“A week in Hamburg?? What are you going to do for a whole week in Hamburg?” was the response we heard from some people when we mentioned our travel plans. Well, part of what we were planning on doing for a week in Hamburg was to take day trips to smaller nearby cities. The second day trip we took was to Bremen, Germany.
Honestly, I had never heard of Bremen before Dan started doing some research into potential day trips from Hamburg. But once we decided we were going to go there, whenever I mentioned it to anyone they said “the musicians of Bremen?!”. I had no idea what they were talking about, but upon our arrival to Bremen I learned!
The Musicians of Bremen
This is a rooster on the back of a cat on the back of a dog on the back of a donkey. The story is a bit weird, but in the end the animals live happily ever after, and that’s a story I can get behind. See the Muppet version of the story (parts 1-6) here.
Anyway, Bremen is a short hour long train ride away from Hamburg. Once we got to Bremen, the walk to the old city was about 5 minutes. The old city, which no longer has any of its old walls or gates, is still exceptionally beautiful.
A Bremen windmill
The old city is on an island, so we figured we would just walk around for a few hours. We had plans to watch the Bremen vs. Hamburg football match (that’s soccer to you American folks) at a beer garden somewhere in the city at 3 in the afternoon, so we have a bunch of hours to kill until then. Then, just 10 minutes into our walk we spotted these buildings across the river just outside of the old city:
Yes, that building says KABOOM! on it.
We had to check it out. It looked like it was perhaps a comic book art exhibit, and guess what? It was! Plus, it was free admission, so we had ourselves a little bit of artsy fun! By the time we left it was after noon. Back across the river, in the old city, we spotted what looked like a craft fair. This was no crappy NYC-style street fair, folks. People were actually making crafts right there next to the river. We saw two guys with lathes making little wooden objects. One guy was making wooden spindles for yarn. Weird and random, but fun to watch!
Then we saw a guy making rope! Actually making rope! What a nice change from the plastic stuff most people buy online, made by machines, for pennies.
Man twisting rope with his helpers while a crowd of people look on.
Who knew rope-making was so fascinating??
We continued walking, Dan secretly wishing he could buy all of the awesome stuff for sale at the market, until we got to a tunnel taking you under the road back to one of the oldest parts of the city. It was about 5 minutes to 1 at that point. We walked between all of these old, beautiful buildings that have found new like as stores selling crafts and unique trinkets. Then we walked through a small square filled with people. I couldn’t figure out why they were all standing there until we heard the bells.
The Glockenspiel of Bremen.
What an awesome coincidence! Bremen’s Glockenspiel played us 10 minutes of music and the tower bit on the left of the picture turns every 30 seconds or so the whole time with new images of famous Germans throughout history. It was so, so great. I especially liked that the chiming of the hour at the start of the music was actually the same exact tune that the bell at my university played every hour. Oh, nostalgia…
Then we headed north a few blocks which lead us into Bremen’s town square.
This is where the Musicians of Bremen are located (just to the west of town hall), and the Rathaus (town hall), Bremen’s cathedral, and Bremen’s parliament building. We checked out all of the buildings, going into any that were open (and all that were open were free!), but then it was time to get some lunch!
We began walking east, and on our way off the island we spotted a beer garden and made a mental note to head back there for the football game! Eastward we walked until we reached our destination:
Tom and Karo!
Tom and Karo is a vegetarian restaurant that is really vegan with a cow’s cheese option. It completely knocked our socks off!
Dan’s vegan cheeseburger with fires and a hummus dipping sauce. Dan says this is the best vegan cheeseburger he has ever had.
My vegan fish burger with fries and mango curry dipping sauce.
The food was so good that we ordered food to go for dinner later that night, which was great, too, even though we ate it about 8 hours later! Also, the decor is pretty eclectic and the bathrooms are covered in animal rights stickers, which was awesome.
On our walk back to the beer garden, we took a slight detour to the other super old, craft area of the old city of Bremen. It should be noted that the old city of Bremen is very small, it probably takes 15 minutes to walk across east-west, and 5 minutes north-south. It is perfectly sized for a day of exploring. Yet somehow the city of Bremen actually has about 550,000 people in it, so obviously the old city is not the entirety of the city. The tiny crafty area we were in was a perfect example of why cities in the middle ages tended to just go up in flames, though. Some of the side streets were as little as 3 feet wide. It would be pretty easy for fire to pass from house to house with all the houses that close together!
Then it was game time! We found a bench at the beer garden, each got a brew and a pretzel, and settled in to enjoy the game. I had a wheat beer and Dan had the beer garden’s original beer, which he enjoyed in a big ‘ole beer stein.
Beer and pretzels are made for each other.
The game was Bremen vs. Hamburg, and actually took place in Hamburg while we were in Bremen! Woops! But this is apparently a big rivalry, so tickets were actually very expensive anyway. We though this was actually the perfect way to experience the game. It didn’t hurt that Bremen won 2-0 so everyone in the beer garden was singing songs and cheering their heads off. A good time was had by all.
Germany is really the first place that Dan and I have gotten to get out of the big cities to explore the smaller cities and towns, and we have really enjoyed it. We plan to do more small-town exploring as we head south!
Anywhere in Germany we should try to visit that you have been and loved?