The Hamburg show grounds is in the Blankenese (pronounced Blank-uh-NAY-seh) area just outside the city of Hamburg, close enough to the Elba river that from the dressage arena we can hear the ships’ horns in the distance. It is an area of tree lined streets and large, handsome houses. Many of those on the south side of the see-and-be-seen Elbestrasse are set well back on carefully tended properties which also abut the river. There are wooded bike and riding trails throughout, and everywhere there are flowering shrubs and bushes that have just popped into bloom with the new spring.
My first impression of the Hamburg show grounds: how on earth do they cram so much into so little space?
Where Hagen is expansive, and Saumur is just plain spread out, Hamburg is all about using every available centimeter. The space for the dressage field of play is just a meter or two larger than the 20×60 arena. The VIP area is RIGHT next to it, so close to the arena that if a horse doing extended canter from M to K took one extra jump, his rider could order a beer at the bar. The judge’s box at E is actually inside the VIP tent, and the one at B is between the long side grandstands. On the other side of the vip tent is the warmup, which is also 20×60, and that seems to be the only riding-in area. If there is a place to lunge, i haven’t seen it. Pressed up against the warmup is the van parking, and I give major props to the folks who organize that…! Once all the horse boxes and trailers have been squeezed in, I think there isn’t enough room to park a scooter in between.
A few steps beyond the dressage grandstand is the beginning of the trade fair, and in the middle of the trade fair is the jumper warmup, which is only a bit larger than the dressage arena. One vertical, one oxer, sometimes 20 horses, moving at every possible speed. Right beside the jumper warmup is a food court: stands for bratwurst, pretzels, crepes, ice cream, and of course lots of places to buy beer.
But if you buy beer, be sure you’ve got an extra fifty cents in your pocket: German shows are the only places that I’ve ever seen that require you to pay to use the toilet. Why they don’t just add the pence to the price of the beer, I don’t know, but the Toilet Matron with her hand out for your coin as you head for the loo certainly takes away the incentive to purchase liquids!
Jumpers make their way from warm up to the main arena by way of a narrow path that runs beside the food court, past the prize Mercedes that someone is going to win, between the crowd ropes across the main spectator path, and through the tunnel below the officials’ tribune.
And then they have arrived in the legendary Derby Field. Dotted with natural obstacles including water, ditches, hedge, stone wall, a grob and two banks, it is a huge, galloping field surrounded by covered grandstands, sloping spectator berms, and a two story VIP tribune. The signature Hamburg bank is huge, which is apparent when a group of officials pose atop it for a photo. It is two leaps up and a slide down the back, and it has tested the mettle of many a horse and riders.
Parking is, to put it mildly, severely limited. We are instructed to take the shuttle from the hotel, because there simply isn’t any place to park. Spectators take the train, or bus, or walk or bike. When we arrived by shuttle (and no, the judges aren’t riding the bus, the shuttle service is provided by the show sponsor, Mercedes), the access roads are more like alleyways between barriers. I’m very glad we are being driven by a local professional!