Alstereisvergnügen – Hamburg on Ice

If the winter gets cold enough and the ice on the Alster River gets thick enough (between 15-22cm), then Hamburg celebrates Alstereisvergnügen when the whole city comes out to play on the frozen Alster river.  The last time this occurred was 15 years ago.

It was a very surreal experience to actually be able to walk across the Alster River and despite the cold, I had lots of fun photographing people playing on the ice.  I was only able to last 45 minutes on the ice before I lost all feeling in my fingers and legs.

I can now tick walk across a frozen river off my bucket list.

Kids playing on the ice

Rescue Helicopter Landing on the Alster

Spinning on the ice

Small kid playing ice hockey

And this is who he is playing against

Most of Hamburg out enjoying Alstereisvergnügen

The rest of my photos from Alstereisvergnügen can be found here.

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19 thoughts on “Alstereisvergnügen – Hamburg on Ice

      • The Local got mixed up when reporting on the last time the Alstereisvergnfcgen took place (so did a few other non-Hamburg news orcsues), but I can indeed vouch for the fact that Winter 2009 had a frozen Alster, many people on the ice and lots of Glfchwein stalls. Winter 2009 was a tough one it was -15c for weeks. The Alster was frozen as hard as a rock.The term Alstereisvergnfcgen was actually reserved (as far as I’m aware) for an event with stalls on the ice itself, but I assume since it’s been deemed unsafe, they’ve extended the meaning of the term to stalls along the banks of the Alster as well.Here’s the gist of it, according to the article you linked to: Zuletzt wurden im Januar 1997 von Freitag bis Sonntag Verkaufsste4nde auf der Alster aufgebaut und sorgten ffcr das leibliche Wohl der Ge4ste. Rund 1 Million begeisterte Spazierge4ngerinnen und Sparzierge4nger besuchte dieses Volksfest der besonderen Art. Im Winter 2009/2010 wurden erstmals Gastronomieste4nde am Ufer der Audfenalster genehmigt. Mehrere Zehntausend Besucherinnen und Besucher nutzten die Gelegenheit ffcr einen Spaziergang auf der Alster

    • So jealous our river only froze just in time to thaw again! I guess it would have to get prttey icy for them to let us all walk on it, since mostly when it freezes they just want to have an icebreaker come through so boat shipping can continue.

  1. You got two bits wrong in your post:

    – In order to have an Alstereisvergnügen, the ice must be no less than 20cm thick at it’s thinnest point.

    – The last “Alstereisvergnügen” was in Winter 2009-2010, not 15 years ago. Here’s proof: http://www.flickr.com/photos/liron/4356695894/

    There are actually two kinds of Alstereisvergnügen, and media sources are mixing them up. The first is with food and drink stands on this ice itself – last time Hamburg had this was indeed 15 years ago – the second is with the stands around the Alster, which we’re having this year and had in 2009 as well.

    • The site http://www.hamburg.de/alstereisvergnuegen/ said that the ice was between 15-22cm thick so I figured that was the point at which it was safe to walk on the ice and hold the Alstereisvergnügen.

      I guess I also got the two types mixed up as well – silly me thinking the media might know what they were talking about. However, I’ve heard that they have deemed it unsafe to ever have stalls on the ice again due to concerns about large numbers of people standing in the same place whilst waiting to buy things. This is a shame as I would love to see market stalls on the ice.

      • The Local got mixed up when reporting on the last time the Alstereisvergnügen took place (so did a few other non-Hamburg news sources), but I can indeed vouch for the fact that Winter 2009 had a frozen Alster, many people on the ice and lots of Glühwein stalls. Winter 2009 was a tough one – it was -15c for weeks. The Alster was frozen as hard as a rock.

        The term “Alstereisvergnügen” was actually reserved (as far as I’m aware) for an event with stalls on the ice itself, but I assume since it’s been deemed unsafe, they’ve extended the meaning of the term to stalls along the banks of the Alster as well.

        Here’s the gist of it, according to the article you linked to: “Zuletzt wurden im Januar 1997 von Freitag bis Sonntag Verkaufsstände auf der Alster aufgebaut und sorgten für das leibliche Wohl der Gäste. Rund 1 Million begeisterte Spaziergängerinnen und Sparziergänger besuchte dieses Volksfest der besonderen Art. Im Winter 2009/2010 wurden erstmals Gastronomiestände am Ufer der Außenalster genehmigt. Mehrere Zehntausend Besucherinnen und Besucher nutzten die Gelegenheit für einen Spaziergang auf der Alster”

  2. So jealous…our river only froze just in time to thaw again! I guess it would have to get pretty icy for them to let us all walk on it, since mostly when it freezes they just want to have an icebreaker come through so boat shipping can continue.

  3. I heard on MDR the last time the Elbe was frozen through in Magdeburg itself where folks could be on the ice was 1963. I have a cute picture of my husband as 3 year old in 1963 with his Oma Friedchen standing on the river. I envy you having the experience yourself of walking on a frozen river.

  4. Your blog template won’t allow me to reply to your recent comment about the Elbe, since it seems to not allow nested comments after a certain level, so I’m replying as a regular comment.

    My office has it’s back to the Elbe (I’m in the Hanseatic Trade Center) and it’s ice for miles. There are icebreakers in the port, so ships from the north sea should still be able to get in – but anything coming from the south would be blocked.

    http://www.verkehrsrundschau.de/im-hamburger-hafen-wird-wieder-eis-gepfluegt-1096791.html

  5. BTW, the Elbe isn’t a terribly deep river and it’s barges that run up to Hamburg on it. The big ships come from the North Sea. And ice breakers can only do so much. If it’s cold enough for long enough they can’t keep up and the river will freeze.

  6. So jealous that you got to experience the full Alstereisvergnügen! We enjoyed the mini-Eisvergnügen in 2010, but it looks like the real deal is even more impressive. I somehow love that people get excited about playing on the ice and will stand the frigid temps to do so.

  7. I thought catching a few icicle pictures in paris and enjoying some snow was impressive… but this is really something! I wish I’d been able to see it! Maybe next year I suppose.

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