Fly over the port in a helicopter, turn night into day at the Michel steeple, climb a port crane? Our author Andra Wöllert has done all these things – virtually, at least. You can follow her trail – or discover completely new routes – at rundum.hamburg.
I never would have dreamt that I’d ever be able to gaze out across this scene. But here I stand, right at the frontmost tip of a port crane, looking out towards the Elbe Beach at the pretty houses so small in the distance. Only a few stratus clouds appear in the sky, in my perception the view stretches as far as Cuxhaven and the mouth of the River Elbe. A ship with a petrol-blue hull and sparkling white sails passes by below me. When I lean over the railings and look at the surface of the water, I realise for the first time how high my extraordinary viewing platform is. A sense of vertigo descends.
The only thing that's really missing is the wind whistling about my ears –but I'm happy to be without it. The tradeoff is that I’ve been able to embark on this trip to Hamburg right from my couch in Berlin, with my laptop on my lap. It's all thanks to 360-degree videos on the online platform rundum.hamburg. They enable you to experience “the most beautiful city in the world” almost at first hand, from one second to the next –on land and water and in the air.
Even dyed-in-the-wool Hamburg natives haven't seen this
I turn my back on the Elbe Beach to watch the busy activity on the Burchardkai quay, from high above but up close. The terminal area glows in green, blue, white, orange and rust red – all the shades of the goods container season. They're stacked like Lego blocks, making uniform rectangles. A few freighters are just docking and discharging their cargo. The carriers – four-legged vehicles that move the containers from the vessel into their places – cleave their path among the container blocks.
An interactive map navigates even less-than-purposeful virtual Hamburg tourists purposefully to the city sights, markers in the panoramas then lead from location to location. Experienced Hamburg visitor though I may be, I'm still discovering previously unseen perspectives: a few clicks from the port, I watch a passenger plane approach for landing at Hamburg Airport, take a helicopter trip over the Elbphilharmonie and the Speicherstadt district and turn night into day on the bell tower of St. Michaelis Church, the “Michel”.
A song about Wohlwillstraße, a poem about the Elbe beach
However, the platform can deliver more than just spectacular views and matching info texts with hard facts and background knowledge. On the south side of the port, Swedish band Friska Viljor sings us the unplugged version of its song about St. Pauli street Wohlwillstraße, and over and over again I encounter poetry slammers Mona Harry and Fabian Navarro, supplying wordplaying narrative about the iconic places they’re in. Like this one, which won't be revealed at this point but needs to be discovered in person:
“In the middle of grafters stressed out by the hustle, crazy from living with tedious bustle, ’mong tooting traffic and pushing people, oldsters impinging and youngsters whingeing, there's a place where time appears to close down, in the heart of a city that endlessly goes round. A time bubble, a capsule, almost beyond grasp. A cathedral, tiled and under water, as if you'd been reading a northern Jules Verne. Not quite 20,000 leagues under the sea, perhaps, but still it's the Elbe: flowing above our heads with fish and ships that are drawn to faraway places. Sea-dwellers observe us from the walls. Down in the depths the underlying hum from the upstairs level is keeping stumm, till a blaring horn makes our daydreams shift, because there's a car coming out of a lift”.
Well, have you guessed where I am right now?
Already on my way to the next site: I'm virtually beaming myself to the Elbe Beach. Mona and Fabian have unpacked deckchairs there and urgently want to whisper a poem in the sand to me. I lean back on the sofa. Oh Hamburg, my jewel, I've finally regained you, for always and at any time.