• Germany's news in English
 

Bremen - A city built on migration

Published: 22 Mar 2013 07:40 GMT+01:00

The focus of my trip to Bremen was not the famous animal Town Musicians (Stadtmusikanten), nor the splendid architecture of the Old Town, but a stretch of the Bremerhaven waterside a short train ride from the city proper.

It being early March, the promenade was windswept, but not desolate. The area is packed with things to look at, all connected with the sea and maritime travel.

It is here that a trail of museums has been built to fit the location. It could easily fill a long weekend - a room at the imposing Atlantic hotel, a tower suitably shaped like a sail, and do a museum and a walk each day.

There is the enormous Climate House, which takes visitors on a trip around the world along the eighth line of longitude, from Bremerhaven. There are sections portraying the desert of the Sahel, the Antarctic and the South Seas as well as the Swiss Alps, with each section heated or cooled to create the climate, and information about how people live there.

And there is the National German Maritime Museum, surrounded by historical boats, and boasting enormous windows through which more can be seen from the outside.

There is also the Historical Museum Bremerhaven and the Zoo at the Sea, which promises monkeys, racoons and even rabbits as well as water-based creatures.

A flood of people left from Bremerhaven

We had just one day, and picked the German Emigration Centre, in the middle of the stretch of waterside museums. It chronicles the almost continuous flood of people who have left Germany and Europe from Bremerhaven to destinations on the other side of the Atlantic.

It is a hugely atmospheric trip which takes the visitor through the experience of leaving - one climbs up stairs onto a 'ship' where the combination of sneaky sloping floors and film of moving waves seen out of portholes can actually induce a little sea-sickness.

A thousand old fashioned wooden drawers pull open to offer details of people who left; why they were leaving and where they went, stretching back to the 1800s and up to the present.

Click for a photo gallery of Bremen

Sometimes in such museums, the smallest artefact can be the most affecting - such as the much-folded note on which Karl-Heinz Dietzel had a friend write the English phrase: "Please show me the right way to the Railway station. Thank you very much!"

One can imagine the now yellowing scrap of paper now fixed to the wall with tape, being clutched tightly in a nervous hand as Dietzel made his way through a new city.

People arrived in Bremen too

Bremen's illustrious history as a trading city central has been shaped by people taking on just such challenges. That history and the riches that flowed into the city during its Hanseatic past are illustrated by the stunning and imposing buildings which make up the old city.

Migration is also clear in what is on offer for breakfast on a Sunday morning. Angolino's café in the Viertel district has the steaming coffee machine, the generously-packed sandwiches and the flaky croissants of the kind of Italian café one imagines being a favourite in New York.

The coffee was creamy, the atmosphere noisy but relaxed, the cakes fresh and the serving staff brisk yet friendly.

Without really meaning to, one can easily be tempted by Italian cuisine for dinner too. The Atrium is a delightful deli also in the Viertel area which has a brilliant bistro in the back.

The home-made pasta is as good as it should be, and the mighty woman chef who passes through the dining area, knife tucked into her belt adds a certain frisson to the evening.

Hefty local food affords fortification

Although the Italian options are stunning, one cannot leave Bremen without eating locally caught and prepared fish. It should actually be a condition of leaving the region - no-one should be allowed to go if they haven't eaten fish.

Having sampled the sophisticated delights of Italian cuisine in the city, the down-to-earth classic north German food on offer at the Friesenhof restaurant in the centre of town, provide a hearty contrast.

Something as simple as a baked potato and Matjes herring can take on epic proportions when properly served, and the Friesenhof, complete with dodgy pirate statue and fake fishing nets hanging from the ceiling, manages the job beautifully.

Belly full and fortified against the wind which cuts through much of the city, the next best thing to do is take a stagger around the old city - assuming one can fit down the tiny medieval passages that serve for streets in the Schnoor district.

On a Sunday, this is the spot to pick up a touristy present - or simply to have a pleasant wander, and try to count the different ways and media in which the Bremen town musicians are depicted.

But the winner for this first-timer to Bremen was das Viertel, a lively district seemingly packed with quirky shops, lovely places for coffee and lunch, and cute little houses tucked in alongside rows of mini villas. Coming from a large city, the fact that many buildings are only two or three storeys tall is surprisingly relaxing.

People took their time, were friendly, and the shops showed a diversity of interests ranging from garish football pubs via a children's clothes shop where the garments are made from old adult clothes, to the most dedicated of organic supermarkets. Many of the houses are covered in murals, while the one large piece of graffiti on show seemed to have been the work of radical vegans - it reads tofu.

It was as I left that the Maersk containers rumbled through the train station, topping off a lovely trip and ensuring that despite the horizontal sleet, I vowed to revisit the delights of Bremen.

Hannah Cleaver

hannah.cleaver@thelocal.com

twitter.com/hannahcleaver2

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

04:34 March 29, 2013 by RainerL
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
16:59 March 29, 2013 by fairylightinthedark
Putting a smiley face after your comment doesn't make it any less xenophobic...
13:55 April 2, 2013 by Firmino
Perhaps the moon would suit, Mr RainerL?
Today's headlines
July asylum applications hit 'all-time record'
An asylum seeker reception centre in Trier. Photo: DPA

July asylum applications hit 'all-time record'

More people applied for asylum in Germany in July than in any previous month on record, the Ministry for Immigration and Refugees announced on Friday. READ  

This Week in History
The 1,000s of Germans massacred after WWII
Germans fleeing from eastern Europe after the Second World War. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The 1,000s of Germans massacred after WWII

Seventy years ago on Friday, a munitions depot exploded in the Czechoslovakian town of Ústí nad Labem. For the thousands of Sudeten Germans who lived in the town, the event was a death sentence. READ  

Minister seeks to rid laws of 'Nazi language'
In the center, Nazi lawyer Roland Freisler, who wrote laws that are partially still in existence today. Photo: German Federal Archive / Wikimedia Commons.

Minister seeks to rid laws of 'Nazi language'

Germany has made great efforts to purge legal system of remnants of Adolf Hitler's regime, but some laws still bear traces of the Nazi past. The Justice Minister wants to change this. READ  

Treason investigation of Netzpolitik halted
Netzpolitik published documents outlining the internal spy agency BfV's spy programmes and budget. Photo: DPA

Treason investigation of Netzpolitik halted

Update: Federal prosecutors announced on Friday they are suspending investigations of treason against 'digital rights' website Netzpolitik for 'the greater good' of upholding freedom of the press. READ  

Newborn baby found in Munich airport toilets
Munich Airport. Photo: DPA

Newborn baby found in Munich airport toilets

A newborn baby was found in a toilet in Munich airport on Thursday. Police so far have no clue as to who or where the mother is. READ  

Brit arrested in Munich for meth smuggling
Photo: BVZ/Zoll

Brit arrested in Munich for meth smuggling

A 50-year-old British woman is being held in custody in Munich on suspicion of attempting to smuggle two kilos of crystal meth out of Munich airport disguised as sweets. READ  

Start-up helps new Berliners slash red tape
Hate waiting in line at the Bürgeramt? There's a company that lets you pay to get the perfect appointment. Photo: DPA.

Start-up helps new Berliners slash red tape

Why waste time jumping through the hoops of German bureaucracy when you can pay someone else to take the hassle off your hands? A new Berlin company is offering to do just that - and it's got city officials fuming in the process. READ  

Michael Jackson shrine may have to beat it
A fan visits the makeshift Michael Jackson memorial in Munich. Photo: DPA.

Michael Jackson shrine may have to beat it

A memorial set up in Germany by some of Michael Jackson's most ardent fans the day after his sudden 2009 death has come under threat in a strangely emotional turf war. READ  

Ai Weiwei in Germany as UK slammed over visa
Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei arrived at Munich airport on Thursday, greeted by his son and son's mother, filmmaker Wang Fen. Photo: DPA.

Ai Weiwei in Germany as UK slammed over visa

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei arrived in Munich on Thursday on his first overseas trip since he was arrested nearly four years ago, after Britain denied him a six-month visa because he did not declare a supposed "criminal conviction" on his application. READ  

'Women-only' parking: sensible or sexist?
Regulations for women's parking spaces differ from state to state across Germany. Photo: JG-NF / Wikimedia Commons.

'Women-only' parking: sensible or sexist?

Frankfurt Airport is one of many places in Germany to offer women their own 'bigger and nicer' parking areas. Is this sensible practice or plain sexist? READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sport
Germany star scores own goal with PR gaffe
Features
'Women-only' parking: sensible or sexist?
Politics
Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
National
13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
Society
In North Germany, money sometimes DOES grow on trees
National
Hero mechanics stop Bavaria shooting spree
International
Denmark says that border controls are coming
National
Did hackers take control of German missile battery?
Politics
Munich gives gay pride green light
Business & Money
Berlin rent controls hit prices hard
National
Fighting to breastfeed in public without shame
Society
Ice cream for dogs 'gobbled up in one gulp'
Education
Are hotpants a feminist issue?
Rhineland
Lion cub reunited with mother
National
How the heatwave is cracking Germany's Autobahns
International
Why the French are more sympathetic to Greece than the Germans
Sponsored Article
Crans-Montana: International expat hub
Gallery
Police seize pensioner's WW2 heavy weapons haul
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,212
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd