Across the seven seas by foot

On the sail of a historic model ship Mary and Jesus are receiving the visitors. The ship is one of about 36 000 models collected by Peter Tamm during his lifetime – besides 5000 oil paintings, 100 000 stamps, 1 000 000 photos and innumerable nautical instruments, charts, documents, sound recordings, drawings, weapons, uniforms and medals. Passing the ship one starts ascending to the many decks of the Maritime Museum, the largest naval collection in the world. Since 2009 the Kaiserspeicher B (Imperial Storehouse B) in the Magdeburger Hafen is the home of these unique objects. The storehouse built in 1878 is the oldest extant building in the Speicherstadt. Besides the landward and seaward hatches the storehouse was directly connected to the railway – the rails ended in the ground floor of the building. Until 2003 it served its original purpose as a cargo storehouse.

Merry Christmas!



A constant flow

Every storage has two hatches – one opens towards the street, the other towards the fleet. Thus it was possible to deliver and receive goods by cart, van and by barge. Six fleets cross the Speicherstadt. The Low-German word “Fleet” is – as one might guess – derived from the same root as “fließen”, “flow” and “Fluss”. They served as transportation route and to dump waste, were sewers and water reservoir at the same time. Unlike in artificially built canals the water level in the fleet was initially not regulated by locks but varied due to the tide. This caused considerable deposition of silt. The removal of this silt was the responsibility of the “Fleetenkieker” (lit. “fleet inspector”). They had to make sure that the depth of water was sufficient for barges and lighters. The name was later also used for those people who searched the mud at low tide for usable waste and valuables.



Ex oriente

It is not only the sun that rises in the east – Oriental carpets, too, came from the east, albeit by ship. Just like every proper living room in the old Federal Republic of Germany had to be graced by an Oriental carpet, a carpet shop was an esential shop in all West German city centres.
Since its beginnings some 130 years ago ships delivered quality goods to the Speicherstadt – first dried fruits and later carpets.For the loading and unloading of carpets rope winches are used, exactly as it was done 100 years ago. The wooden pallet carrying the carpets was attached to a strong hawser and pulled up to the right floor of the storehouse by the labourers.
The first merchants from the Near and Middle East established themselves in the years after the war. When the political situation in their home countries became increasingly difficult other Iranian families followed and, another decade later, Afghan traders.



King of hitches

The “Palstek” (bowline hitch) ist the most commonly used nautical hitch; it
is used to fasten a rope to a bollard or to another fixing point ashore.
But the bowline hitch also plays an important part in water and mountain
rescue services. Here, the person that has to be rescued is secured by a
chest belt. This belt is pulled tight and fixed with a bowline hitch. In the
case of water rescue the hitch is placed on the back of the person, for air-
borne rescue it is tied on the chest. The bowline hitch is the only hitch
approved hitch for this purpose since it does not open unintentionally and
does not affect the breaking strengh of the rope as much as other hitches.



A trip by the sea what fun it can be …

Whenever the Queen Mary II docks in Hamburg there is a fireworks
display. The cruise liner even is a contender for the Giinness Book of
Records since its wine cellar with 17 000 bottles and about 200 different
provenances is the largest aboard a ship.
Pleasure cruises were invented by Albert Ballin at the end of the 19th
century; he tried to cover the losses his shipping company made during
the winter months. During this season a passage across the Atlantic was
unpleasant and dangerous, so tickets did not sell well. Ballin was director
of the “Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft” (lit.:
“Hamburg-American Parcel Freight Stock Corporation”), in short HAPAG.
The ocean liner “Auguste Victoria” set sail from Hamburg with 241
passengers as the first cruise ship. During two months she cruised the
Mediterranean with stops in Alexandria, Jaffa, Beirut and Naples; two
months of pure luxury as an end in itself. The first trial was a roaring
success and cruises have been in demand ever since



Spinning a yarn

He probably looked different. Whether the story reporting the cruel course of Klaus Störtebekers execution is truth or legend is difficult to prove, too. This much is true, however: the Grasbrook, where cows were grazing in those days, was used to perform executions, too – more or less exactly at the site of the Elbphilharmonie.
In 1400 Hamburg gathered a fleet against Störtebeker whose base of operations was Helgoland; the ship “Bunte Kuh” finally managed to detain the pirate and on 21st October 1401 he and his comrades were executed.
Until 1550 the executioner’s axe sealed the fate of almost 400 pirates who had roamed the sea around Hamburg marauding merchant ships. The mouth of the river Elbe where such ships gathered almost like in a funnel even was the target of Saracene and Turkish pirates. In 1662 Saracene pirats captured eight ships here.



Cheer and exulting

The late choirmaster, Mr. J.S. Bach from Leipzig, who once gave a concert of 2 hours on this instrument that, according to him, is excellent in every regard, could not praise the beauty and diversity of the sound from these organ pipes enough…
The grand master visited St. Catherine several times. He much appreciated its organ and in 1720 he played his concert in front of the city’s dignitaries. Another famous composer worked in Hamburg, too. Georg Friedrich Telemann served the city as director musices from 1721 onward. The famous organ was destroyed during the air raids in 1943 but 520 historic pipes were recovered and were put back into place in the restaured instrument.
St. Catherine was the church of ship builders, merchants and brewers who settled near the thriving harbour. Today it is also the church for the inhabitants of the new HafenCity (harbour city). According to legend the gold used for spire of its tower was part of the legendary gold treasure of Klaus Störtebeker.



Romance in Brick

The Speicherstadt with its red bricks, neo-gothic bay windows, gables and pinnacles seems to the viewer almost medieval but this is only the facade. Behind the castle-like appearance the buildings house an ultra-modern logistic support structure catering even to the highest technical requierements. To reduce the danger of fires gas amd oil lamps were banned and all storehouses were fully electrified as early as 1888. The Speicherstadt had its own engine house where generators and the pumps for the hydraulic winches worked – powered with steam from the neighbouring boiler house. In 1901 another power station in block U was launched because the newly installed graders and the machines for sifting and peeling the raw coffee beans also needed a reliable power supply.



Delicate cargo

Reportedly every German eats about 12 kg of bananas each year. These fruits have to travel over large distances to reach their destination. It takes roughly 12 days for a banana freighter to cross the Atlantic from Central America to Europe; if it has to cross the Pacific it even takes 21 days. To make sure the bananas get to Europe in good order they have to be harvested when they are still green and rock-hard. During transport they are cooled down after they have been carefully controlled. Even slightly damaged bananas are rejected because they might start premature ripening that would cause the fruit to rot while still in the harbour.
The Deutsche Wetterdienst (German Meteorological Service) offers a special planning service for freighters to make sure they reach their destination as quick as possible. Based on the latest weather data and a computer simulation they identify the best route. If an unpredicted storm develops the freighter is warned or is even redirected to another route.



Stacked stocking

Many jobs in the Speicherstadt were labour intensive and included hard physical work. Piling up the sacks needed a lot of elbow-grease as cocoa and coffee were packed in sacks with a standard weight of 60 kg – far too much to just pick them up a the edges and move them around. With the so-called “Griepen” (“gripper”) workers moved these sacks into their designated positions. The grippers also prevented them from hand injuries caused by the rough jute and sisal sacks. When the sacks were stacked in the storehouses they had to form a solid pile while at the same time they needed enough air circulation to allow the goods the get and remain dry.



A rump steak, please!

A „Bunte Kuh“ („Gaudy cow“) – a flagship of this name – was added to the naval force in 1400 by Simon von Utrecht, a young merchant. The fleet went after pirats in the North Sea. Compared to this the usage of the „Großer Grasbrook“ was rather peaceful; the swampy area that became the building ground for the Speicherstadt in the 19th century served as pasture and as popular sunday promenade for the citizens who enjoyed the views of the river Elbe and the scenic islands. Almost all depictions from the 17th and 18th century show the gay bustle on the meadows outside the city gates.
Slowly settlement in the area began until it was finally developed as a harbour and industrial estate towards the end of the 19th century. Canals and docks had already been build since 1838.



Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates

Again and again the Hamburg city arms with the three towers can be seen in the Speicherstadt; once it occurs there as a green glazed ornament on block M. Today Hammonia is the patron saint of dthe hanse city but she took over this job from the Virgin Mary only after the Protestant Reformation. In the city arms that date back to the 12th – 13th century the central tower topped by a cross refers to the Cathedral of Our Lady (Mariendom) and the two stars on both sides – called „Mariensterne“ (St. Mary’s stars) allude to the mother of Jesus. Just as the towers changed their shape in the course of time the depiction of the gate also varied. Sometimes it ways open, sometimes losed, had a portcullis or even a flight of stairs. At the time the storehouse was built it was shown closed and locked.
Since its standardisation in the years 1834-35 the depiction of the city arms has remained unaltered except a few modest adjustments.



… control is better

Who wants to buy a pig in a poke? Before the goods were brought from the ships to the storehouses they were examined carefully. In this sampling process the goods were checked for mould, pest infestation, unusual smells – for everything that might reduce the quality. Of course, a sample was needed to claim any compensation. In the case of gunnysacks it was not neccessary to cut the bag in order to get access to the goods and check their quality – it was sufficient to push a blunt instrument into the sack pushing warp and weft to the side. After taking the sample the clerk simply pushed the threads back into place. In German the term for this way of sampling, “Stichprobe” (literally “stab sampling”) has become synonymous with every kind of random sampling.



From Employee to Millionaire

The frigate gathers way carrying the Hamburg city arms on its billowing sails. On an expressionistic zigzag wave she travels towards Germany, as Henry B. Sloman had made his fortune in Chile from producing saltpeter. During the 19th century saltpeter was an indispensable raw material for fertilisers, explosives and dyes. Sloman started as a clerk in a saltperer mine and founded his first own company, “Gute Hoffnung”, in 1892. After returning to Germany he invested parts of his fortune after 1922 into building the expressionistic Chilehaus (Chile House). Its distinctive shape resembling a passenger ship soon became an architectural icon and was captured in countless photographs. An Andean condor is placed on top of the building reminding everybody of the source of the wealth that funded its construction.



Stormy weather

When on the 17th February 1962 a strorm tide raged across Hamburg it uprooted trees, untiled roofs and pushed water from the North Sea into the river Elbe. More than sixty crevasses were counted and the worst storm tide in the 20th century in Hamburg killed more than 300 people.
To make sure that inhabitants of the new harbour city keep their feet dry even during storm tides and floodings like that in 1962 the architects had to develop a cunning plan, because this quarter is situated outside the main dyke line. Therefore all buildings are placed on mounds. The architects derived their solution from the traditional structure of the North Frisian “Hallig”, a particular type of artifical island where all buildings were erected on individual dwelling mounds. Like their traditional precursors the mounds in the new quarter that rise to between 8 and 9 metres above sea level are also called “Warft”.




This mother and daughter were once based at what now is Sandtorkai No. 1; in 1566, however, they did not overlook the 19th century warehouses we stroll along today but rather a medieval graveyard were suicides and the victims of the plague were buried. St. Anne’s Chapel to which the figures of Anne and Mary once belonged was probably built as a mortuary. It was an annex of the church St. Catherine and had to be demolished in 1869 when a wider road was built.
As the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus Anne belongs to the closest family circle of the Christmas story. As patron saint of miners, mariners and merchants she is in the right place until today.



It‘s closing time!

In order to protect the Hamburg against attacks the city gates were closed at nightfall and only opened again at daybreak. Residents who did not make it home in time were forced to spend the night outside the city walls and were frequently robbed. It is easy to imagine that sunset caused haste and sometimes even panic among those who had to return in time. Only in the 19th century, when industrialisation accelerated the city‘s expansion, large parts of the city walls were slighted; since then revellers can saunter home without the fear of being excluded.




The triangle really is up to date. In German according to the Duden it can be used with all three genders although colloquially it is usually considered female – as are other percussion instruments like cymbals, drums, bells, rattles, fiddles …
Within the orchestra the triangle is used to add highlights to the sound; due to its penetrating tone it is only used sparingly for accentuation. If occasionally the sound in the Elbphilharmonie is less moderate, the audience can demand suitable ear protection at the visitors service – they will be issued free of charge because some events may damage health and hearing in particular due to their hight sound volume. The relevant paragraph is part of the house rules under the keyword „Schallpegel“ (noise level).



Yes, I do

It is definitely worth turning the gaze upwards; the many copper pinnacles that have turned green in the course of time are useful, beautiful and show an amazing variety of shapes. The pinnacles protected the winches installed at the outside of the pediments; they were used to lift the enormous loads carried by horse carts and barges into the storage lofts. Such lifting devices were indispensable as there were no goods lifts in the entire Speicherstadt. The maintainance of the hydraulic capstans was in the hands of the capstan guard (Windenwärter) who in return enjoyed the privilege to live right in the middle of the Speicherstadt – in the House of the Capstan Guard (Windenwärterhäuschen).
Today this pretty building also known as the Wasserschlösschen (water palace) is a restaurant and tea shop. Since 2012 it is even possible to get married here as it has officially become a branch of the city‘s register office.



Father of the swans

A pronouncement in 1664 sanctioned any insult of swans in Hamburg, though it remains unclear what kind of actual offense this might refer to. According to legend swans are essential for the welfare of the city; as long as they are seen on the river Alster the freedom and economic success of the Hanse town was secured. This also explains why in 1674 a most unusual profession was invented to ensure their well-being – the Schwanenvater (literally „father of swans“). His official task is to take care of the swans living on the river. In addition he cares for other animals, too, be it the rescue of seals or storks. The Schwanenvater provides for ill or injured swans and fosters orphaned fledglings, but his most important task is to capture the swans in November of every year and to transport them in blue boats to their wintering grounds at the Eppendorf mill pond. Here the water surface does not freeze over due to a specially installed system of submerged pumps. The pair of swans adorning the Haus der Seefahrt (”House of Seafaring“), however, does not have to be transported to these wintering grounds.



Syzygium aromaticum

The train of thoughts behind the popular name of this spice is easily understood – its German name, Nelke, does not refer to the flower (carnation), but is derived from a Middle High German term “negelein/Nägelchen” (small nail). Like the English “clove” it alludes to the shape of the spice that resembles a nail; during the Middle ages cloves were therefore regarded as a symbol of the passion of Christ.
The evergreen clove tree originates in the Moluccas, aptly named Spice Islands by European explorers. It grows to a hight of up to 10 metres; its dried buds, the cloves, were known in Europe since the early middle ages. For a long time the Dutch traders monopolised spice trade with India; their ships brought cloves to European markets.
The quality is best examined by putting a sample into a bowl of water – while the good, oily cloves sink to the bottom of the bowl or at least float vertically, low quality cloves float horizontally on the surface.
An Indonesian miniature ship made entirely from cloves is on display in the Spice Museum; it served to promote sales and was a trade present. But a simple chain of threaded cloves is pretty, too, and spreads its pleasant smell for quite some time.



Muscle factory
Barges were the pack camels of the harbour. They carried freight to and from the sea-going ships and since 1888 also into the Speicherstadt. Each barge was commanded by a lighterman who usually also was its owner. He had to stow the entire cargo in the barge himself and had to move it to its destination by muscle power as the barges did not have any drive. The barge was either punted or pulled along the quay walls using a large hook on a pole. This earned the lightermen the nickname “barge pusher”.
In the beginning the barges were open; in rain and snow the cargo was covered with tarpaulins. In the course of time more valuable goods were transported and a special type of barge developed; in it the portholes were closed with wooden planks. They were popularly known as “rattling lid barges” reflecting the characteristic noise they made – a sliding lid made from aluminium reduced the sound in later years before the beginning era of the large container ships in the late 1960s caused the barges to loose importance.



Duty-free treat

Several hundred kilogramms of coffee samples left the post office No. 14 every day. It was only coffee that was dropped into the blue special letterbox used until 1939; today it can be viewed in the museum of the Speicherstadt. The letterbox with its integrated scales took 30 kilogramms of raw coffee samples. An elaborate mechanism then locked the box and set of an accoustic signal to empty the box.
The letter box was also well secured against thieves – the opening was especially shaped to prevent anybody from getting his hands on the precious beans once they were posted.



Punctual attraction

Clocks are commonly known to indicate time. But at sea a chronometer had another use. With their help it was possible to determine the longitude and thus the exact position of the ship – but only if the ship’s clock kept good time. The tower of the Kaiserspeicher in Hamburg, a widely visible landmark of the city, therefore housed a so-called time ball. Every day at 11.50 it was pulled up and exactly at noon it dropped down three meters. The captain on his ship was able to set the clock to Hamburg time and afterwards start his journey. The ball was regulated by the observatory at Millerntor via a subterranean wire connection until in 1934 radio signals took over the time check. A number of historical views of Hamburg show the storehouse and its unusual clock – today the new Elbphilharmonie occupies this site.