Mar. 25 - Some 120 swans are released into Hamburg's Alster River marking the start of spring. Elly Park reports.
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It's spring and that means it's time for the swans of Hamburg to return to their Alster River home.
The city has protected its swan population for centuries, and since 1818, has sent them to a special winter residence.
Olaf Niess is the city's official swan representative and makes sure all 120 birds make the return journey unharmed.
SOUNDBITE: Hamburg's Swan Caretaker, Olaf Niess, saying (German)
"This is a centuries-old tradition which goes back to the 11th century. It used to be only the case that royal families could have swans and Hamburg used the swans as a symbol of its equality as the Free and Hanseatic City with a free population."
The city council even put the graceful birds under special protection in 1664, and it has been forbidden to "insult, hurt or kill" the animals ever since.
For locals the return of the swans has a special meaning.
SOUNDBITE: Bystander, Gabi Lindemann, saying (German)
"I just thought, ok now the spring is starting. Now it is time and with this weather, what else could we want? It's fantastic."
A fantastic way to welcome Spring.
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