More than 1.5 million visitors from Germany and abroad enjoyed the world's biggest port festival from 9 to 12 May, with sunshine, wind and occasional showers. People were in excellent spirits for this year's 824th Hamburg Port Anniversary, which was celebrated for four days, starting one day earlier this year to make use of the public holiday for Ascension Day on the Thursday.
There were maritime attractions along the six kilometres of waterfront from HafenCity to the Oevelgönne Museum Harbour, with the unique backdrop of the Port of Hamburg and the celebrated Landungsbrücken (Landing Stage). Celebrations went on from morning to late at night, with plenty of excitement for people of all ages and good mood everywhere. The star attraction among the more than 300 ships from all parts of the world was the German Navy's sail training ship Gorch Fock, which was visited by more than 12,000 people during the Open Ship sessions. This year's partner country presented the ITALY-LIGURIA Festival at Kehrwiederspitze, enjoying great popularity as one of Europe's best loved travel destinations.
"There is no celebration in Hamburg which stands more for openness to the world and international flair than the Port Anniversary. This is when Hamburg opens its gateway to the world even wider; together with the people of Hamburg, guests from Germany and abroad experience the whole diversity of the maritime world in the Port," said Senator Frank Horch, Hamburg's Minister of Economics, Transport and Innovation. "We have so many partners and volunteers helping in front of and behind the scenes, putting so much commitment and passion into making this event a success. I am delighted with this vibrant, unforgettable festival, and would like to thank everyone who has played a part in it."
There were tall ships, heritage and museum ships, navy and rescue vessels, sailing boats and motor boats, a total of 13 cruise ships, and many more vessels – there was something for every taste, and a tremendous range of displays. Most of the ships moored at the waterfront invited people to come on board and look around. More than 90,000 enthusiasts made use of these Open Ship sessions to get a close-up view of the equipment and engineering on board. There were magnificent tall ships such as the Alexander von Humboldt II and the sail training ships Cisne Branco, Dar Młodzieży and Mir, and vessels of the public authorities and institutions met with great interest too – their crews were bombarded with questions by visitors. The Grand Arrival Parade on the Thursday was a thrilling start. The arrival of the vessels, passing Landungsbrücken in impeccable formation like a string of pearls, is a real nautical challenge, and is unparalleled anywhere in the world. Other programme highlights on the water included the world famous Tugboat Ballet on the Saturday. Action and excitement was running high for the daily show "SOS – Rescuers in Action", with demonstrations of rescue operations by the German Navy, the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service, Federal Police, Waterways Police, Hamburg Port Authority, the THW Emergency Relief Service, and other authorities and institutions.
One of the absolute highlights of the 824th was the big AIDA Firework Display on the Saturday Evening, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the banks of the River Elbe. This colourful pyrotechnical spectacle was opened with a laser show on board the AIDAluna and the starting signal from the bows of the Club ship, which was moored directly in front of Landungsbrücken to great effect. Three more luxury ships took special positions on the Elbe – Mein Schiff 1, which had just arrived in port from its Full Metal Cruise, celebrating in style with an ear-splitting birthday song; MS Europa 2, fresh from its christening off Blankenese on the Friday evening; and MS Deutschland, the television "Dream Ship", joining AIDAluna to create an impressive scene. AIDA Welt in the Beach Club at Landungsbrücken gave an ideal view of the fireworks.
On shore, along the Festival Promenade from Kehrwiederspitze to the Fish Auction Hall, and in Speicherstadt, HafenCity and the Oevelgönne Museum Harbour, there were four days of upbeat celebrations to mark the "birthday" of the Port of Hamburg. The musical bandwidth on the free-of-charge live performance stages extended from rock and pop to punk, shanties and klezmer music, and flamenco. The NDR (North German Broadcasting) provided the "Magic Sky" venue at Landungsbrücken for the first time, putting on a wide range of music and infotainment programmes and top acts such as DJ Antoine and Alphaville. Rock metal fans were well served at the ASTRA Hafenrock Stage at St. Pauli Hafenstrasse. One of the first-choice venues for families with children was the REWE Event Space at St. Pauli Fish Market.
Kehrwiederspitze was transformed with Italian flair at the ITALY-LIGURIA Festival presented by this year's partner country. It featured a range of culinary specialities from the coastal region of Liguria, such as olive oil, pesto and wines, and show displays by the world champions of pizza acrobatics. It also provided information on forward-looking European Community projects such as the "Smart Cities" network for improvement of the quality of life in cities.
Increasingly, visitors at the festival can also get away from the crowds around Landungsbrücken to celebrate and to enjoy the richness of the maritime world in art and culture. Museums, municipal institutions and private initiatives put on a range of exhibitions, visits and guided tours. Many of the special shows are closely focused on the theme of the Festival, highlighting aspects of life and work in the Port of Hamburg. For example the guided tours of the port gave fascinating insights, with the Port of Hamburg Marketing enlisting the help of local companies to showcase the exciting world of the goods handling terminals on the southern side of the Elbe. A multi-media exhibition called "re-rite. Be the Orchestra!" was held at the warehouse which is the foundation of the Elbe Philharmonic Concert Hall (currently in construction), giving visitors of all ages a chance to hit the drums or wave the conductor's baton themselves.
The police were satisfied with the festival. It was calm and orderly for an event of this magnitude with well over a million participants. That was also confirmed by the Fire Service and the aid and rescue organisations.
The world's greatest port festival is organised by the City of Hamburg, represented by the Hamburg Ministry of Economics, Transport and Innovation. Hamburg Messe und Congress GmbH (HMC) has been responsible for running the festival since 1994. The 825th HAMBURG PORT ANNIVERSARY will be held from 9 to 11 May 2014.