Hellooooo helloooo, so if you keep up with my social media, you’ll know that I was in Hamburg for a few days at the end of July.
Myself and two friends went to Hamburg because the flights were cheap, very cheap. I’m talking £20 return, cheap. So we booked it, booked the hostel and went a couple of weeks later. No plan. We landed, found our hostel, went to get some lunch and then sat like okay, what now? Literally Googling things to do and see. I knew the history of the Beatles and Hamburg, but that was all I went to Hamburg with.
Turns out, it’s actually quite a cool place. It’s big for stag dos (didn’t actually see that many) but it’s only starting to make a name for itself on the tourist/traveller map. You think Germany and most people go to Berlin (which is also 100% worth a trip, I might do a throwback post sometime in the near future). Anyway, one thing we found out was that there was a Soviet submarine turned museum! Okay, so if you know me, you’ll know that I’m a bit of a history nerd and the Cold War was something I studied back in my A-levels. Soviet submarine? Reyt up my street, that!
We got the subway to the Reeperbahn and walked from there. The submarine is stationed at St Pauli Fischmarkt and it took roughly 20 minutes to walk from the Reeperbahn. Our hostel was over the road from Hauptbahnhof Central train station, which is within walking distance from the submarine, so we took quite a scenic stroll home.
Entrance cost €9 but we got in as students so it was only €6. That’s a trick for you– not everywhere checks for student ID/cards, so if you can chance getting student prices for museums/happy hours (although these mostly do check), then it’ll save you a few euros here and there. You can also book a tour around the sub, which we didn’t realise would give you access to different parts of the sub but there you go. If you don’t book a tour, you don’t miss out on that much, maybe two different parts and obviously the knowledge of the guide but other than that.
So once you’ve bought your ticket, you go through the turnstiles and you’re right by the exit. This took us longer to work out than it probably should have, but the proper entrance is obviously the other end of the sub. So you get to walk the entire length of it before you make your way down a big spiral staircase and actually into the sub.
So down the spiral stair case, you end up hopping your way through circular doors- the whole airlock water tight she-bang. Oh and if you want a photo, your head is gonna be pushed forward so you’ll look like a bobble-head just like me!
You get given the map when you buy your ticket, and you’re reading it right to left. You can see all the compartments within the vessel- the tech spec, if you will. The flip side of the map is a bunch of info, which I’m going to weave throughout this post, yknow, just so you don’t think I’m the crazy sub girl who knows a lot about Soviet subs. Saying that, after reading, visiting and typing it all up, I probably fit that description relatively well now.
[Just your friendly, bobble-head guide]
So, it was built in 1976 and became a museum in 2002. The vessel is 90.16 metres long and 8.72 in width. It definitely doesn’t feel that big as you’re walking through! The dorms that some of the marines had to share were tiny, and some had four to a room! However, this vessel had a max dive time of 3 1/2 days with a full crew as it needed to rise to periscope depth/snorkel level in order to replenish the air supply. Full crew consisted of 84 marines, including 16 officers, 16 subofficers and up to 52 seamen.
[My head was not far off the ceiling in this kitchen]
The engine room is made up of three 1733hp diesel engines, three 1740hp electromotors and one stealth engine with underwater travel hitting 16 knots. When you walk through the engine room, it’s super loud. I actually don’t know if they were on, or if that was their stationery noise but it was definitely loud. The sub had a separate ventiliation system in attempt to make the heat conditions as bearable as possible. Despite this, the working temperature during dives often exceeded 40°C and 60°C in the engine room. Now that’s hot!
There are two entrance/exit hatches in the sub- the one you enter the museum and the one you exit. However, these were also used as emergency rescue hatches. A rescue submarine could dock with one of these hatches to a depth of circa 60 metres. A further rubber membrane would then be lowered into the sub interior at one of the hatches to a depth of circa 80 metres. The crew would use their emergency air supplies whilst the compartment was flooded. All submarine crew members trained for this exit and were required to open the hatch and use hydraulically-driven emergency airbags in order to reach the surface. The crew had to breathe out continuously while rising to the surface because their lungs could burst due to the drop in pressure which causes the volume of the lungs to increase. On a slightly morbid note, it was theoretically impossible to exit the sub below 80 metres. So the entire crew would be completely screwed and condemned to death should the vessel fail below that depth. Luckily, for us lot, this sub is completely stationery, for museum purposes only!
If you visit Hamburg, be sure to visit the U-434!