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(Ship ParadeHafengeburtstag | Alter Elbtunnel)

On the weekend of May 7-9, we got together with thousands of our fellow Hamburgers for Hafengeburtstag, saying "Happy Birthday" to Hamburg's harbor. The harbor turned 815 this year; it's considered to have been "born" on May 7, 1189, the day when Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa granted the people of Hamburg an exemption from tolls for their ships travelling on the Elbe River between Hamburg and the North Sea. On the water were ships of all types -- tall ships, steamships, fishing boats, an icebreaker, police, fire, and military boats -- docked and open to visitors. On the land, there was a giant party along the riverbank, with food, music, booths, and rides.

Things kicked off on Friday afternoon with a parade of ships into the harbor.
The next day, we came back for the festival proper, touring a few ships and getting our recommended daily allowance of carnival food.
One of the attractions that interested me most didn't have much to do with ships, but it did have something to do with the river — the Alter Elbtunnel, completed under the river in 1911 and operated almost continuously since then (with two breaks, one for the war and one for maintenance in the 1980s). Normally it carries both cars and people, but during Hafengeburtstag, it was pedestrian-only. At each end, cars are raised and lowered sixteen meters in giant elevators (the capacity plate said "10000 kg (11 tons!) or 130 persons"). Ordinarily, pedestrians take a normal-sized elevator, but since the tunnel was closed to traffic, we got to ride in the huge ones.

This page last modified on Tuesday, May 11, 2004
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