I took the metro to the main train station and grabbed a cappuccino and chocolate muffin again prior to boarding.
As part of my preparation for our trip to Hamburg I had purchased a German Rail Pass for the duration of our visit so I could travel about Schleswig-Holstein as I pleased. It worked out perfectly because I had the flexibility of hopping on just about any train I wanted instead of having to catch a specific train at a specific time. (Note: I couldn’t use the pass on the high-speed trains, but that was fine/didn’t impact me based on my destinations.)
My train ride to Bremen took about an hour, and the weather was absolutely beautiful when I arrived.
There were quite a few people inside the station and coming to and from the station with tour guides, buskers and vendors in the small plaza outside. I quickly found an informational sign pointing to the Alstadt, or Old Town, and set out in that direction.
Along the way I crossed over a small bridge spanning a lake, and to my right was a beautiful windmill surrounded by greenery and flowers arranged in a swirling pattern.
I actually had the Muhle am Wall on my list but couldn’t tell during my planning exactly where it was or how far it was from the Old Town or train station. I was happy to find it and decided I would try to stop by later for an afternoon cappuccino on the lake, depending on where the day took me.
The road from the station toward the historic center was a modern shopping district. There were tons of people, shops and cafes, including fast food joints and nationally recognized retailers. It slowly transitioned to brick walkways with interesting architecture and fun statues the closer I got to the Old Town.
A few more twists and turns and I arrived in the Old Town! I passed through some open air markets that were just setting up for the day, perusing some of the produce and plants/flowers before heading into the Marktplatz, or market place/main square.
It was incredible! There were people milling around, and because I was early, restaurants were still setting up seating outside their storefronts and getting ready for the day.
The buildings were beautiful and the sun had one side of the square completely bathed in light, which really showed off the incredible colors of the buildings and roofs. The architecture was so distinct–I don’t remember ever seeing anything like it before.
There are Roland statues in many German towns and cities, symbolising freedom and market rights. Bremen’s Roland statue is one of the most beautiful, and, according to UNESCO experts, the most representative and one of the oldest examples.
I caught a few things the nearby guide was saying and almost wished I had joined a tour to learn more about Bremen’s history while it was right in front of me. Next time!
Another side of the square is completely comprised of the incredible Rathaus, or town hall. It, along with the Statue of Roland, are a UNESCO Heritage Site. It was built between 1405-1410(!) and is the only European town hall built during the late Middle Ages that hasn’t been destroyed or altered.
Continuing to turn clockwise from the middle of the square, the next side length features St. Peter’s Cathedral, another medieval building from the 13th century.
The interior was so interesting–the stone blocks and columns were in different colors, from dark blue to red to gold. It made the sanctuary feel rather regal. While most churches have impressive stained glass, wooden carvings, etc., I really thought the colorful stonework was what set this one apart, aside from its history and age.
Usually one of the towers is open to the public, but there were some construction efforts underway so unfortunately I was unable to climb to the top.
I headed back outside and over to the Ratskeller, a 600-year-old restaurant and wine cellar beneath the town hall. It opened at 11 a.m. for lunch and I was to head in just after the doors opened.
I ordered the Seemanns Labskaus, which is a Bremen-style corned beef with mashed potatoes and beetroot, a fried egg, pickled herring and fresh gherkins. The waiter seemed surprised that I ordered it, and afterward I realized it was simply because it was such a heavy dish for lunch and so.much.food! It was delicious but I barely made a dent in each part of it.
After all of the food I was ready to do some more walking and work off my lunch. I began at the nearby Bremen Town Musicians statue.
I remembered hearing the Brothers Grimm story before but didn’t realize the animals were headed to Bremen. It was fun hearing the tale again and tons of people were taking pictures of the statue.
I headed back across the square and found the Bottcherstrasse, which is a narrow alley off one corner of the square filled with statues, shops and cafes. There were signs about an iPhone app that offers a guided tour of the alley, but I didn’t have reception or an iPhone so I made the most of looking around.
The alley ends at the Weser River where there’s a promenade all along the bank. I walked along the water for a while, admiring the boats and people watching.
A little ways along the promenade I was able to climb some stairs and enter the Schnoor Viertel, which is an area of very distinctive 15th and 16th century houses and shops.
The alleys are so narrow and tiny that it’s difficult to really see all of the buildings at any one time, which also makes navigating a challenge– it’s hard to tell which alley you’re heading down!
I wandered around and stopped in several shops, eventually making two purchases. First I bought a Christmas ornament featuring the Bremen musicians for my travel tree. It’s the same style as my other travel ornaments and something I know will remind me of my day in Bremen.
The second purchase was very important to me–my first German Christmas pyramid, which I have been wanting since I was young.
My parents have a beautiful three story one they set up each Christmas, and when Brian and I first went to Germany together for a nearly three week trip around New Years, we had Christmas money to help us buy one. Unfortunately we didn’t really see any that trip, and those we did see weren’t great quality.
This trip I found one that’s perfect– it features a woodland scene with forest animals and is something I can set out year-round for us to enjoy.
I was starting to wind down after my time exploring the Schnoor district. I headed back to the main square where the wind was picking up and it was getting cloudy.
It was an incredible day in Bremen, but given my hour-long train ride back to Hamburg I was ready to wrap things up and head back toward the station.
Along the way I decided to make one last detour by the wind mill and stopped for a late afternoon cappuccino. It was busy but the outside seating was empty so despite the wind I sat outside and enjoyed my last moment in Bremen.
It’s a beautiful city and perfect for a solo trip or a day-trip from Hamburg.