Green Elbe Island

Energy Hill, Beach on the Elbe, and Nature Reserves in Rural Wilhelmsburg

This is where it all begins: in south-east Wilhelmsburg. The River Elbe divides into two branches, forming the start of the island. This scarcely populated area comes as a surprise, with its rural idylls, hidden attractions, and one of the last tidal wetland forests in Europe.

We recommend undertaking this green tour by bicycle, as the distances are substantial. Starting from BallinStadt Museum, turn right into Veddeler Bogen and carry straight onto Niedergeorgswerder Deich southwards under the motorway and you will come to Georgswerder. The first street on the left (Fiskalische Strasse) leads to Georgswerder Energy Hill – a literally outstanding sight worth seeing. At a height of around 40 metres and covering an area of 45 hectares, it is the IBA Hamburg’s biggest project in terms of size. Using projected images, floor monitors, and themed displays, the on-site exhibition presents its history and transformation in a multimedia installation.

Travel on eastwards from the “Energy Hill”, cross the motorway, and continue onto the main Kreetsander Dyke. Combining flood protection and recreational space – the idea behind the Elbe Islands Dyke Park and Kreetsand Pilot Project ­– a “park” that has actually been there for a long time, but now the aim is to make it more accessible and give it a higher profile.

Continuing along the dyke you will come to Bunthäuser Spitze. In a way, it marks both the beginning and the end of the Elbe island of Wilhelmsburg, a place where the river divides into two branches over a 15 kilometre stretch: the North and South Elbe. The two arms reconnect only at Altona. Guided walks into the nearby Heuckenlock Nature Reserve start out from the Tidal Wetlands Information Centre: the reserve lies a few hundred metres beyond the dyke on the South Elbe, stretching over 3 kilometres to behind the motorway bridge.

It is home to one of the last intact tidal wetland forests in Europe, an impressive freshwater mudflat resembling primeval woodland. It is accessed by a circular trail dotted with many small bridges and jetties. Access to the nature reserve is difficult on the other side of the motorway. However, the Finkenriek Beach on the Elbe awaits you about a kilometre further, on the main Finkenriek Dyke directly opposite the railway bridge. Even if you are not in the mood for a swim, you can enjoy the views over the South Elbe.

Just before this massive cluster of bridges, Katenweg branches off to the right from König-Georg-Deich. The IBA project VELUX Model Home 2020 – LightActive House, renovated as a showcase for energy efficiency standards, is located here.

Another IBA project is on Georg-Wilhelm-Strasse towards the railway: in summer 2013 it will become a drilling site for deep geothermal energy operations. This is one of the renewable energy sources intended to provide a long-term, CO2-free energy supply for the entire district.

Pedal northwards for another kilometre, still alongside the water, and you come to the Wilhelmsburg ferry house, “Zum Anleger”, at the point where the Assmannkanal and the Ernst-August-Kanal meet. This is the idyllic final destination of the cycle tour, complete with beer garden, boat hire, and a launch connection.