How did it take me so long to cotton on to Bremen? I’ve known it since I was a kid thanks to the Brothers Grimm’s fairytale about a donkey, dog, cat and rooster who, on the scrapheap of old age, decide to run away and try their luck as musicians in Bremen. The walk makes them tired, and they scare the owners out of a house they come across on the way, liking it so much they never make it to Bremen. That hasn’t stopped the city adopting the four scoundrels as their mascot, and you’ll see references all over the place.
But there’s more to the city than just a fairytale, which you’ll see for yourself by looking at the pictures below.
The Rathaus occupies pride of place in a square crammed full of historic treasures. Opposite is the Schütting, a beautiful guildhall which sadly isn’t open to the public. It was designed and built back in 1538 and when you see it, you’ll think it wouldn’t look out of place in the Netherlands. Designed by Flemish architect Johann den Buschener, you’d be right. Take a seat in the morning sunshine at one of the pavement cafes and you can admire both, together with the statue of Roland, a knight symbolising freedom, until your coffee goes cold. Bremen even has a specific word for the act of going for a coffee, Kaffeesieren, so it is an essential stop on your itinerary.
Around the corner from the square you’ll find a tiny street with a big attitude. Böttcherstraße, famous for its unusual architecture and a shed-load of artwork, is a tourist attraction in itself. At the House of the Glockenspiel, the bells up on the roof go crazy at 12, 3 and 6pm playing tunes that last for a full ten minutes after the hour has been struck. Hidden in a little courtyard, you’ll find another sculpture of those wandering critters, this time adorning a water feature outside a candy store.
The street has ancient beginnings as the site was once occupied by the coopers that give the street its name. But Böttcherstraße in its present form actually dates only from the 1920s when a local coffee merchant by the name of Ludwig Roselius began buying up the houses in what was a pretty rundown street. With the aid of architects Eduard Scotland and Alfred Runge, he transformed the tiny lane into a much-loved arcade of Art Deco and brick shops and museums that is now one of the city’s most attractive destinations.