Germany is a federal republic divided into 16 states. These states are called Bundesland(pl. Bundesländer) and each one of them has their fair share of places to visit and things to do. This series of posts titled “States of Germany” seeks to explore each state one by one and tell you a little bit about them. Feel free to post about things I have missed out on.
This week we explore Bremen together. Bremen is the smallest of Germany’s states and is made up of the city of Bremen and the sea port enclave of Bremerhaven. Bremerhaven (literally meaning “Bremen’s Harbor”) is separated from Bremen by the state of Lower Saxony. Both of the aforementioned cities lie on the Weser River and Bremerhaven is situated where the river opens into the North Sea. Bremen is, as the German adage goes, klein aber fein (small but nice) and has a rich history through being part of the Hanseatic League which spanned all of Europe at its height and is still a source of pride for cities who used to be part of it. The state’s coat of arms dates back to 1366 and is a key on a red banner topped by a crown.
With a population of about 660,000, Bremen is not only the smallest German state by area, but also by population. Naturally, the city of Bremen is the state capital and the majority of the people live there. In the post-World War 2 period, Bremen became a state in 1947 and eventually joined the newly established West Germany in 1949. The state has two administrative divisions: the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven. The city of Bremen is joined with Oldenburg and other parts of the state of Lower Saxony to compose the Bremen/Oldenburg Metropolitan Area.
Areas which are now in the city of Bremen were first settled around 12,000 BC making it one of the oldest settled regions in the world. Through the early medieval times, Bremen retained an independence and autonomy from the cities, kingdoms and duchies around it. The people and the city prospered through trade and joined the Hanseatic League which further enhanced its status. The city was even the capital of the short lived Revolutionary Republic of Bremen in 1919 following the period of confusion after World War 1. Today, Bremen is a hip, multicultural, university city. The University of Bremen is regarded as one of Germany’s elite universities. The city is also famous for its Town Musicians of Bremen statue.
The statue depicts a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster standing in that order on top of each other. It is based on a Brothers Grimm tale about how the animals set off for – but never actually make it to – Bremen.
Located at the center of Bremen is the Marktplatz or Market Square which is dominated by the Town Hall and the Church of Our Lady which dates back to the 11th century. The cobblestones on the Market Square depict the Hanseatic Cross.
The city of Bremerhaven was founded in 1827 but settlements in the area date back to the 12th century. Many parts which are today in Bremerhaven used to be Swedish, evidence of which is still visible in the city’s Lehe district. The city is today a major German sea port and the container terminal is the fourth largest in Europe. It is also famous for being the biggest hub of European auto import and export through the sea port after Rotterdam in The Netherlands.
The state of Bremen is admittedly small, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t much to do here. Check out this to-do list:
Visit the Schnoor district in Bremen city which dates back to medieval times. Walk through the old, narrow and cobbled streets and peek into handicraft shops.
- While in Schnoor, take a detour to the historic Böttcherstrasse.
- Check out the Market Square, visit the Church of Our Lady and the Town Hall and take a selfie with the Roland statue.
- Read the Grimm fairy tale about the Town Musicians of Bremen and then visit the famous statue.
- Wanna feel like a scientist and conduct some experiments? Check out the Universum where you can do just that and read about scientific stuff!
- Hang out in the bars and clubs in Bremen’s Viertel district. While there, also see the Bremerhäuser native to the city.
Take a stroll along the historic Schlachte promenade on the Weser River.
- Do a tour of the Bremerhaven harbor. More details here.