July 8 – Bremen
Today was a day spent roaming the streets of Bremen. That was all that we two Tasmanians did for the day, simply stroll and survey and saunter or sit, taking in the sights and life of Bremen. So, rather than tell of the day through words, because roaming is all we did, let’s go on a walking tour of Bremen and through some pictures, I hope to show you some of this city, which is lovely, historic and rather fond of its fairytale.
As the story goes, from the Brothers Grimm, “But the donkey, seeing that no good wind was blowing, ran away and set out on the road to Bremen.” So together, let us set out on the streets of Bremen.
Bremen is another Hanseatic City. You may remember the mention of the Hanseatic League from our time in Rostock, another such city. The Hanseatic League involved the cooperation and merger of merchants from various coastal and inland towns and cities. Bremen was also part of the Hanseatic League.
The Böttcherstraße has been a famous part of Bremen since the 1920’s. It’s only 100m long but its winding series of alleyways is now home to artisan workspaces, shops, restaurants and museums. Between 1922-1931 the “Street of Coopers” was transformed from its medieval foundations into the unique space that it is, by the Bremen coffee merchant, Ludwig Roselius.
The House of the Glockenspiel, in the Böttcherstraße, was built in 1923-24 and it was given its name in 1934 when a glockenspiel was installed between the gables. Three times a day the glockenspiel chimes, while panels in the wall turn, depicting images of key moments in maritime and aviation history.
Roselius House is the oldest house on the street and its foundation walls date back to the 14th century. It was home to a family of coopers (makers of wooden barrels, casks and so on) until 1903 and was completely destroyed in 1944, during the Second World War. It has since been fully restored.
Back out to Nelson Mandela Park, where we can see another memorial acknowledging the impact of colonialism. In 1904 there was a great resistance movement against German colonial rule in South West Africa (now Namibia). The Herero people fought back and the Herero Wars continued from 1904-1908, during which time the Germans built concentration camps and used the Herero prisoners as slave labour to build railways, ports and work farmland. As many as 100,000 people from the Herero and Nama tribespeople are said to have been murdered or died in the camps. This monument, a simple collection of stones, has a plaque which reads, “To the memory of the victims of the Genocide 1904-1908 in Namibia and of the Battle of Ohamakari.” The park and its anti-colonial messages and memorials seems to be another example of Germany’s commitment to acknowledging darker periods of history, teaching others about them, apologising for them and keeping those events known, so as to prevent such actions being repeated.
It might be time for a break now, so let’s find a spot to sit by the river and have some elevenses. It does rain a bit in Bremen though, so finding some shelter under an overhanging hedge might be a good idea.
We’re having elevenses by the river, which was once a bustling merchant area of the city. The Schlachte was Bremen’s harbour for over six hundred years, first being mentioned in 1250. It ran 400 metres along the river bank and was outside the original town walls, only being accessed through gates that were closed at night. Cart pushers would transport goods from the harbour to storage houses in town. During the 17th and 18th centuries about 300 people worked on the harbour, where the area was alive with shipping traffic and also inns and cellar taverns.
Time to continue roaming, but that pesky rain won’t go away, so don’t forget your brolley!
This Gothic townhouse dates from the 14th century and is the last of its kind in Bremen. It was badly damaged during the Second World War and reconstructed in 1948. The ground level bay window, known as the ‘Auslucht’ was a popular building feature in Bremen.
In the early and middle ages, Bremen’s central marketplace was Bremen’s first port and ships would reach it along the Balge. In the 13th century, the Balge was no longer accessible by large ships so the port was relocated. The Balge became an inner city canal and in 1838 became an underground canal. The centre of Bremen, where the marktplatz can now be seen, was once a place of fishing for the residents, and “fishing on the Balge” was one of the daily activities seen here.
This building was only constructed in 1957-58 but the rococo facade dates back to 1755. It was originally on another building that was destroyed in World War II, then restored and placed on this building as it can be seen today.
The Gerichtsgebäude was built in 1891-95, covers an entire block and was well fortified with a number of towers, having been divided into courthouses and a prison. These two buildings are joined by bridges arching over the street.
The first church was consecrated in 789. Since then it has been damaged or destroyed by fires in 1041 and 1483 and was reconstructed again in the 15th century, with a gothic nave added to the medieval construction.
A side note from your tour guide here: When I was inside looking around, I stood looking at some brass plaques set into the floor. An older man approached me and spoke, to which I apologised again for not speaking German. He continued to explain things to me in German anyway and it’s amazing what you can pick up, having been in Germany for a little while, combined with some background knowledge from some other places we’ve been. So, while I didn’t understand every word, I understood enough and he told me that the plaques were the names of former English Bishops and that prior to 1648 the church had been Catholic and from 1648 it became Lutheran.
“Was that from the Reformation and Martin Luther,” I asked, having learned a bit about that in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, along with Steve’s factoids of trivia from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.
“Ja,” he said.
He also told me that the pointed arches inside are from the Catholic period and when it became Lutheran, they were changed to rounded arches. You can see the original pointed features and the later rounded arches alongside each other.
The Rathaus (Town Hall) was constructed in 1405-1409. On the main facade, that faces the marketplace, there are eight monumental sculptures that depict the emperor and the prince selectors. The eight figures point out Bremen’s title to be ‘Freie Reichsstadt’ (free imperial town). In 2004 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Brothers Grimm wrote The Town Musicians of Bremen in 1819, a story of a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster who were being mistreated by their owners and so joined together to travel to Bremen to become town musicians. On the way they outsmarted a gang of robbers and took over their house, where they lived contentedly from then on. Bremen is rather proud of its fairytale connection and the figures of the Town Musicians can be seen in various locations and forms around the city.
So that brings our tour to an end. Bremen is a very nice city, with lovely buildings, an interesting history and some notable connections. It was well worth a stop over and a roaming day and the perfect place for a leisurely stroll, with time to simply sit and “be” while watching the goings on of the town and central marktplatz. Tomorrow we shall move on, back on wheels and ready to discover more of what’s out there…waiting for us…places to see…people to meet…memories to bank! Onward ho!
Distance ridden: 0 km
Distance roamed: 10.1 km
Weather: a bit of sun, then it disappeared, then grey, then rain, then just grey again. 14C