WIESBADEN, Germany -- From the moment one steps off the train at the Hamburg Hauptbahnof (main train station), it\'s hard not to be swept away by the bustle of travelers, commerce and a city constantly on the move. A,A

The second largest of Germany's cities, Hamburg may be its busiest. Whether traveling by high-speed ferry through the city's massive harbor (the third largest in Europe), high atop a double-decker sightseeing bus or strolling through St. Pauli, the city's night-life section, one is constantly reminded that this is a major metropolitan area where day and night merge into equally busy times for its nearly 2 million inhabitants and constant flow of visitors. A,A

Among the many attractions of the city, like Seattle, Wash., Hamburg touts a thriving fish market with many waterfront fish restaurants. Sunday mornings are the best time to visit - the earlier the better for bargains - when people come from all around to bid on baskets of fruit and vegetables, fresh fish and other goodies. The outdoor market, which is held along the Elbe River bank starting at an indoor fish market in St. Pauli, is a place populated by shouting vendors reciting colorful verse and throwing bananas, candy and other items into the crowd in an effort to entice customers. Brunch, coffee, waffles and a Sunday morning church service are featured inside the massive covered market. A,A

Hamburg is a city where people are constantly shouting - whether to attract tourists onto harbor boat cruises, to come closer to examine goods at a market stall or to enter one of the garishly lit nightclubs promising flesh of another kind along the Reeperbahn. While Hamburg's night-life district may have softened its edges somewhat from the time when five young lads from Liverpool (Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe) honed their chops in its clubs, the area still lives up to its reputation as Germany's most famous red-light district. One can only imagine what it must have been like for the young Beatles in the early 1960s to perform amongst the hard-drinking clientele and working women who frequented the clubs. A,A

These days visitors are welcome to retrace some of the Beatles haunts on a Beatles tour or with a visit to the Beatlemania Museum on the Reeperbahn. A nearby eatery bears a sign proclaiming that the Beatles were patrons. A,A

But Hamburg is much more than simply a city where boat crews and Beatles go to play. As a major transportation hub, publications and industrial center, Hamburg, like Frankfurt, has grown out of the ashes of World War II to take its place among the world's most affluent cities.

Visitors this time of year can start off by strolling through its extensive Christmas Market which runs through the main shopping corridor down to the large square in front of the Rathaus (town hall). Sip on a cup of hot GlAfA1/4hwein while admiring the massive building that dominates the city center. A,A

An exhibit of painter Marc Chagall's work is currently on display in the adjacent Bucerius Kunst Forum running through Jan. 16, 2011. The extensive exhibition, in both English and German, details the development of Chagall's art and ideas as he joined other Jewish emigrants in fleeing persecution in Russia for France and eventually Europe for the United States. A,A

While Hamburg is a modern city with an extensive public transportation system (consider purchasing a Hamburg Card valid for single travelers or groups on all transportation and reduction to many museums, sights, etc.), signs of the past are everywhere. Imposing churches, tributes to the town's early religious leaders and role as a free trading city, and massive destruction during World War II are still evident. A,A

To get some idea of how badly Hamburg was destroyed during bombing raids in the second world war, visit the St. Nicholas Church at Willy-Brandt-Str. 60. The church's 147-meter-high spire, which served as a target for Allied bombers during the war, now is among the few remnants of the church still standing and serves as a memorial to all of the victims of war and persecution. Visitors can take an elevator ride up the tower for a panoramic view of the city. A,A

With day pass in hand, visitors can hop on and off ferries and buses to get a good feel of all the city has to offer. While strolling over some of the city's 2,300 bridges, through the ornate Elbe tunnel in St. Pauli, along the Markt or Moenckeberg Streets (for shopping opportunities), through the carnival grounds at Feldstrasse or the wide open gardens of the Stadtpark, one quickly becomes aware this is indeed a vibrant metropolitan center. A,A

Among many highlights of a visit to Hamburg one should include a stop at the Planetarium in the Stadtpark. Besides the usual depictions of deep space and the formation of the cosmos, visitors can choose from a wide offering of sound and light entertainment ranging from the music of Pink Floyd to Jean Michel Jarre accompanined by a laser show guaranteed to keep one pinned back in the reclining chairs of the Planetarium auditorium. To get to the Planetarium take the U-3 to Borgweg (Stadtpark). A,A

Be sure to also wander over to HafenCity to explore the city's former warehouse district where spices and other goods were stored and inspected by customs officials in former years. These days visitors are invited to visit the German Customs Museum, Spice Museum, Miniature Wonderland and Hamburg Dungeon while strolling over the waterways and bridges of HafenCity. A,A

Hamburg is also noted for its extensive art and photography collections in museums situated near the Hauptbahnhof. A,A

Like Seattle, Hamburg is a great place to find unusual cafes offering music, coffee and a bite to eat. Restaurants, too, featuring everything from Portuguese fair to Asian cuisine are widely dispersed throughout the city. A,A

For more travel information stop by your local USO office or community library for a wealth of trips, historical details and more.

Germany's ICE trains make the trip from Frankfurt to Hamburg in a little more than four hours, so consider adding it to your quick trip destinations for your next long weekend getaway. You won't be disappointed. A,A