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Hamburg: The swans are back – Panorama

Hamburg's Alster swans have been brought back from winter quarters. In the Hanseatic city this means: The world is still in order.

Swans stand for freedom and prosperity in Hamburg.

(Photo: Christian Charisius / dpa)

At the Krugkoppelbrücke a rowboat bobbing with four older ladies on the Alster. They pause for a moment on their little crossing on this sunny, bright spring day in Hamburg. They enjoy the breeze that sweeps over the water, they can absorb the colors under the blue-white sky. But one of the ladies notes. Because there comes something. "Swans, lots of swans." The ladies set the boat in motion. They row to the right, and soon after, they see a whole procession of elegant birds rushing past them in the direction of the Outer Alster.

The return of the swans from the winter quarters at Eppendorfer Mühlenteich is a special event for the Hanseatic city every year. In fact, even a symbol of the good feeling that the world is still in order. Because the swans are not just any adornment of the Alster landscape, they belong to the Hamburg self-image as the Michel and the port. For centuries they have stood for freedom and prosperity. The legend is quoted as saying that Hamburg is independent and economically successful as long as swans swim on the Alster. Or the mandate of 1664, in which the Senate strictly forbade "insulting swans on the Alster in some way".

Swans Alster swans come back from their winter quartersVideo

Alster swans come back from their winter quarters

When they come back, spring has arrived in Hamburg. The swans of the Alster are back.


Swans in the company of the police

All the greater was the horror last summer, when the unusual heat inflicted on the animals, causing some of them to hang their long necks without power. Deaths have been associated with high temperatures. The winter quarter was opened for recreation. But now they are back and in a good mood, as you could see from the shore on Tuesday.

At ten o'clock the swan father Olaf Niess from the authority Hamburger Schwanenwesen had gathered the 120 swans of the city for departure. They circled slowly through the water, like athletes preparing for a mission. Then the gate opened, and the corpse began to move. The birds ahead, a police ship and other boats behind to keep the animals together and in motion. They should always reach the outer Alster in a row, so that they all spread out on the surface of the reservoir and do not fight in the narrow channel around the area.

Reverent joy

Onlookers accompanied the excerpt with cameras and devout joy. The swans drifted purposefully through the small waves, the field diverged like a cycling race with top group and pursuers, with individuals who trusted a lonely leadership, others who stayed behind. The spectacle was powerful and calm. Rowboats had to dodge, single ducks were suddenly caught by the swarm of white swimmers. And as the swans behind the arches of the pitcher bridge saw the glittering expanse of the Outer Alster, they seemed to be speeding up at the freedom of summer with joy.

"This has to do with the weather," says Olaf Nieß later, with drizzle the mood of the swans would be different. The hunting master Nieß sits in his boat and gives interviews. The post of the swan father is a traditional, venerable activity, but its owner has long been demanding as a media professional. There's even a tricky question this year: what about the swans when the summer gets hot again? "That can be a big problem for us," says Nieß, think about it a lot, get informed in cities that have experience with heat. He could say a lot about solutions. But he does not, because he can not commit to one yet. "Otherwise it is said, you do not do what you said." For now, everything is fine anyway. The swans are rummaging peacefully in the reeds. Soon they will build their nests. If everything stays normal, they do not have to return to winter quarters until November.

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