Chasing ancestors in Hamburg

We are now in Hamburg, staying at the Novotel Hamburg Alster on Luebeckerstrasse. At the airport yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of finally meeting my distant relatives, Christine and Renate. They are third-cousins; we have common great-great grandparents who lived in the 19th century. Christine has, over the last year, given me vast amounts of information, so getting to meet her and her sister here in Hamburg, the place of our ancestors, was a real thrill for me.

Today, after a good, filling breakfast at the Archaeological Museum (where it costs €15.40 for two people’s breakfast, some of which you can take away for your lunch), we took a good long walk along canals that are connected to the Alster, through the Speicherstadt (an area where there are old warehouses that used to house spices, coffees and carpets from all over the world), and on to the church St Katharinen. Here, in the 18th century, our ancestor from eight generations ago, Joachim Zimmerman, was the preacher. Unfortunately, restoration work prevented us from going inside. Christine said he had pictures taken of himself every year (paintings or pastels, presumably) and he got fatter every year. But he died of a fever – not of his fatness!

We continued walking until we reached the Elbe, and Christine showed us the spot where my great-grandfather, Felix Thode, most likely departed for Australia on the Sorrento in August 1884. We saw the spot from both sides of the Elbe. We crossed to the other side via a tunnel under the river. Both pedestrians and vehicles were lowered to the tunnels in lifts. Amazing. At length, we visited Hamburg’s main landmark, St Michaelis church, the most famous baroque church in north Germany.

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