public art


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.



Das Viertel

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 ).

We discovered a HAY furniture store nearby and I fell completely head over heals for their clean Danish modern aesthetic, and one piece in particular:  ‘about a chair‘ <– click here to see the chair.

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.



Budapest is a city of stark contrasts– a beautiful city center aside very old weathered neighborhoods. The current city is three old cities that have grown together. Buda is situated on the hilly side of the Danube, opposite of very flat commercial Pest. The third, Óbuda is the site of the ancient roman settlement, Aquincum.

Modern, post-soviet Budapest (1991–present) is in the midst of a high-pace revitalization. The areas closest to the river are all rebuilt.   As of right now, there remain many visible markers from the past.  On one stretch are 150-year old mansions (some are currently undergoing restoration) dating from the Austro-Hungarian empire. Not far away you can still find buildings with bullet holes from the 1956 Hungarian revolution.

In ways more apparent than in other European cities, the sidewalks are littered; the homeless sleep in doorways; and there are tell-tale signs that some of the buildings are aching for repair– such as a sign alerting pedestrians to falling rock near Keleti train station.

We enjoyed the city and the mix of sights!



Király utca

Király utca connected the square where we stayed to the sights, so we seemed to walk this street a lot. Bars and restaurants are densely located within the area.



Astoria + Katona József utca

We stopped at Bomo Art, A handmade paper store in the Astoria neighborhood. That morning we had trekked across town to Bookstation, where they sell new and used English language books.  The book seller pointed us toward a section of Hungarian writers: Sándor Kányádi is a Hungarian poet, —- the other is a book of short stories, many involving food, written by Gyula Krúdy set in Budapest in the 1900’s.




 Antiques at Falk Miksa utca

We detoured along Falk Miksa utca, a street lined with Hungarian antique shops.
The trinkets and textiles were seen at Anna Antikvitás.



Hungarian Parliament

A few monuments near Országház, the Hungarian Parliament—–

The white wave sculpture lists the bracelet numbers of Hungarians who died in concentration camps—-a unique piece of public art and beautiful commemoration. The plaque near the Shoes on the Danube Bank reads “In Memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross Militiamen in 1944-45” .


Szent Istiván Bazilika

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Sunday morning at Szchéneyi Baths budapestszc3txtWhen the Romans first settled Budapest they discovered underground thermal springs and created the first thermal bath in the area. We visited Széchenyi fürdő  on Sunday morning, it was cool– about 55° and rainy. When we walked in we could see the steam rising from the outdoor bath. Inside, are beautiful rooms with steaming baths, saunas and hot steam rooms – and even cold pools to refresh! After going in and out of all of those different temperature pools I felt so clear and rejuvenated. Many people stay up to 3 hours!
We didn’t notice the smell of chlorine; Afterwards we spotted a sign that chemicals are not used to treat the water. The water is boiling when it leaves the thermal spring and is cooled at various temperatures. The pools are intended to be naturally healing. Yes, it really is a bath!

They suggest a hot soapy shower before and after.  The hot springs are the reason Budapest was settled by the Romans and the spas are a must see! We knew in advance that the baths were among the few places open in Budapest on Sundays. They are also open through the winter.


Várhegy, Castle Hill
Our last night in Budapest, we walked across Szecheny Chain bridge, to Várhegy, Castle Hill.  Buda is considered quiet and residential compared to Pest. It is the site of the royal palace and offices of the Hungarian president. You might have seen Budapest and didn’t know it– It is in the Katy Perry Firework video. It was shot in Budapest and the dance scene is in the courtyard of the Buda Castle.





We didn’t know just how much Hungarian we would need to find our way around. It turned out that the city was easy to navigate as an english speaker. The Hungarians were encountered were impressively multilingual. The Hungarians we interacted with (such as our Airbnb host) spoke perfect conversational english.

One thing that we found interesting, related to language— is that Hungarian is similar to Finnish. The languages are Uralic, derived from the ancestral proximity to the Ural Mountains.  Many older Hungarians speak German, and the younger crowd speaks english. I still tried to learn a few new words on the train,  and the numbers 1-10.  



Our trip to Budapest greatly intrigued us for future visits to other Eastern European cities. It will be a complete (and welcome) surprise if we are ever back in Budapest, and we greatly enjoyed the city.   The train from Budapest was nine-hours to Würzburg. It was a long train ride, with one brief transfer at St Pölten, Austria. The weekend was a fun change of pace for us.

You can read about our Airbnb apartment in Budapest  here.



We booked tickets the day after Easter, thanks to this must read article! My European Ritual /

More photos and an overview of Széchenyi Baths

A good (and humorous) YouTube video tour by a likable American tourist

A top music hit in Germany in Austria (On the radio every five minutes) on Bayern 3–
this song by George Ezra – Budapest Music Video

Katy Perry’s Firework Music Video



Leonhard Frank and The Book that Everyone is Reading

The answer to my post a few days ago has surfaced: The book that everyone was reading is Die Jünger Jesu by Leonhard Frank (1949).

We learned that Würzburg liest ein Buch (Würzburg reading a Book)  was a huge city-wide event with 100 supporting events  (public readings, lectures, creative interpretations by 9th/10th graders, music and theater). The reading of this book seems to coincide with Frühjahrsvolksfest, a three-week folk festival that takes place in Würzburg each year beginning the fourth Saturday before Easter. It is the first large festival in Bavaria and marks the beginning of the festival season.


About the book: The Disciples of Jesus
The book sounds really intriguing, it would be great to find an english translation.  Leonhard Frank wrote Die Jünger Jesu “The Disciples of Jesus” while living in exile in the United States. The second edition was just printed in 2013. Though we haven’t read it, I can share an overview from the website:

via Google Translate

“In the immediate postwar period, the disciples of Jesus, “a gang of robber youths”, who in destroyed Würzburg have their secret meeting place in the basement of a monastery church. They take from the rich a pound of coffee, a pair of shoes and leave the stolen goods secretly to the most needy in the city.

In parallel storylines, Leonhard Frank tells of the latently smoldering neo-Nazism in postwar Germany, and the tragic love between a German girl and an American soldier and the fate of the Jewish Heimkehrerin Ruth.”


Who is Leonhard Frank?
Leonhard Frank is a German expressionist writer and the most famous author of Würzburg–his hometown. During WWII, his works were regarded as treasonous and his books were banned and burned.  He lived most of his adult life in exile, though returned to Germany in 1950 and was granted entry into the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, awarded a silver medal from the City of Würzburg, and in 1957, four years before his death was awarded the Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The (organized) reading of this book ended yesterday. Once we knew what we were looking for, we couldn’t miss it.  This event was well-publicized.

The first post is here.  A few more pics:

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Reading for Stadt Würzburg

Earlier this week I saw some public-art-in-process along the Main river and asked one of the artists about the project.  She was mixing her next shade while thoughtfully considering a concise explanation in English.

“There is a wonderful book that the whole city should read and because of this book we are 13 artists who are painting barrels in response to the reading ”

Which is all she would share. A few barrels away was a poster so I wondered if it could tell me a bit more about the project or the proposed reading for the city.  Or perhaps the Würzburg book club.

It turned out to be a concert poster.

They are really nice, whatever they are!  Enjoy your weekend!

4/13——->  Read a follow-up here .


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A Rainy Day in Nuremberg

We took an hour train to Nürnberg over the weekend and enjoyed our time in the city despite that it rained all day. The cold and dreary weather enhanced the Gothic sections of the city.  As one of our first excursions in Germany, I would recommend Nürnberg and consider going back for more exploration. The city has a distinctly grim feel, I am sure that I have not been anywhere like it. The train station is at the perimeter of the Altstadt so you can begin there and do a full day of walking, which is what we did.

St Lorenz
The images of Lorenzkirche (1250 A.D) are mainly in contrast to the Hofkirche from the previous post. It felt very gothic and dark, not as bright and romantic as the ornate 18th century chapel at the Würzburg Residenz. 



Saturday’s moody skies set the tone for our walk through the stone and iron corridors of the city’s 12thC imperial fortress.  Afterwards, we had the local specialty for lunch – Drei im Weckla “Three in a bun”, three smokies in a hard roll! And you get a pack of mustard! Not bad. Dad- I think you would like this!


Albrecht-Dürer House
Living space and workshop of artist/draftsman/printmaker Albrecht Dürer is now a museum with a neat interactive interface.

Long gone, Albrecht Dürer still has celebrity status in his hometown.
Dürer was a 15thC humanist. Instead of drawing from memory or imagination, journeymen were sent out to collect everyday natural objects for reference. This was a new approach to german art, and a fundamental contribution to the Northern Renaissance. At the same time, Martin Luther’s Reformation was in full swing; And across the continent in Italy, DaVinci was creating the Mona Lisa.

finally, yarn graffiti! I heard about this awhile ago and here it is. Derek saw this reference in Vita.MN last week or so about Mpls based yarn street artist HotTea.

A huge event in Nürnberg is the Christmas market beginning in November; We will definitely be back. The city was also a Nazi launch pad in the 1930’s and later the location where they were tried.



+ Jürgen Weber. Ehekarussell (Marriage Carousel).1978-1984. Nürnberg

+ Jürgen Goertz. Der Hase—Hommage à Dürer (The Hare—a Homage to Dürer).1984. Nürnberg

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