The  St Nikolai Kirche (St. Nicholas Church) has been a part of the Hamburg skyline since the 12th century. Now in ruins from World War II bombings, just its spire remains standing. No longer a place of worship, the spire (thought until 1876 to be the tallest building in the world) and its restored crypt below serve as a haunting and moving memorial to the horror of war’s devastation.

Ironically, it served as a landmark and unlit beacon to guide Allied bomber pilots as they carpeted the city with bombs in 1943. Today, the spire is still the second-highest building in Hamburg. The church itself became a casualty of the war on July 28, 1943, when the roof collapsed and much of the nave suffered heavy damage from bombs.

Thanks to the efforts of the “Rettet die Nikolaikirche” foundation (“Save Nicolai Church”) founded in 1987, the remains of the wall and the spire have become a well-preserved and sobering architectural reminder of the cruelty that humans can exhibit toward one another.

Museum inside the crypt of St. Nikolai Kirche in Hamburg

Concise and educational museum exhibits, photos and diagrams, plus gardens and statues are worth the time. Plan on a couple of hours to fully enjoy the museum in the interior crypt as well as the outside architectural features and four sculptures. The spire promises the best views of Hamburg from its 75.3-meter-high viewing platform so pick a clear day if possible. (At the time of this writing, the spire was undergoing renovation so the exterior was unfortunately swathed in scaffolding and mesh fabric, which nearly obscures any views from the top and makes photography impossible – from the top or of the spire from the ground. No word on when the renovations were to be completed.)

Outside, be sure to take a few moments to contemplate the sculptures: “The Ordeal” for example depicts the pain, agony and hopelessness of war, and another called “Prayer for Peace” in a small peace garden signifies hope for humanity. Inside and down into the restored crypt, the museum covers the history of the church. That in itself is fascinating, but the primary focus is on World War II and the mass destruction from the fire bombings to the city.

This sculpture at St Nikolai Kirche is dedicated to the memorial in Sandbostel where in one of the largest prisoner camps established by the Nazis more than 50,000 people from many countries had died until 1945. The base of this sculpture consists of the original bricks of the prisoners’ barracks which Sandbostel pupils had collected on the former camp grounds.

“This sculpture at St Nikolai Kirche is dedicated to the memorial in Sandbostel where in one of the largest prisoner camps established by the Nazis more than 50,000 people from many countries had died until 1945. The base of this sculpture consists of the original bricks of the prisoners’ barracks which Sandbostel pupils had collected on the former camp grounds.” — explanatory text from the museum website.

Even English-speaking tourists will enjoy the exhibit since much of the information in the St Nikolai Church memorial is in both German and English; however, having someone along who speaks German if you do not will help in the translation of the many personal experiences and reflections from 1943 captured in letters and journals.

Expect to be thoroughly moved and, even for WWII buffs, expect to learn from this excellent and well-balanced exhibition. Rare photographs document the widespread devastation in Hamburg (43,000 dead and tens of thousands injured, plus the city itself was leveled). There are also photographs and documentation of the earlier German Luftwaffe bombing attacks on Warsaw, Rotterdam, Plymouth and Coventry, which, it is surmised, served as motivation for the Allied reprisal on Hamburg.

The Prayer for Peace sculpture at St. Nikolai Kirche "stands to a future full of hope which is possible only in times of peace."

The Prayer for Peace sculpture at St. Nikolai Kirche “stands to a future full of hope which is possible only in times of peace.”

Entry is EUR 5.00 for adults (EUR 3 for children) and includes entrance to the crypt and the spire.

HITT Tip: The St Nikolai Kirche memorial is at Willy-Brandt-Strasse 60, not much more than three-quarters of a mile (1.3 km) from the main train station, making it a good stop on a walking tour of town center. Otherwise, you can take the U3 to Rödingsmarkt or the S1 or S3 to Stadthausbrücke. If you take the public transit system, consider the so-called “9-Uhr Gruppenkarte” even for two people. It allows up to five people to take all public transit as often as needed after 9 a.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning (On weekends and holidays, it’s valid all day). Prices vary by zone but the basic ticket for EUR 10.80 (price as of 2014) covers most of the larger central city area and will usually be enough for most visitors.

Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow

The Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow was completed in 1934 and is part of the Haavel-Oder waterway connecting the Elbe and Oder river basins. The waterway begins in Berlin at the Spandau lock and opens into the West Oder at the border area between Poland and Germany. Watching ships being raised and lowered in this ship elevator is amazing. A true engineering marvel.

Marienklause Chapel

Bigger is not always better. Sometime small, like a historic Munich chapel, can be a travel must-see. It’s easy when traveling through big European cities to follow the throngs to the large churches or cathedrals in town. Huge European cathedrals can be very impressive, of course. But the Marienklause Chapel, about 3-4 miles south of the city center of Munich, Germany, is certainly worth a close look.

Kleinhesselhoer See, Englischer Garten

Created at the behest of Prince Carl Theodor in 1789, the Englischer Garten in Munich, Germany, is one of the largest city parks in the world. And, we can attest, it provides for a magical and wondrous escape from the clamor and bustle of Munich’s busy urban streets.

Sophie Scholl Memorial

Easily missed, the Sophie Scholl memorial looks like loose pieces of paper scattered on the ground in front of the university building. In actuality, they are attached permanently to the ground in front of the main entrance on the so-called “Geschwister Scholl Platz.”

Planten Un Blomen Garden

A visit to the Planten un Blomen Garden on your Hamburg tour is a must, whether you are a flower and garden lover, adore open spaces, enjoy dancing water fountains, or just want a nice place for a stroll or picnic.

St Nikolai Kirche

The  St Nikolai Kirche (St. Nicholas Church) has been a part of the Hamburg skyline since the 12th century. Now in ruins from World War II bombings, just its spire remains standing. No longer a place of worship, the spire (thought until 1876 to be the tallest building in the world) and its restored crypt below serve as a haunting and moving memorial to the horror of war’s devastation.

International Donaufest in Ulm

The International Donaufest (Danube) Festival has been held since 1998 and occurs every other year. Ulm city center and the banks of the Danube river are turned into a sort of international festival to celebrate the coming together of regions and countries along the Danube that rely on the river — Bavaria, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania. The festival last 10 days and includes a massive fireworks display.International Donaufest Fireworks in Ulm 2016

Drei Annen Hohne

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Wernigerode Train Station - Brockenbahn

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The Brocken

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Quedlinburg Old Watch Tower

The rolling foothills of the Harz mountains that surround Quedlinburg feature forested terrain with open, rolling meadows, some hills and plenty of farmland – perfect for those who need to stretch the legs and mind a bit on an easy wander. We’d heard about the Quedlinburg Old Watch Tower (“Altenburgwarte”) that was located approximately 0.5 miles (just under 750 meters) from the southwest edge of town, on a sandstone ridge overlooking the village below.

Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens

“Off to the cellar” is what you’ll hear from Forchheim locals when they disappear into the forest on trails (“auf die Keller”). What that means in local slang is that they are headed to a beehive of popular beer gardens nestled deep in the forest of Franconian Switzerland in Upper Bavaria – the Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens.

Berlin

Berlin is one of our favorite cities in the world. It is cosmopolitan, worldly, quirky, exotic, bohemian, evolving, vibrant and so very, very alive — there is something to do or see or experience 24 hours a day if you are so inclined. Little wonder so many tourists, wanderers, artists, authors, musicians, actors and creative minds discover and fall in love with Berlin. Whether you are visiting for one day, two days, a week or more, the best way to begin your quest to find what to do in Berlin is here. Our What to do in Berlin resource guide and links, map, as well as numerous articles highlighting insider travel tips for you will ensure your visit to Berlin is memorable.

Heads up! This information on St. Nikolai Kirche was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.