Regular readers may recall previous posts about days out I’ve done by air:
- to Amsterdam https://juliamhammond.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/just-back-from-a-day-trip-to-amsterdam/
- to Lisbon https://juliamhammond.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/just-back-from-a-day-trip-to-lisbon/
This time, Ryanair are in the hot seat and it’s off to London Stansted for my flight to the north German city of Bremen.
Flight times, for once, are very convenient. The outbound flight departs at 7.55am and is scheduled to arrive in Bremen at 10.20am. It’s a short flight with a one hour time difference. The only downside is that you hit Stansted at peak rush hour. Don’t be tempted to rock up too late; the queues for security are long and just as tedious as anywhere. Of course, with Ryanair your boarding passes are already printed and as it’s a day trip, there’s no luggage to worry about. If you are tempted to shop before you take off, Stansted offers a buy and collect service and you can pick up your shopping on your way back in. Coming back, the flight’s at 9.20pm, but the ten minute tram ride from the city centre and the diminutive size of Bremen Airport mean that you can get away with leaving as late as 8pm. Touchdown at Stansted is scheduled for 9.45pm though we were a little late.
After a take off delay of fifteen minutes or so due to earlier fog at Stansted, I passed swiftly through passport control at Bremen’s tiny airport. Ryanair use a separate terminal. It is as pared down as Ryanair users would expect, but the advantage of being apart are of course that there is no one else to share the passport queue with. In less than ten minutes from the wheels hitting the tarmac, I was through the airport and off to find transport into the city.
Getting to the city
Bremen Airport is obscenely close to the city centre and by far the easiest method of getting there is by tram. Exit the Ryanair terminal and turn right. Walk past the main terminal and ahead of you is the tram stop. You’ll need Tram 6 marked Universität which departs every ten minutes. The fare costs 2,70 euros. You can either buy your ticket at the machine at the stop or hop on board and buy one from the tram’s machine. Small notes and euro coins are accepted – don’t go trying to use a 50 euro note as it won’t let you. It’s only a few minutes to the Domsheide tram stop. Alight there and you’re a minute from the cathedral, town hall and main square. The tram then goes on to the main train station.
A network of buses and trams can take you all over the city. The Bremen tourist board have produced a series of very useful PDF guides which include a very clear street plan as well as a map of tram and bus routes. I downloaded these onto my Kindle app before setting out, but you can of course pick up paper copies from the tourist information desk when you get to Bremen if you prefer a hard copy, or they’ll send them to you through the post on request. Here’s the link: https://www.bremen-tourism.de/information-material
Much of the city centre is walkable as it is a compact place, but if laziness or inclement weather strike then it’s handy to know which tram to jump on and the guides also detail opening hours and which buses or trams to use. As with the airport tram ride, fares are 2,70 euros for a single but you can also buy a day pass for 8,90 euros which also gives you discounts off some of those city’s must-see attractions.
How to spend the day
First stop for me was the obligatory pose with donkey, dog, cat and rooster. The famous bronze sculpture resides beside the town hall. You’ll see donkey’s front feet are well worn – it’s considered good luck to give them a rub. The four creatures are Bremen’s mascots if you remember the Brothers Grimm’s fairytale.
Next, I walked through the main square. The Rathaus (town hall) was under wraps which was a pity as it is a splendid building minus its scaffolding. It’s UNESCO listed and it is possible to take tours of the inside. The cafes in the main square are tempting and I can recommend coffee and cake of course. Duck behind the Schütting (Guildhall), which sadly isn’t open to the public, and you’ll come across Böttcherstraße which is the marvellous Art Deco creation of a famous local coffee manufacturer. If you can, time your visit to coincide with the chiming of the hour at the House of the Glockenspiel (look up and you’ll see it).
A short stroll from Böttcherstraße took me to the Schnoor quarter. This is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Bremen and was once where the sailors hung out. The name Schnoor comes from the low German “Snoor” meaning string, which could have been a reference to the way the old houses line up or perhaps to the making of ropes or nets for the ships that passed through here. The area’s very touristy but worth a visit nevertheless.
Still in Schnoor, I had a schnitzel lunch in Beck’s; if you get there early enough you can bag the table with the window out onto quaint Wuste Statte. Flipping the main meal to lunchtime makes sense; most restaurants offer reasonably priced lunch menus and the local cafe culture lends itself to an early evening coffee or an aperitif with a cake or snack before you leave.
Wandering the streets of the Schnoor to walk off lunch was a delight. There, you’ll find many artists and artisans, but for me the delight was the intricate detailing and artwork that formed part of many of the buildings. It’s very important not to rush and also to look up, or you’ll miss them.
From the Schnoor quarter, it would have been logical to move on to Viertel, but as the sun was shining I decided to take a boat trip up the Weser instead. A 75-minute round trip cost 10,50 euros and was rather pleasant, passing the Docklands area of Uberseestadt. Boats depart from Schlachte. Look out for the Beck’s brewery and also some famous names on some of the factories and warehouses: Kellogg’s and Primark among them. With little wind and a clear sky, there were some lovely reflections on the water.
Back on dry land, I walked up to the park that lines the northern edge of the city centre. There’s an old windmill on a hill overlooking the park which was the perfect stop for a cherry juice: a cooling breeze to take the edge off a humid day. Because of the weather, I opted to catch a number 10 tram to Viertel. It’s one of Bremen’s more Bohemian neighbourhoods: think Notting Hill but not quite as affluent. There’s some fantastic street art to be seen, a few shops selling vintage clothes and furniture as well as plenty of decent cafes. I was glad of one of the latter when a thunderstorm brewed suddenly and equally glad when it was short lived.
Strolling back through the Schnoor, the thunderstorm had an unexpected silver lining. Crowds of tourists typically frequent the narrow streets but even though the sun had reappeared, people were slow to venture out again, so I almost had the district to myself. A meander to the main square for a coffee and it was time to head back to the airport after what had been a very pleasant day. The hot weather had prompted me to take it easy, but there is a lot more to see in this Hanseatic city. I could have taken a tour of Beck’s brewery, seen how Mercedes-Benz make cars or ponder whether modern works of art have as much value as their earlier counterparts. Another time, I think. This place is worth another visit.
For more on Bremen, check out my previous blog on the city here https://juliamhammond.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/beautiful-bremen/.
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.