The Czech Part of Hamburg

Did you know that part of Hamburg, the biggest German port and second biggest port of Europe, belongs to the Czech Republic? That will be the case at least until 2028, when the lease, dating back to 1929, will expire. The origin of this curious occurence is the Treaty of Versailles. After the First World War, one of the promises made to the back then newly founded state of Czechoslovakia was that it should have a duty-free access to the sea from its rivers Moldau (Vltava), Oder (Odra) or Elbe (Labe).

The promise was held by granting Czechoslovakia an area of the port of Hamburg which is now known under the name “Moldauhafen” (Vltavský přístav). You will be surprised to find there institutions such as the bank (břeh) of Praha and the bank (břeh) of Mělník.

After the Second World War, when the “Moldauhafen” gained some economical significance and the Czechoslovakian state invested in infrastructure for its workers, Hamburg even got a swimming clubhouse, a ship called “Praha”. What is special about this ship is that it offered Czech dishes as well as a cinema; you could go gambling there and pay with Czech currency. Rumours have it that it was supposed to distract Czechoslovakian workers from the “evil, capitalist” influence of the “Reeperbahn”, the historical red light district of Hamburg. After all, “Praha” even served as a post office for the men working in Hamburg who wanted to keep in touch with their families in former Czechoslovakia!

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