Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The Free and Hanseatic City

The Man of Mode has returned from a short trip to Hamburg.

This city-state has one of the most impressive settings of any northern European city. It's built around two lakes: the heart of the city is clustered around the smaller Binnenalster, with the larger Au├čenalster extending away into the residential parts of the city.

It's a prosperous city, and quite stylish in a buttoned-up sort of way. It is a very anglophilic place, and Barbour jackets, tweeds, quilted jackets and Land Rovers are much in evidence. That might also be due to the weather, which tends to be damp and drizzly.

The city made its fortune as a trading centre, and was one of the largest members of the Hanseatic League. Even today, Hamburg remains incredibly proud of this history. It's not the "City of Hamburg"; the full name of the place is the "Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg".

Hamburg is still a major port, but containerization has meant that the old warehouse district, the Speicherstadt, hasn't been used by the major shipping lines for a long time. Instead, the neighbourhood is full of small businesses that have carved out space in the old buidings.

The area still has strong links with international trade. There are many carpet importers, most of which seem to be Iranian.

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