CONVENTION COUNTDOWN

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The Germany you don’t know

When people think about traveling to Germany, certain images may spring to mind: Oktoberfest in Munich, dramatic Alpine landscapes, the Romantic Road with its medieval towns. But as those who attend the 2019 Rotary International Convention in Hamburg from 1 to 5 June will discover, there’s another side to Germany that is equally captivating.

https://www.rotary.org/sites/default/files/styles/w_600/public/shutterstock_300293663.jpg?itok=0CRD3MizWhen people think about traveling to Germany, certain images may spring to mind: Oktoberfest in Munich, dramatic Alpine landscapes, the Romantic Road with its medieval towns. But as those who attend the 2019 Rotary International Convention in Hamburg from 1 to 5 June will discover, there’s another side to Germany that is equally captivating.

Home to Europe’s second-largest port, Hamburg is known for its cosmopolitan outlook. The city offers enough canals and bridges to rival Amsterdam; two inviting lakes in the heart of the city; and easy access to nearby North Sea and Baltic beaches that stretch for miles.

You’re not likely to run into any lederhosen-clad polka dancers in Hamburg, but you can visit a world-class concert hall; you might not find Wiener schnitzel on the menu, but the seafood is fresh and abundant; and any thoughts of castles on the Rhine will be forgotten when you catch sight of the huge ships plying the Elbe.

Of course, some stereotypes of Germany do hold true, even in Hamburg: The public transportation system, for instance, is efficient, clean, and easy to navigate. Convention goers will find it even easier to use, thanks to an all-access transit pass that will be included with registration.

Shopping and cafés

In the past 15 years, cafés and fashionable shops have opened all over Hamburg. When you attend the 2019 Rotary International Convention there from 1 to 5 June, take a little time to experience what the city has to offer.

https://www.rotary.org/sites/default/files/styles/w_600/public/shutterstock_314800349%5B1%5D_cmyk.jpg?itok=ED0VJepeOn a sunny day, start with breakfast by the shores of the Outer Alster Lake (Außenalster) on the deck of AlsterCliff (http://alster-cliff.de/site/) , a café with stunning views. Try the “Seaside,” scrambled eggs on dark rye bread topped with tiny shrimp.

From here you can stroll into the Pöseldorf neighborhood, which boasts cozy restaurants, art galleries, antique shops, and high-end boutiques. Or take the steamboat that departs every hour from the Fährdamm dock to the Jungfernstieg, a historic lakeside boulevard in the heart of the city.

On the Jungfernstieg and adjoining streets, you can snack and people-watch in one of the numerous cafés. You’ll find international stores such as Apple, Hermès, and Gucci, along with family-run businesses such as Chocolaterie Leysieffer. Make sure you visit Steiff, the teddy bear maker, inside the traditional brick mall called Levantehaus (http://www.levantehaus.de/) , and check out the stylish Europa Passage designed by star architect Hadi Teherani.

For alternative fashion and design, head to the Karolinenviertel (https://www.hamburg.com/sights/alternative/karoviertel/) , a vibrant artists neighborhood with studios and shops run by young local designers. Enjoy a German-style cheesecake at Gretchens Villa (http://www.gretchens-villa.de/) .

Built to impress

Hamburg’s architectural face has changed dramatically over the centuries — because of a major fire in 1842 and extensive damage from bombing during World War II, because of economic growth, and because its citizens have always embraced change. You will find postmodern glass and steel facades, classical 19th-century mansions, and a few half-timbered gems dating to the 17th century.  

H:\HAMBURG\Elphie in Nov Rotarian Countdown.jpgTwo things are typical of Hamburg architecture: maritime motifs and red brick. A must-visit is the Speicherstadt, a dockland warehouse complex built between 1883 and the end of the 1920s that now houses restaurants and museums. Its brick buildings are part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, together with the nearby Chilehaus, built in 1924, whose dramatically pointed east corner evokes a ship’s prow.

The Elbphilharmonie concert hall takes the nautical idea in a different direction. The bold glass construction, whose roofline resembles waves, sits atop a repurposed brick warehouse. 

The City Nord district features office buildings in a parklike setting, an idea popular in the 1950s and '60s. Walking along the wide streets feels like visiting an open-air architectural museum. 

For an in-depth experience of Hamburg’s architecture, guided tours are offered by a number of companies, including A-tour (a-tour.de/en). 

On two wheels

Hamburg has a strong tradition as a bicycle town. With its mostly flat terrain and great biking infrastructure, the city is an ideal place to explore on two wheels, and Rotarians who come for the 2019 Rotary International Convention, from 1 to 5 June, will find a variety of ways to get rolling.

For short trips, you can pick up and drop off a StadtRAD, or city bike, at one of 120 locations. There’s no charge for the first 30 minutes; after that, you pay 8 euro cents per minute or €12 per day. To use the StadtRAD system, you must first register online with a credit card, and you must have a mobile phone that works in Europe. 

Many bike rental shops offer city sightseeing tours, as well as excursions into the countryside. Try hhcitycycles.de/en or hamburg-radtour.de. For longer trips, komoot.com is an app that can help you plan your route. A popular new option is renting electric bikes, which are equipped with a small electric motor that supports pedaling.

Visitors should be aware that Hamburg cyclists ride fast and are adamant about their right of way. Pedestrians should always be alert for cyclists and make sure to keep to the right on shared sidewalks and paths. Listen for bells; if you hear one ring behind you, it probably means you’re on the wrong side!

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