This weekend we had the pleasure of visiting Hamburg for the first time. The Speicherstadt (historic docks) and neighbouring Kontorhaus District and Chilehaus were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, because of Hamburg's role as one of the world's leading maritime trade centres.
Before reaching the Speicherstadt, we took a ferry past the Elbphilarmonie, a concert hall that opened earlier this year, designed by (Tate Modern) architects Herzog & de Mouron.
Birmingham Symphony Orchestra played a concert here on the night of our visit. It turns out that residents of Hamburg have a particularly keen appreciation of British arts and culture, although this latest arts venue somewhat puts anything equivalent in the UK into the shade.
Spectacular views were to be had from the viewing platform of the Elbphilarmonie, looking back across the docks of Hamburg.
The Speicherstadt is a district of nineteenth-century warehouse buildings. Originally these buildings would all have faced onto water. The copper hoods of the gables contain ropes and pulleys, used to hoist goods into the capacious warehouses. Many of the buildings are today used for storage of other goods: carpets, spices, coffee, tea etc, if they have not been adopted as museum spaces.
Hamburg is proud of its links to the medieval Hanseatic League, an early alliance of cities that traded with each other across the North Sea and the Baltic. The Speicherstadt was built as a free port within the newly unified German empire and customs union. I suppose therefore the buildings, which are lifted from the waters on timber piles, form an architectural manifestation of an early form of the European Union Customs Union.
Perhaps the Beatles felt especially at home here in 1960-62, when they took up residence. They had moved from one great maritime city to another, both of which are today recognised as UNESCO world heritage sites.