Outer and Inner Alsters

The Alster is first of all a river, a tributary of the Elbe, which starts in Schleswig-Holstein and meanders for 56 km, in a general southerly direction, before reaching the Elbe in Hamburg harbor.

In the year 1190 a dam was built near the lower end of the Alster, in what is now the center of Hamburg, to provide water power for a large grain mill. The resulting mill pond is now a lake, also called Alster. From 1616 to 1625 another dam was built, as part of the city fortifications of Hamburg, dividing the lake into two parts, the larger Außenalster (Outer Alster) to the north and the smaller Binnenalster (Inner Alster) to the south.

Boat on the Außenalster

Jogging by the Außenalster

Cycling by the Außenalster

The Binnenalster is the smaller of the two parts of the Alster Lake. It borders directly on the city center of Hamburg and is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks.

Fountain in the Binnenalster

In 1987 the Alster Fountain was inaugurated. It was modeled after the Jet d’eau in the harbor of Geneva, Switzerland, but shoots the water less than half as high (60 meters as opposed to 140 meters in Geneva), because of the windy weather in Hamburg.

The fountain was not terribly popular among Hamburg residents when it first went into operation, but I have the feeling it has now been generally accepted as an attractive addition to the city’s trademark lake.

Also the fountain has the effect of aerating the water and has served to improve the water quality of the lake.

Cars and trains on the dam between the two Alsters


My photos in this post are from 2011. The text was last revised in 2017.

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