THE SHADOW OF THE IRON CURTAIN: HAMBURG'S PORT

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When the wall came down, the ships came in.

From 1949 to 1990 the Inner German border separated the German Democratic Republic from the Federal Republic of Germany. Lying only 31 miles to the east of Hamburg this physical representation of the so-called Iron Curtain restricted global capitalist 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. The 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 can be sold. 




The size, location, and history of the port mean that it is not only the centre of the city’s economy but a big part of its character. The area is traversed by waterways, bridges, overpasses and train lines, connecting land and water, north and south. Theatres, nightclubs, bars and markets line much of the port’s shore and once a year the waters of the port are filled with the noise, joy and excitement of the harbour’s birthday celebrations.