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The Hamburg Metropolitan Region is typified by its geographical position on the Elbe River and the shores of the North Sea’s German Bight. Traditionally, the Elbe and its tributaries have provided a strong pull for businesses to locate in towns and municipalities in the region. Industrial and other ... more
The Hamburg Metropolitan Region is typified by its geographical position on the Elbe River and the shores of the North Sea’s German Bight. Traditionally, the Elbe and its tributaries have provided a strong pull for businesses to locate in towns and municipalities in the region. Industrial and other historical relics with connections to the river and water are reminders of the distinctive development and history of this landscape. The region encompasses an industrial-cultural "water landscape", not to be found anywhere else.
The Hamburg Metropolitan Region and its surrounding areas comprise a special industrial region, but its appearance is not defined by clusters of chimneys or huge stores of raw materials. The machinery of industrialisation has often become part of the landscape over time, almost disappearing into the vastness of the cultural space, which is what makes it so appealing. The most crucial location factor is proximity to water – the Elbe with its tributaries and canals, as well as the North and Baltic Seas. Inexpensive transport by ship made industrialisation possible here. Many raw materials were brought into the region via the world’s oceans, traditionally mainly coal, oil, rubber and oilseeds.
The region’s watercourses already played an important role for inhabitants of the Metropolitan Region centuries ago - not only in the development of the Hanseatic League. Later rivers and waterways also provided a structure for the industrialisation of the region: water was a source of power - water mills have existed for around 1,000 years - and was also a transport route as industrialisation got under way.
The city of Hamburg has always been one of the world’s largest seaports. Industry in the city and the region has been closely linked to the history of the port. Many of its engineering works and shipyards, fish processors and oil mills, rubber and copper producing factories and, more recently, the aerospace industry are or were world class. Large-scale industry continues to be located in Hamburg – it is one of Germany’s major industrial sites. Individual sectors have made their mark in the region: Cuxhaven stands for fish; Itzehoe, Hemmoor, and Buxtehude for cement; Gnarrenburg for peat and glass; the areas around Bremervörde and Stade for bricks, and Lüneburg for salt. The whole of the metropolitan area is dotted with monuments to industrial culture: the typical docks, lighthouses, bridges and ships.
The network of drinking water, sewerage and irrigation systems developed along the rivers became the basis of livelihood for millions of people. Throughout the region, water towers have been preserved, as have large drinking water and wastewater facilities in Hamburg. Hundreds of miles of dikes and several dozen pumping stations and sluices are also reminders of the fact that the inhabitants always had to protect themselves against floods.
Industrial monuments in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region often define the landscape. Some of them are particularly valuable and attractive, such as Germany’s oldest lighthouse in Travemünde and the last surviving original emigration halls in Cuxhaven. Hamburg can boast impressive port facilities and ships, whilst along the Ilmenau in Lüneburg a series of monuments hark back to the operation of the historic salt works. Artificial waterways such as the Elbe-Lübeck canal or the Elde-Müritz waterway are evidence of the region’s heavy waterborne freight traffic. There was even mining in the region: in Malliss, Mecklenburg, or along the river Aller, traces of those times still exist.
Some industrial monuments are of national importance, such as the hydroelectric power plant in Farchau near Ratzeburg and the Schaalsee canal; the world’s oldest dynamite factory in Geesthacht; the old Elbe Tunnel in Hamburg, or the brickworks, Ziegelei Rusch, in Drochtersen near Stade. Nowhere else in the world is such a large collection of historic motor-powered freight ships maintained as in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region. Among them are the MS Cap San Diego and the MS Bleichen in Hamburg, the Greundiek in Stade and Iris Jörg in Wischhafen. The region also still operates one of the world's busiest artificial waterways for oceangoing vessels: the Kiel Canal, which connects the Elbe estuary with Kiel, and thus with the Baltic Sea.
"Waterside Industrial Culture Days"
Taking place every other year since 2011, the Waterside Industrial Culture Days event has helped to make the technical legacy of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region known and accessible. During the two-day programme, the public will be able to visit the facilities, which will be explained and filled with life. Information and recreational tours will guide visitors to the various objects, conveying their history and past functions.