The lower portion of the River Elbe, which flows north-west from Hamburg and drains into the North Sea, is one of Europe’s great waterways. Large ships, laden with goods from around the world, still sail up the Elbe to the busy port of Hamburg. It is a magnificent way to arrive in Germany — on a par with sailing past the Pointe de Grave and progressing sedately up the Gironde towards Bordeaux.
The DFDS ferry from Harwich used to run right up the Elbe to the very heart of Hamburg, thus giving passengers, for the last three hours of the journey, a remarkable introduction to the Hamburg region. No longer. The route was axed many years ago. In recent years there have been barely any scheduled passenger ships serving the stretch of the Elbe from its estuary up to Hamburg.