From 1949 to 1990 the Inner German border separated the German Democratic Republic from the Federal Republic of Germany. Lying only 50km to the east of Hamburg this physical representation of the so-called Iron Curtain restricted global trade. After reunification in 1990 Hamburg became one of the fast growing ports in the world and is now Europe’s second largest commercial and industrial port.
The port itself is like any other, designed and manipulated for commercial and industrial size cargo ships, but what makes it unique is that it isn’t on the coast. This inland port is fed by the river Elbe which joins the city to the North Sea 68 miles to the north. This massive river has been enlarged by dredging to ensure the biggest container ships can make it into the port to unload and be refilled with cars, petroleum, food, and anything else that people consume.
The size, location, and history of the port means that it is not only the heart of the city’s economy but a big part of the city’s character. The area is traversed by waterways, bridges, overpasses and train lines, connecting land and water, north and south. Beside the rusted iron of the disused cranes and the museums that honor them, there are contemporary cultural uses for the port and its topography. Theatres, nightclubs, bars and markets line much of the ports shore and once a year the waters of the port are filled with the noise, joy and excitement of the harbours birthday celebrations.