The area south of the Rathaus is Hamburg’s historic wellspring; the location where Charlemagne rode out across a sandy hummock between the Elbe and Alster rivers in 808 and built the “Hammaburg” fort. Lost among the office blocks south of Rathausmarkt is the Trotsbrücke, Hamburg’s oldest bridge. That it marks the transition to the site of the first settlement on the other side of the Alster – today channeled as the Alsterfleet canal – explains its statue of Count Adolph III of Schauenburg, the nobleman who expanded the city and pulled off the 1189 tax concession that kick-started Hamburg’s ascendancy. Like all good businessmen, he clinched the deal with a sweetener – a donation to the crusade of Emperor Frederick I. Opposite him is St Ansgar, the “Apostle of the North”, who slotted in fourteen years as Hamburg’s first archbishop from 831 between spreading the gospel to Vikings and Danes.

 

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