• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Bremen - A city built on migration

The Local · 22 Mar 2013, 07:40

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.

Story continues below…

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
This Week in History
75 years since one of Holocaust's worst massacres
Photo: DPA

On Thursday, German president Joachim Gauck spoke in Kiev 75 years after the Nazis slaughtered 33,771 Jews during one of the worst single massacres of the Holocaust.

Six things you need to know about troubled Deutsche Bank

Shares in Deutsche bank plunged on Friday morning, dragging down other European banks and markets worldwide. Here are six things to know about Germany's biggest lender.

Deutsche Bahn jacks up prices for first time in 3 years
Photo: DPA

Germany's main rail provider, the state-owned Deutsche Bahn (DB), announced on Friday that it will raise prices on long-distance train travel.

Baby found alive in suitcase with skeleton in Hanover
File photo: DPA.

A baby has been found alive, along with the skeleton of another infant inside of a suitcase in Hanover, police reported on Friday.

Morocco to speed up repatriation of illegal migrants
Photo: DPA

Morocco has agreed to streamline the procedures for the repatriation of citizens living illegally in Germany, the royal court said late on Thursday.

890,000 refugees arrived in Germany last year - not 1.1m
Photo: DPA

Previous reports had suggested that around 1.1 million people entered Germany to seek asylum last year. But now the German government has confirmed the number was actually lower.

Racist attacks cast cloud over Dresden Unity Day planning
A police vehicle in Dresden. Photo: DPA.

As Dresden prepares to host Germany’s national Unity Day celebrations on Monday, the capital of the eastern state of Saxony is upping security after a mosque was targeted by a homemade bomb.

Sinking Deutsche Bank stock sends shock across Europe
Photo: DPA

Shares in Germany's biggest lender Deutsche Bank plummeted on the Frankfurt stock market on Friday, dragging other European banks and global markets down with it, after reports some customers were pulling money out.

The Local List
10 things you never knew about German reunification
Reunification celebrations in Hanover in 2014. Photo: DPA

With German Unity Day (October 3rd) happening on Monday, Germans are looking forward to a three-day weekend. But did you know these facts about reunification and German Unity Day?

Munich pharmacy’s nighttime porno show draws crowd
Photo: DPA

When a police patrol in Munich's Sendlinger Tor area noticed a crowd gathered outside a pharmacy window they went to investigate. But the onlookers weren't interested in a new line of flu medicine.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
6,718
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd