Hanseatic League Trip – August 2018

As I mentioned in my Hamburg post, there was a time when I was stuck in Bremen for quite a few days. I say quite a few because Bremen is pretty small.

The wonderful Eyjafjallajökull had decided to start spewing lava and dust into the atmosphere on March 20th, 2010, with this dust creating mayhem in the European airspace for a whole 6 days. The aftermath, however, took a bit longer to clear.

The first I heard of this was in my flight from Dublin (where I lived at the time) to London Stansted. The pilot announced, halfway through the flight, that we had been the last plane out of Irish airspace. He didn’t give any more details (I assumed it was due to the bad weather) and we landed. As I landed, I saw that there was an earlier flight to Bremen, which I decided to switch to, as my friends were flying on that one. This was at the time that Ryanair was cool about changing flights if there were spare seats, mind you. Having paid zilch, I was allowed to board the flight. I seem to recall that the pilot also announced that we were the last flight to leave the UK (not sure if this may be a figment of my imagination). We landed, waited for some friends at the tiny airport and we went into town, checked into the hotel and went for a beer.

As I sat down, I noticed my phone kept on buzzing. I checked and I had 20+ messages of my mam and my then boyfriend-now husband, freaking out and wanting to make sure we were ok. I reassured them and proceeded to enjoy the rest of the evening. The following morning, I watched the news with an “ah, well, it’ll be alright by Sunday” attitude… After all, it was Thursday and the gymnastics competition was about to start.

I guess you can imagine what happened on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday… yep. We were well stuck. Every morning we would take the tram to the airport and come back to the hotel before we went elsewhere for the day. But before we did that, we spent time finding more about the town we were in and visiting its main sights.

Bremen is a pretty old town with vast history. It had settlements by 12000 years BC and, while not directly by the sea, it’s super close to what today is Bremerhaven. The harbour is considered part of the Bremen state. The city was one of the top towns of Charlemagne’s empire, was part of the Hanseatic League (much like Copenhagen and Hamburg) and it was also its own independent republic for a short period in the 20th century. Today, the city hosts 500 thousand people and is majorly west wing. There are two parts to the town. The ugly, busy, questionable Hauptbahnhof area and the beautiful, charming, Altstadt, the old town. Distance from one part to the other? 5 minutes’ walk.

The Altstadt is crowned by the beautiful Marktplatz. There, you can see the town hall, which dates from the 1400s. Underneath is the Ratskeller, a wine cellar which still has original decor and is a restaurant. Also on the Marktplatz, is the statue of a fella holding a sword and a shield, known as Roland, after a hero from the 1300s. I believe The Marktplatz is a UNESCO site also. I remember that we spent a good 80% of our time in Bremen in the Altstadt, particularly by the Ratskeller.

I know I haven’t mentioned the 4 musicians of Bremen yet. They do have a statue opposite Roland on the right of the square, left if you have the town hall behind you. Small, very small, but cute all the same

Another gorgeous part of Bremen and off the Marktplatz is Böttcherstrasse, a small street that hosts beautiful buildings, traditional shops (mostly artisan products, old traditional sweet shops, a le creuset shop and one or two bars). You know you are entering it when you see a pretty big gold mural on the wall. I always thought it was something pretty old, turns out this is a monument to a certain Führer in 1936. Apart from the shops, you can also see the Glockenspiel in action. It’s a gorgeous carillon that has a wooden window to its left. This rotates with the music and shows different panels of important people. I recommend watching it from the bar to its left.

Coming back to Bremen 8 years later was very interesting. I realised that I had not known enough about it at the time and had misjudged the town. It was a pleasure to be back and while there was nothing new for me to see, it felt as if I hadn’t truly seen it before.

Bremen, thank you.