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Hamburg, Germany's second-most populated city (after Berlin), lies on the Elbe River, 109km (68 miles) from the North Sea, 285km (177 miles) northwest of Berlin, 119km (74 miles) northeast of Bremen, and 150km (93 miles) north of Hannover.

Hamburg has had to be flexible to recover from the many disasters of its 1,200-year history. This North Sea port was almost totally destroyed duringrld War II. But out of the rubble of the old, the industrious Hamburgers rebuilt a larger and more beautiful city, with huge parks, impressive buildings, and important cultural institutions. Hamburg is today the greenest city in Europe, with nearly 50% of its surface area marked with water, woodlands, farmland, and some 1,400 parks and gardens. Green is, in fact, the city's official color.

Hamburg has many faces. A walk down the neon-lit Reeperbahn at night will revive old memories of "Sin-City Europe." A ride around Alster Lake in the city center will reveal the elegance of its finest parks and buildings. And a stroll along one of Hamburg's many canals explains why this city has been called the "Venice of the North." Contrasts are evident wherever you look in Hamburg. Amid the steel-and-glass structures of the modern city is the old baroque Hauptkirche St. Michaelis. A Sunday-morning visit to the Altona fish market will give you a good look at early shoppers mingling with late-night partiers.

Hamburg is also the European city with the most bridges. Ten percent of thesurface is made up of water. Tidal waves make the level of the Elbe river rise with 3 m, wich forces the city to construct dikes and dams. The Hamburg harbor is the largest in Germany.

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