After reading reviews from Lonely Planet and the Independent, Bremen piqued our interest. Like Hamburg, it is a former Hanseatic shipping city near the North Sea. Pairing these two Stadtstaaten (city states) over a long weekend was a perfect balance, they are uniquely different from cities in Bavaria –and from each other– and just an hour apart by train. Beer drinkers might recognize the name, the city is home to Braureri Beck & Co. – Beck’s. It is also known for another household beverage, decaffeinated coffee, and for the children’s fairytale The Town Musicians of Bremen. We checked out the famous sculpture near the Rathaus where the legs and nose are shiny from being touched for good luck.
Bremen is a city where a tourist can see many of the main sights in a weekend — it was charming, small-scale and walkable within several distinct quarters. After our whirlwind in metropolitan Hamburg, Bremen’s quaint center felt truly old; It was an incredible medieval style square — and I think– one of the most architecturally cohesive that we’ve seen.
We ate the most amazing potato salad at Martin Keifert’s walk-up bratwurst shop. Yup, we’d consider another trip to Bremen for potato salad.
1200 year old Dom St. Petri
Like many European squares, the Altstadt is anchored by the towering Bremen Dom. This Protestant cathedral is perhaps the oldest building we have seen, built in 789 AD. A portion is a museum where they have a complete collection of church relics: first edition books printed on the newly invented Gutenberg press, archived 800-year old bishop attire, ornaments and fine art all under the watchful eye of a dedicated gallery attendant. He lifted his arm and summoned us over to the glass case he was protecting and slowly pulled back the cloth cover and revealed… the oldest book in the archive!! He motioned that it would be alright to photograph it without my flash. (of course!) For a euro you can also visit the leaded cellar where they have the mummified remains of eight bodies. Derek is adventurous, but not in any way a fan of dark, dank medieval buildings—- we passed on the mummy viewing.
The narrow alleyways of the former red-light district, the Schnoor, are converted shops, restaurants and galleries.
By luck, the apartment we rented was in Das Viertel– the Arts Quarter. The neighborhood contains the kulturmeile– a street that is home to Bremen’s theater, Kunsthalle, and the eclectic shops and restaurants in this area (we stopped for a drink at Engel ‘Angel’ cafe ).
Before departing Bremen, we wanted to stop by the small antique shop we had seen tucked into a house across the street. The owner of the shop is a lifelong resident of Bremen and told us about his childhood, growing up in the city, and how the house was once his father’s milk shop. Now it is a space for his collection of 20th C. china and porcelain, mostly salvaged from estates. For us, he suggested a cup and saucer set from Arzburg, designed in the 1960’s.
While Bremen isn’t a stop on most tourist itineraries – it could be. It was a unique spot. It makes a great side-trip from Hamburg and it is actually only a 3-hour drive from Amsterdam.
Read about our visit to Hamburg here.