For twenty-five years Chicago and Hamburg have been Sister Cities. The sister-bond has nourished the vitality of both cities from its start with exchanges that focused on mutually held interests, such as food, education, music, dance, religion, and sports. The Committee stood at the center of the founding of the Christkindlmarket, at first a modest gathering of less than a dozen vendors on Pioneer Plaza, across from the Wrigley Building, which within three years outgrew the Plaza and moved to circle the Picasso Sculpture on Daley Plaza while evolving into a month-long annual attraction for many dozens of vendors attracting tens of thousands of visitors representing dozens of nationalities. Needless to say, it has become the go-to Chicago Seasonal Festival.
Then there were six youth-soccer exchanges between Hamburg’s HSV, Chicago and other cities, such as Mexico City with matches in Lincoln Park and on fields hosted by the University of Illinois-Chicago with Mayor Daley in attendance. A future soccer star, Shkodran Mustafi was part of the exchange as a 15-year old teenager. Later he was a member of the winning 2014 German World Cup squad in Brazil.
In 2002 the Hamburg Committee initiated the marathon runner exchange. Yearly 25 Hamburg runners come to Chicago to run the Chicago Marathon. The runners are hosted by Chicago families and a festive, high-carb pasta party attended by about 75 runners and friends.
Youth school exchanges started modestly with Sullivan High School and continues to flourish with other schools. The Chicago Hamburg Committee originally facilitated and has also had a decades long exchange with the IT program at Robert Morris College and now has added an architectural exchange with IIT. Both flourish!
The Committee has hosted and facilitated Lutheran exchanges as well as providing tours to Hamburg and other German dignitaries of Chicago’s rich German cultural heritage including Synagogues, Catholic and Lutheran churches, cemeteries, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago and the Driehaus Museum (the rich woodwork of the Driehaus Museum and other fine interiors of the 1880s-1900 was designed and carved by August Fiedler, a German from near Hamburg). The Chicago-Hamburg Sister City Committee has also participated in German dance, music and theatrical productions coming to Chicago and Chicagoans touring Hamburg and Germany. In 2016 the Hamburg Committee collected $10,000. to support the emigration crisis in Hamburg and donated the money to the Hamburg Diakonie. It was the Chicago Symphony, led by Riccardo Muti, that opened the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg as the first non-Hamburg orchestra in 2017.
The next twenty-five years will be as exciting the first quarter century has been.
Rolf Achilles, Chicago - Hamburg Committee Co-Chair