Happy 100th, Fuhlsbüttel!

Oh, didn’t you know? That’s the airport for Hamburg, Germany! And yes, it’s about to mark the 100th anniversary of its existence – somewhat. That’s actually next Monday, 10 January; and 10 JAN 1911 actually marks the date when a group of rich Hamburg merchants – among which executives of the prominent steamship line HAPAG were prominent – made the collective decision to purchase some meadowland out in the Fuhlsbüttel part of the city to set up an airport.

(As usual, the initial impulse for writing about this anniversary arises from coming across an article – The gate to one part of the world: The Hamburg airport turns 100, by Timo Kotowski – which, ironically enough, is in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, i.e. not out of a Hamburg newspaper but rather a Frankfurt one, where Germany’s big bad #1 airport is actually located, namely Rhein-Main. Sure, undoubtedly there are pieces about this occasion in the Hamburg papers as well, but I don’t cover Hamburg papers, because there are none – no city papers, mind you – that are sufficiently prominent on the German national scene! It’s all one big ball of irony: Hamburg is literally Germany’s #2 city by population – behind Berlin – and definitely its media capital when it comes to periodicals, yet it has but the #5 airport and no city newspapers covered by this weblog. But hold on: Hamburg flexes its media prominence in the many national-scale publications which do have their home there, including several I do cover, e.g. Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, Die Welt, and probably at least Focus as well.)

Still, we have the #2 city with only the #5 airport, and in fact with few intercontinental connections: what’s so special? Well, it’s fairly old – hey, 1911 or shortly thereafter – and in fact according to Kotowski’s piece it’s the oldest German airport still at its original location. The only older one was a Zeppelin-airport at Berlin-Johannisthal. The article in fact claims that it’s the world’s oldest airport still at the same location, but Wikipedia politely suggests the airfield at College Park, MD, USA instead.

Oh, and Fuhlsbüttel was mostly about Zeppelins in its own early days as well. Kotowski mentions regular fixed-wing airline service, to Berlin, starting only in 1919; he does not mention the service Fuhlsbüttel must have put in during World War I as a base for military Zeppelins, including for bombing raids over England.

Sentimental Journeys

So in the end, why all the big fuss over #5? OK, you got me: I have to confess here a certain sentimental element. For not only have I flown into and out of Fuhlsbüttel in a conventional manner at least once (that I can remember) on a visit to Hamburg – and mighty pleasant it was – but my parents also flew in there at least once, in the early 1990s, on a European visit. Most of all, it was Fuhlsbüttel that I flew both out of and into as I was deployed as a US Army officer to Saudi Arabia in connection with Operations Desert Shield/Storm, and then returned safely in one piece. What’s more, my friends, that outgoing flight into the Saudi combat-deployment zone happened sometime around 20 years ago today – it might have well been 4 January 1991, I simply don’t remember the exact date. (I wasn’t taking notes, having had more important concerns at the time; neither do I know the exact return date, it was sometime around the third week of May, 1991.)

So Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel, “Old #5,” has this special place in my heart, and running across Kotowski’s article right at this time was a piece of sheer serendipity that I felt I needed to mention on this forum. Further, as I said I have found the airport (and its short, convenient connection to the city-center) to be quite pleasant when one experiences it as a civilian. This is no travel-blog, but I still would even recommend to readers that you try that out yourself sometime, except for one thing Kotowski also brings up: It seems Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel was the first German airport to install those ridiculous full-body scanner machines, and was quite glad to win headlines in that capacity as well! So I’d rather advise you to take the train, just like I always do – the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof has plenty of history and atmosphere in its own right!

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.