Bremen: City of close links

What visitors to the city will confirm: anyone who travels to another city as a tourist, often spends a lot of time on foot. This is the best way to explore a new environment. But where you need to do a half marathon in other cities to see the sights, Bremen is a pleasant relief. Lots of things can be reached within a short period on a relaxed walk through the city centre.

A sunny Thursday afternoon. Spring is in the starting blocks. I walk through the Wallanlagen to the start of my walk in the city centre. Today my plan is to walk the so-called ‘studs route’. For around 1.5 kilometres, about 2000 studs the size of pennies are embedded in the pavement to lead tourists and locals alike to the most important sights of the city centre.

I get to the starting point at the beginning of the Obernstraße and the corner of the Unser Lieben Frauen cemetery. Where a cosmetics shop is located now, was the tourist information office in the past. This is now located in the Böttcherstraße. Nevertheless, I start at the old site because the audio-guide I downloaded for free from the internet also starts here.

Audioguide in den Ohren und Blick immer schön auf den Boden, um auf der Route zu bleiben.

Listen to the audio guide and keep your eyes on the ground to stay on the route.

With information in your ears and studs beneath your feet

Schon etliche Male gesehen, und doch nicht wahrgenommen: Die Nägel im Boden, die einen an so wichtige Punkte der Stadt geleiten.

Already seen countless times, but never noticed: the studs in the ground which lead you to such important points of the city.

So I put my headphones on and start the first track. Two voices welcome me and point me in the direction of the first location. Doing as I am told, I cross the tram tracks and follow the shiny studs in the ground towards the Marktplatz. I am a bit surprised that I never really noticed the studs before. I can see each one at a distance of approximately 1 metre or less.

The best room in the house

The Marktplatz is now in front of me. Surrounded by Bremen’s central sights and the ‘drawing room’ of the city, as the locals call it. Here it is often lively, with business people, shoppers and visitors. The Rathaus, with its impressive façade, attracts just as many curious glances as the Bürgerschaft and the Schütting.

I listen to the audio tracks about the individual buildings one after the other. While I’m doing so, I let my gaze wander over the old and new building facades. Somehow this square always gives me a majestic feeling, which must mostly be to do with the age of some of the buildings. The Rathaus is over 600 years old, for example.

Bremens gute Stube: Wenn man den Audioguide auf den Ohren hat, hält man sich hier am längsten auf. Am Marktplatz bündeln sich natürlich die Sehenswürdigkeiten.

Bremen’s ‘drawing room’: if you are listening to the audio guide, you’ll stop the longest here. Naturally, the sights are clustered around the Marktplatz.

The Böttcherstraße Bottleneck

After I find out everything about the buildings on the Marktplatz, I am asked by the audio guide to go towards the south side, towards the Böttcherstraße. There are usually countless tourists streaming through the complex of brick-red buildings from the 1920s, not least to listen to the Glockenspiel in the middle of the narrow alley.

Auch aus Sicht der Nagel-Route ein wirklich schönes Pflaster diese Böttcherstraße.

Also, from the point of view offered by the studs route, lovely paving on the Böttcherstraße.

While I walk through the shady rows of houses, I hear something about the building of them all, about individual houses in the alley and about Robinson Crusoe. At the end of the alley, I emerge into bright sunlight, but I am requested to go immediately right down a staircase into an underpass. Here too, as on the stairs and through the entire Böttcherstraße, the light-reflective studs show me the way. At the end of the tunnel, which is also designed in red brick, I arrive at the Weser Promenade. Cyclists, joggers and strolling pedestrians criss-cross. Close to each bank along the walls, right and left, there are people sitting in the bright sunshine.

Life on the river

My audio guide tells me that I am now at the Martinianleger on the Schlachte. I am told why the Schlachte is called the Schlachte and that the Martinikirche church, which looms on the right-hand side, with a view of the Weser, has given its name to the quayside where I am standing.

Am Weserufer kann man verschnaufen, in der Sonne sitzen, etwas über die Schlachte und die Martinikirche lernen und den Bremerinnen und Bremern beim Leben am Fluss zuschauen.

On the bank of the Weser, you can take a break, sit in the sun, learn something about the Schlachte and the Martinikirche, and watch the locals living by the river.

Then the guide leads me downriver, under the Wilhelm-Kaisen bridge, and past the theatre ship to the next underpass.

Studs route on historic cobbles

Before I realise, I am back on the other side of the and walking up the stairs out of the tunnel, then turning into the Schnoor district after a few metres. It seems to be a quiet day today for the tourist hotspot. I wander straight into one of the narrowest streets in the city, the Wüstestätte. Past the History House and Wedding House and at the other end, I enter the small Schnoor street, where I turn to the left. Like every time I walk through the historic district, I am amazed and delighted by the beautiful old facades and cosy atmosphere.

Durch schmale Gassen, auf historischen Wegen: Im Schnoor-Viertel sind auch die Nägelköpfe etwas enger gesteckt.

Through narrow streets, following in historic footsteps: the studs are also slightly closer together in the Schnoor district.

At the end of the Schnoor district, I walk up a brick staircase at the foot of the St. Johann church and follow the studs to the right. I cross the Domsheide, a traffic junction, where many tram and bus lines run. I briefly lose sight of the studs with all the rails and pavements, but then I find my way once more, and I am soon very close to the Dom, the cathedral.

While I listen to the audio guide, I let my gaze wander over the magnificent entrance portal of the cathedral and then tilt my head upwards to see the tops of the 98-metre high towers. This building is steeped in 1,200 years of history, on the so-called Bremen dune, a natural area of high ground on the Weser.

Ab und zu auch mal nach links und rechts schauen, ob eine Bahn kreuzt. Ansonsten immer schön den Nägeln folgen.

Also, I look left and right occasionally to check whether a tram is coming. Otherwise, I just keep following the studs.

Finally, I walk along the west side of the building, in front of the Rathaus. Here, of course, I also visit Bremen’s most famous sight: the Musicians of Bremen.

By hugging the two front legs of the donkey, I quickly pick up a portion of luck. At this point, the circuit of the studded route is completed, after around 1.5 hours. I am happy to note that such an audio-guided tour also provides plenty of new ideas for locals and makes a good accompaniment for a walk. From now on, I will definitely notice the shiny studs in the ground.

Schnell noch dem Esel die Vorderbeine umfasst und über die Schnauze gestreichelt - das bringt ordentlich Glück.

A quick hug of the donkey’s front legs and a stroke on the muzzle – bring plenty of luck.

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