• Germany edition
 
Bremen - A city built on migration
Photo: DPA

Bremen - A city built on migration

Published: 22 Mar 2013 07:40 GMT+01:00
Updated: 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
Bundesbank warns of ECB 'change of course'
Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann: Photo: DPA

Bundesbank warns of ECB 'change of course'

The head of Germany's powerful Bundesbank sharply criticised what he called a radical new approach by the European Central Bank of easy money, in an interview published Sunday. READ  

MH17 Crash
Families of German MH17 victims to sue
Australian and Dutch investigators examine a piece of debris of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 plane. Photo: EPA/DPA/ Igor Kovalenko

Families of German MH17 victims to sue

Relatives of German victims of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 plan to sue Ukraine and its president for criminal negligence for not closing the country's airspace, a lawyer said Sunday. READ  

Sport
Wonder goal puts new boys Paderborn on top
Paderborn players celebrate after defeating Hanover 2-0 to go top of the Bundesliga. Photo: DPA

Wonder goal puts new boys Paderborn on top

Promoted Paderborn went top of the Bundesliga helped by an extraordinary 80-metre goal at Hanover on Saturday as champions Bayern Munich were held to a goalless draw by struggling Hamburg. READ  

Oktoberfest 2014
Oktoberfest opens to toast millions
Celebrities Carolin Reiber and Marianne Sägebrecht raise their glasses at Oktoberfest 2014. Photo: DPA

Oktoberfest opens to toast millions

Germany's world-famous Oktoberfest kicked off Saturday with the traditional tapping of the first barrel of beer, as millions of revellers are set to soak up the frothy atmosphere in the 16-day annual extravaganza. READ  

Germany plan air lifts to help fight Ebola
A Liberian man holds his daughter as they wait for treatment for suspected Ebola symptoms in Monrovia. Photo: DPA

Germany plan air lifts to help fight Ebola

Germany and France will send military transport planes to West Africa to help efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel and military officials said on Friday. READ  

Germany beefs up asylum rules for Balkans

Germany beefs up asylum rules for Balkans

Germany made it harder Friday for people from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia to apply for asylum after lawmakers classified the three Balkan countries as safe, with respect for basic rights. READ  

German Muslims rally against extremism
Muslims pray in Kreuzberg, Berlin, on Friday outside a mosque which was damaged in an arson attack. Photo: DPA

German Muslims rally against extremism

Muslims across Germany held a day of prayers and rallies on Friday to condemn both Islamic extremism and a backlash against their faith that has seen arson attacks on mosques. READ  

German military flight to Iraq starts with a hiccup
The trainers on the air strip in Hohn, Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: Bundeswehr.

German military flight to Iraq starts with a hiccup

Military trainers flew to northern Iraq from Germany on Friday, ahead of a huge delivery of weapons from the German military, but things didn’t initially go as planned. READ  

Munich gets four Euro 2020 matches
Photo: DPA

Munich gets four Euro 2020 matches

UPDATE: Munich will play host to four Euro 2020 games, European football’s governing body Uefa announced in Geneva on Friday, but London was the real winner. READ  

Driver, 18, ploughs into school pupils
The scene by the bus stop outside the school in Diepholz. Photo: DPA

Driver, 18, ploughs into school pupils

An 18-year-old drove into a group of students outside a school in western Germany on Friday morning, injuring several. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Culture
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's tents
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
Drunk teachers ruin school trip to Hamburg
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Oktoberfest 2014: The best and worst in dirndl fashion
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten German words you'll never want to hear again
Photo: DPA
Education
German universities tumble in global rankings
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
The three types of firms hiring foreigners
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Frisky couple shock Berlin commuters
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
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

3,365
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd