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Bremen: The city of fairy tales

Phil and Sue Newdick continue their travels in Bremen, Germany, following a tour of the Baltic states.

Bremen was the third stop of our impromptu German tour and proved to be another very good choice. A stated population of 550,000 is a bit misleading as that is just the centre of Bremen, while the metro area has a population of 2.5 million.

Straddling the Weser River in northwest Germany, Bremen has claimed the Brothers Grimm tale about the donkey, the dog, the cat and the rooster as its own. Everywhere in the city there are statues and references to it.

We have found so much of this type of association with fairy tales across Europe. It is totally harmless and the different nationalities that have these associations have a ball with them. Some of the older parts of Bremen actually look as if they could have been the settings for the old fairy tales.

We cannot be sure how much damage was done to Bremen during the war, but evidently enough buildings survived for them to recreate a medieval atmosphere, especially in the central Market Square where the regular markets have always been held. The merchants in the square were very friendly and helpful; the flavour of the spiced sausages and their low cost were something we would have quite happily brought home with us.

We also experienced Bremen-style dragon boat racing on the Weser River. To the best of our knowledge the regatta lasts several days and includes participation by a large number of the locals in what are mixed crews. Everyone, competitors and spectators alike, are very enthusiastic; the main skills seemed to us to be high-five hand-slapping. The results of the actual races don't seem to be important; competitors and spectators alike were all winners.

Astoundingly for a country that has such a reputation for commerce and conservatism, all of Germany seems to slow down on Saturdays and shut down completely on Sundays.

The Monday we were there we boarded their very efficient metro to visit “The Waterfront”, a gigantic urban shopping centre. There didn't seem to be enough shoppers to support such a huge complex, but it was Monday and the size of the complex was enough to absorb huge numbers of people, without being crowded.

The last leg of our German train ride involved Bremen to Hanover, a change of trains and on to our final destination Frankfurt. The journey went without a hitch. We have ridden on a lot of trains, some even better than The German “Bahn”, but generally the service and railway system in Germany is consistently good. It has reinforced our conviction that where available, reliable rail is the best form of travel for our type of touring. The buses will beat it on cost but the train services, when they can be found, give a more dependable service and the relaxed atmosphere gives us time to admire the scenery as we are whisked on to our next stop.

With only five more days of our three-month journey to go we were having mixed feelings. We were missing home, but the anticipation of arriving at another place we have never seen is all the motivation we need to continue on our way.

THE 'MUSICIANS OF BREMEN': Some of the statues scattered around Bremen that depict the heroes in the Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster's journey to Bremen to gain their freedom — one of the folklore stories collected by the brothers and published in Grimms' Fairy Tales in 1819. Pictures by Phil and Sue Newdick
NEPTUNE FOUNTAIN: The figures of this fountain in the Market Square are from Roman and Greek mythology. In the middle stands the sea god Neptune.
LUDWIG ROSELIUS MUSEUM ENTRANCE: The entrance to the Ludwig Roselius museum in the old town of Bremen, which houses the successful coffee merchant's (1874-1943) private collection of artefacts from the Middle Ages to the Baroque period.
MARKET SQUARE: Pictured at right is the statue of Roland, erected in 1404, in the Bremen Market Square. Roland is shown as protector of the city: his legendary sword is unsheathed, and his shield is emblazoned with the two-headed Imperial eagle.
MRS CLAUS: A Mrs Santa Claus doll in the Bremen Christmas shop.
NAUTICAL THEME: The Bremen Drug Rehabilitation Centre.
WATERFRONT MALL: The Bremen Waterfront Mall opened in 1990 and was expanded and refurbished in 2014 (great ice creams here).
DINING ON MARKET LEFTOVERS: A life-sized bronze sculpture in the central market by the sculptor Peter Lehmann which depicts a pig flock with their swineherd and a watch-dog. First mentioned in 1261, the pig herder would bring his pigs here at the end of the day, when the market closed, so his pigs could feast on all the left-over or discarded fruit and vegetables. The pigs of those times would be very surprised to learn that the street is now paved with granite from China.
HAUPTBAHNHOF: The Bremen Railway Station was originally built in 1847. It has been rebuilt several times due to war damage and the current building, pictured left, was upgraded in the late 1990s.