.m., We'd 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Car Museum

* Kurt-Schumacher-Allee 42
* Open Daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Botanic Collection and Display Greenhouses

* Botanic Institute of the University
* Marseiller Strasse 7
* Open Mon-Fri 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Post Museum

* Stephansplatz Ecke Dammtorwall
* Open Tue, Wed, Fri 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
* Thurs 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

February 1996