THE_BLOG

Hamburg: Mighty Harbors, Repurposed Bomb Shelters, and Designer Embankments

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

My last stop in Europe this year is Hamburg. After weeks of filming in scorching heat, heavy rains finally slammed us -- and after three socked-in days, I had to change my flight and hope for better weather. I've never had to do this before, but it gave us a gorgeously sunny day to finish our show and continue our deception that it is always sunny in Europe. (By the way, it cost me $310 to change my flight one day before on British Air.)

In spite of the rain, we found ourselves enamored with Hamburg. It's one of the great unvisited cities in Europe.

Hamburg's harbor is mighty, historic, and welcoming. A harbor boat tour gives an intimate look at the massive container industry. The huge warehouse district shows how important Germany's top port was in the 19th century. And the new Elbephilharmonie concert hall is not quite open to the public, but it looks that way -- which was great for filming.

Hamburg was a strategic target in WWII. The Nazis constructed literally hundreds of beefy bunkers, using mountains of concrete and almost unlimited slave labor. This is one of many -- too big to demolish economically -- that are simply incorporated into the everyday cityscape. This one is a colorfully painted rock-climbing wall in a neighborhood park. Standing tall and ugly-yet-colorful, with children lining up to climb all over it, it is emblematic of the poignant contrasts I see when traveling thoughtfully through today's Germany.

A theme that keeps crashing into my reporting on Europe is how real climate change is, and how tragic it is that some people deny it just for their own economic convenience. Everywhere I go in Europe, I see the results of literally billions of dollars being invested in infrastructure changes that will allow Europe to live in the future that we are creating. Europeans (with a fatalistic acceptance of the momentum created by reliance on fossil fuels and the values of many international corporations) just shrug their shoulders and take a pragmatic view: It's a reality, and there's not much we can do to change it -- but we can prepare for it. Situated just up a big river from the sea, and therefore in danger of storm surges, Hamburg has raised 60 miles of embankments...and artfully designed the ones in the city center to be inviting people zones like this.