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Feet pounding the pavement, she hits her stride running towards the dawn as the light turns from gray to the first clear light of day. Grassy parks and small still sleeping cafes line one side and to her other side the sparkling waters of Outer Alster Lake stretch across the center of Hamburg, Germany. Known as the "Jewel of Hamburg," Outer Alster along with its sister lake Inner Alster has been the heart of Hamburg since the 1100's. Today the lakes offer respite from hectic urban life and provide residents and visitors alike with a chance to play on the water.
Inner Alster Lake, also known as Binnenalster, and Outer Alster Lake or AuBenalster are man made reservoirs on the Alster River. In 1190 the Alster River was dammed for a watermill, and in 1235 a dam for a second mill completed the impoundment. The lake remained one reservoir, however, until the 17th century when the fortifying walls of the City of Hamburg separated it. Inner Alster referred to the portion of lake within the city walls and Outer Alster is the part outside. The old city walls no longer exist and the lakes are delineated by the car and train bridges that span them. The Inner Alster Lake is 49 acres and the Outer Alster Lake is 395 acres. The Alster River flows into the Outer Alster Lake, then to the Inner Alster Lake and finally on to the Elbe River.
Surrounded by restaurants, shop, and bars, Binnenalster is a popular place to pause during the day and watch the boats glide across the lake. In the summer, a fountain shoots a jet of water above the lake. AuBenalster is ringed with a jogging trail and public parks. The 173-acre Alster Park has a variety of sculptures and is the perfect place to take a break to people watch or picnic. Both lakes can be explored by boat, and there is plenty of room to sail, row, kayak or canoe. Visitors can rent boats to cruise around the lakes or for those less adventurous, there are tour boats for site seeing. The first weekend in September the shoreline of the lakes explode with food, music and street vendors. Alstervergnugen means "Alster Enjoyment" and is Hamburg's street fair around the lakes.
Hamburg is in northern Germany between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. It is known as a city of harbors, but Hamburg began as a fortress. Around 830 the fortress of Hammaburg started settlement in the area. As Hamburg's port and harbors grew in importance the city grew up around them. Today, Hamburg is a busy urban center with a rich sense of its history. There is real estate available for sale for those wishing to relocate and an abundance of things to amuse guests. Visitors can browse through the shops, dine in one of the many restaurants and tour the museums. There is even a zoo dating back to 1848.
After a day on the water or wandering the city, there are plenty of lake view vacation rentals or world class hotels to retire to. As night falls, the bars and clubs open, and the nightlife wakes up. The party goes on until dawn and the day starts again all set against the backdrop of the "Jewel of Hamburg," the Alster Lakes.
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