Some international visitors may be surprised that a seemingly random day in early October is a nationwide public holiday. Yet German residents have enjoyed this extra holiday for 30 years. It’s a pleasant change of pace whether you enjoy a crisp autumn day in the city or even choose to go on what could be the last weekend trip of the year.
For those familiar with more recent German history, the term ‘Unification Day’ evokes images of dancing on the Berlin Wall and endless caravans of Trabant cars crossing the newly-opened border. Known as Tag der deutschen Einheit (lit. ‘day of German unity’) in German, the holiday commemorates the reunification of the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany in 1989. On 9 November of that year, GDR officials held a press conference during which they, albeit half-accidentally, proclaimed free travel into West Germany. So why celebrate on 3 October every year? The holiday was pushed due to 9 November also being the date of the November Pogroms in 1938, making the day unfit for joyful anniversary celebrations. 3 October was a good alternative as it celebrates the introduction of West German law in the GDR in 1990. Tag der deutschen Einheit (lit. day of German unity) has been a binding nationwide holiday ever since.
Hamburg and reunification
The Hamburg city centre is only about 50 kilometres away from the former border with the GDR. The former Eastern German federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is only a short bike-ride along the beautiful Elbe river away from Hamburg’s rural suburbs in Bergedorf. Although the city was less affected than many of the eastern cities by the major changes happening at the time, many Hamburgers still vividly remember the host of East Germans visiting the city in the autumn of 1989. Hamburg was one of the first destinations for many East Germans looking to spend their welcome money in western department stores or visit the sights that few had been able to see in person.