Munich. The hustle and bustle begins earliest on almost every day in the port of Hamburg. It is the gateway to the world, as the people of Hamburg say. Indeed, shipping routes connect the Hanseatic city with more than 900 ports in a good 170 countries around the globe. Around 8,000 ship calls per year, almost 300 berths on a total of 43 kilometres of quay walls for seagoing vessels, four modern container terminals, three cruise terminals and 50 handling facilities for roll-on roll-off and general cargo shipments of all kinds, as well as around 7,300 logistics companies within the city limits. 136.6 million tonnes of cargo passed over the quaysides of Germany’s largest seaport in 2019. This includes around 9.3 million standard containers. This makes Hamburg the third largest container port in Europe. Even though the port is located about 100 kilometres from the mouth of the Elbe into the North Sea, it is still considered a seaport because it can be accessed by freighters with a draught of up to 15 metres.

Thanks to its many international connections, Hamburg’s city emblem is also known around the world. It shows a white castle with black contours on a red background – a colour combination that also suits the MINI Cooper 3-door (fuel consumption combined: 6.1 – 5.5 l/100 km according to WLTP, 5.4 – 5.3 l/100 km according to NEDC; CO2 emissions combined: 138 – 124 g/km according to WLTP, 124 – 120 g/km according to NEDC) perfectly. The Chili Red body colour, the white roof and mirror caps and white bonnet stripes: This has been the standard since the legendary successes of the classic Mini at the Monte Carlo Rally in the 1960s.

During the drive through the container port, even the most modern version of the MINI seems very small again. Because there is an ambience that inevitably instils humility. It is not only the cargo ships that are XXL in size. Their containers are moved by cranes reminiscent of giant toys. In the future, everything will be even bigger. Even one of Hamburg’s most imposing structures, the “Köhlbrand” Bridge with its clearance height of 51 metres, is no longer big enough for the mega-ships of tomorrow. The bridge spans the “Köhlbrand”, which connects part of the container port with the main fairway of the Elbe. In the next decade, according to the current plan, the cultural monument will have to go and will probably be replaced by a tunnel.

Then, one of the most spectacular views of the city and its harbour is also lost. The trip across the cable-stayed bridge with its 88 steel cables up to ten centimetres thick is worth it for that alone. It is a total of 3,618 metres long, making it the second longest road bridge in Germany. With the power of its 100 kW/136 hp three-cylinder petrol engine, the MINI Cooper 3-door reaches the highest point of the “Köhlbrand” Bridge in no time at all, from where a handful of Hamburg’s sights can be spotted at a glance. From the “Speicherstadt” to the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, the “Landungsbrücken” and the St. Michaelis church to the Blankenese staircase district.

At the foot of the bridge, the MINI Cooper 3-door first enters the free port, until the end of 2012 a 1,600-hectare customs area with almost 18 kilometres of barrier fences and seven border controls – and countless bizarre stories: from unusual hiding places for smuggled goods to counterfeit luxury items and elephant tusks in a diplomat’s removal goods.

Today, after just a few kilometres, the new “Hafencity” is reached without any customs checks. There, the MINI Cooper 3-door moves through the modern urban canyons in style. The clear, reduced exterior design of the new edition of the MINI not only brings out the classic colour combination, but also the unmistakable design features clearly.

The bright red of the MINI Cooper 3-door now also adorns the central bumper strip, which is no longer painted in black but always in body colour. The round headlights look even more expressive with their black inner housing. And a surround in high-gloss black emphasizes the increased dimensions of the hexagonal radiator grille. The rear view is now also particularly clearly designed. LED rear lights in the striking Union Jack design are part of the standard equipment.

Within sight of the Elbphilharmonie is the Gruner + Jahr publishing building. The building complex with a total area of 69,000 square metres consists of several parallel rows standing on supports. These are intended to be reminiscent of the viaducts of the Hamburg elevated railway running opposite and the cranes in Hamburg harbour. The reinforced concrete skeleton of the office buildings is clad in zinc sheeting. Integrated railings and portholes represent further maritime elements. Passing the “Cap San Diego”, a museum ship moored at the “Überseebrücke”, and the “Landungsbrücken”, the red MINI Cooper now heads directly into Hamburg’s red-light district.

The four-lane Reeperbahn is the central street in the entertainment district of St. Pauli. It owes its name to the “reep” beaters and rope makers who once pursued their trade here. The large number of discos, pubs, bars and nightclubs has earned it the name “the most sinful mile in the world”. Many of the once notorious “establishments” have long since closed or have considerably toned down their programme. What remains are the garish neon signs and the “Koberer”, burly bouncers who are supposed to lure tourists into the establishments. Prostitutes lining “Davidstraße” and the famous “Herbertstraße”, where women clearly offer their services ambiguously in shop windows, still make the neighbourhood seem somewhat disreputable. Today, the Reeperbahn is more a tourist magnet than a den of iniquity, but the people of Hamburg have also rediscovered the area around the famous Davidwache police station. At the weekends the nights are still very long here. And nostalgics are also catered for. Because some locales with famous names still exist. Whether it’s the windowless pub “Zur Ritze” with its slightly obscene door painting and boxing ring in the basement or the Club de Sade, Europe’s oldest S&M club from the 1960s.

Just a few steps away from the Reeperbahn, on the Heiligengeistfeld, is the Millerntor Stadium, home of the football club FC St. Pauli. A stadium built in the tradition of old English clubs, and a club that in many ways is so very different from what one generally imagines a football club to be. Firmly rooted in the heart of the St. Pauli district, the club members are involved in social projects and have already received several awards for their social commitment.

At the end of the Heiligengeistfeld begins the currently “hippest” trendy district of the city. Small boutiques, restaurants with specialities from all over the world, cafés, record shops and a lively party mile develop their very own charm in the “Schanzenviertel”. Not always to the delight of the residents. The noise level is high and the speculators are not far away. Many long-established residents can no longer afford to live in the old buildings. But the “Schanze” is also home to something like the permanent bourgeois terror. And this does not mean the many colourful graffiti, but the “Rote Flora”, a former theatre building that was occupied in 1989 and is inhabited by supporters of the alternative scene and run as a political cultural centre.

Just three kilometres further on, the MINI Cooper 3-door curves through another world. Eppendorf is a district that can be considered a better – and more expensive – residential area. With the Alster in sight, the district impresses with its spruced-up patrician houses, those old buildings in which the flats are usually around 200 square metres and correspondingly high-priced. On the streets around the Isebekkanal, an arm of the Alster, it becomes clear why Hamburg is considered Germany’s secret MINI capital. Here it is easy to spot a lovingly maintained classic Mini on every other street corner. And with its modern models, the brand has a higher market share in this part of town than Germany’s best-selling passenger car. You won’t usually find a MINI One here: the MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S models are preferred, often with generously configured special equipment.

In view of this lively MINI community, it’s hard to say goodbye to Hamburg. At least the streaming service app, which is seamlessly integrated into the operating system of the MINI Cooper 3-door, can be used to play the right music. You can choose from “Hamburg, meine Perle” (Hamburg, my pearl) by local hero Lotto King Karl or Heidi Kabel’s “In Hamburg sagt man tschüs” (In Hamburg you say goodbye). And then you hear a hit from the heyday of the classic Mini: “On the road again” by Canned Heat.

NC

Ka-Chow!