Bremen is Germany’s 10th largest city and our closest “big town”, an hour south of us. It has a reputation for being among the country’s most outward-looking and hospitable places “with a population that strikes a good balance between style, earthiness and good living”. In 1979, Bremen was the first to elect Green Party candidates to its state parliament, becoming the cradle of a Green Movement worldwide! After our first visit, we thought how blessed we were to have this beautiful old city so close we could visit it time and time again – rather than trying to cram it all in in one visit.
The ornate old Rathaus (Town Hall) dates back to 1410 and in front of it stands a 16 foot high medieval statue of the knight Roland, the symbolic protector of civic rights and freedoms. The UNESCO protected Market Square is filled with beautiful buildings, and on the weekends, filled with artists, musicians and many, many tour groups. For any of you familiar with the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Town Musicians of Bremen, a statue of the four animals (a rooster atop a cat, perched on a dog, which is sitting on a donkey) is also found in the square.
Off the main square is the Schnoor, a maze of narrow winding alleys that was once the fishermen’s district and later the red light district. Today the tiny cottages house boutiques, restaurants and galleries – also crowded with tourists – but still fun to squeeze between the buildings and past all the people out enjoying a beer, or cake and coffee at the sidewalk cafes.
We spent one day at the Kunsthalle (Art Gallery) that contains a large collection of paintings, some of them dating back 600 years. The main exhibition was the work of German artist Max Beckmann, who was one of the 100 artists whose paintings were moved to the Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich by the Nazis in 1937, – a show that turned out to be far more popular than the Great German Art Exhibition with its “acceptable art work”!