Sunday, October 30, 2005

BREMEN [Germany], the home of the Town Musicians

When I was a little kid I went to a private Catholic school. The school was co-founded by a German priest and because of that, we have pious and ultra-strict German priests and nuns running amok in our corridors. The school has deep European roots and I believe up to this day, are still active in the exchange student program with a number of universities here in Europe.

Apparently, due to this Germanic influence, our library was filled with all sorts of European fairy tale books. One of them authors was the celebrated German Grimm Brothers of the 1800’s. Disneyland would not have Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White had these German brothers opted for a different career path.

Bremen is situated in northwest Germany and is part of the Niedersachsen region. See the black square in the map to locate Bremen.

Well one of the Grimm Brother tales I read as a kid was the Bremen Town Musicians, a story about a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster, who all wanted to go to Bremen to become town musicians. On their journey to the city, they became hungry and tired, luckily they came across a house with thieves eating and partying. The animals thought it was their chance to hit a bonanza. So according to height and weight, they stood on top of each other and broke into a unanimous chorus. The act scared the thieves; it sent them scurrying off to the woods leaving the animals the house and all the food behind for themselves.

The city’s most popular representation that has gained international recognition is the Bremen Town Musicians of the Grimm Brothers tale. Many tourists come here everyday to pose with the animals that it is quite hard to get a foto without anyone near it. The bronze statue was crafted by Gerhard Marcks in 1951.

So as a child, I have always wondered what Bremen was like...

The MARKET SQUARE

The Rathaus [City Hall] and St. Petri Cathedral

The Rathaus in its magnificent Weser Renaissance facade, this building was erected in 1405 to 1410 and is said to be one of the most beautiful old city halls of Germany. The gothic St. Petri Cathedral dates back to the early part of the 13th century.

I was told of this amusing Bremen tradition, which nowadays is still being practiced, but only for fun. When a man [and woman] is not married by 30, he will have to sweep the stairs of the church on his 30th birthday to show what a great catch he is. To release him from this chore, a woman must kiss him on the lips! So I hung around by the stairs for awhile but alas no one was celebrating his 30th single birthday in Bremen on that day. Ah watjammer, zeg!

Schutting and Statue of Knight Roland

The Schutting was built in 1537 to 1538 in Flemish-Renaissance style. The manor used to house Bremen’s former guild of merchants. It now serves as the Chamber of Commerce office. Knight of Roland is the symbol of Bremen’s civic rights and privileges in 1404. The statue is 5.55 meters long and together with the Rathaus, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

SCHNOOR QUARTER

Lovely, tiny and vibrantly colored gabled houses from the 15th and 16th centuries clustered together in this old Bremen quarter. Walking in the bumpy narrow cobblestone lanes in this magical place has woken up the sleeping child in me.

As you can see in the fotos, the quarter looks like a charming picturesque doll village which in fact has reminded me of the enchanting Alice in Wonderland fable.

Aside from the Town Musicians, Schnoor definitely strengthened the case why I must visit Bremen. Here you can also see many specialty shops and cafes.

BOTTCHERSTRASSE and SCHLACHTE PROMENADE

Bottcherstrasse is known to be Bremen’s “secret high street”.

Attractions in this sublime boulevard are two museums and a fine Carillon with Meissen porcelain bells. The Schlachte Promenade by the River Weser is visited by locals and tourists alike.

Further onwards is the Martini Landing Stage where a number of excursion boats to other parts of Germany leave everyday. During summer lots of outside cafes are sited.

BREMEN FESTIVITIES

It was also great timing that the city was celebrating its annual Bremen Free Market and on the other side of the market square was also a Historic Market. Seeing all the notable ancient German influences have given me goose bumps, really. It was like I was traveling back through time! I saw people dressed like knights, in old merchants clothes, goblins... it was like my fairy tale book came to life!

The German Bratwurst, a Stage Act, Food Stalls and the resplendent traditional Merry-Go-Round.

The smell of Bratwurst burning in the grill was just so tempting. Lecker! And that’s one of the actors in this small theater stage by the corner of the Historic Market. I believe he was dressed as an elf?

I love the playful and colorful designs of these old goodies stalls. Sometimes I wonder why we ever let go of these... and let be bothered by loud fast food joints.

Travel Period: October 2005

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