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Prelude to the grand Finale

By the time you reach Lauenburg, a picturesque little town on the Old Salt Route, you can no longer overlook the fact that the Elbe has changed the subject and is becoming a river for serious shipping. The historic Lauenburg-Boizenburg shipping company organises excursions on the Kaiser Wilhelm paddle-steamer to the world´s biggest ship lift at Scharnebeck.
Shipping and trading companies and shipyards also determine the character of the cities further downstream - now ports, first and foremost: Hamburg, for instance, whose international port made it into a cosmopolitan city, a role reflected in the cool elegance of its palatial merchants´ houses and magnificent promenades, its international musicals, extravagant shopping arcades and St. Pauli´s nightlife and entertainment district.

Into the Arms of the North Sea

Although by now the wind is blowing strongly into its face, the Elbe makes its way inexorably towards the sea. On the right side of the Elbe, Glückstadt, a pretty little town invites you to come and experience its maritime flair. On the opposite bank of the Elbe a worthwhile side trip is into the "fruit paradise" of the Altes Land, and to the lovingly restored Hanseatic town of Stade (see picture) with its old harbour and traditional fish market.

In the North Sea spa resort of Cuxhaven you can then say your farewells to the Elbe from the long sandy beach. And from the "Old Love" lookout platform you can wave to the ocean liners as they set out on the high seas. Right here, in the area of the estuary, the Elbe returns to nature once more with a final grand gesture - between the mainland and the open sea it forms the Hamburg Mudflats National Park. Very popular are carriage trips across the mudflats to the island of Neuwerk, as are the walks across the mudflats in the Hamburg Mudflats National Park and the Lower Saxony Mudflats National Park. And if you still haven't had enough of the sea, then why not take an excursion to the red cliffs on the island of Helgoland?