I’ll admit, I’m no petrol head. I’m just happy enough if my blue Ford gets me comfortably from A to B. A car’s looks aren’t important to me, let alone its history. And yet … even I find myself completely captivated by this attraction in Bremen.
I made my first trip to Schuppen Eins when a friend of mine came to visit. We primarily came for a bite to eat … but more about that later. My friend lives in Hamburg, and so I wanted to show her the Überseestadt (New Harbour District) while she was in the city. The Bremen Town Musicians would just be too obvious ;-)
Friends of mine had recommended a new Syrian restaurant in Schuppen Eins, so off we went in search of it. But as soon as we stepped through the glass doors into this vast building, all thoughts of food took a back seat. We were amazed by what we found inside.
Situated in the harbour basin of Bremen’s Europahafen, Schuppen Eins was built in 1959 as a double-storey cargo transshipment facility (or Stückgutumschlagschuppen in German, a bit of a tongue-twister!), constructed around a skeleton of reinforced concrete. In contrast to a storehouse, where goods were stored away for long periods, Schuppen Eins was a warehouse and short-term unloading and loading point for all manner of goods. It was one of the most striking buildings to emerge from the post-war reconstruction of Bremen’s ports. Once complete, it was by far the largest port warehouse in Bremen.
For more than three decades, Schuppen Eins was used solely as a transshipment point for unloading general cargo for the port. In 1993, they began to store fruit in here, and in 1999/2000, the company Dittmeyer repurposed the building as a fruit juice bottling plant.
In 2007, the building was bought by two investors, who carried out extensive renovations and building works on the site. The part of the building that stands downriver was transformed over the course of four years to become the new-look Schuppen Eins, a centre for automotive heritage and motoring.
A 150-metre boulevard welcomes visitors to the new classic car centre housed inside the old warehouse. More than sixty vehicles from bygone decades line the passageway, greeting car enthusiasts and dazzling laypersons like me. Whether it’s the gleaming Borgward Isabella, the cute Fiat 500 or the cult-classic VW Campervan, every vehicle has its own story to tell.
The boulevard is also lined with glass-fronted workshops that demonstrate just how much hard work goes into keeping these prized motors in top condition. Vintage car owners come here not only to get their cars spruced up, but also to buy special accessories, including parts, clothing or gift items.
But you don’t have to bring your own classic car. Fancy going for a spin in a Ford Taunus, a right-hand drive Jaguar or a Mercedes Pagoda? These, and many other models, are available for hire from Schuppen Eins. Or you could opt for a Bentley complete with chauffeur, if that’s more your style.
On the first Saturday of the month from April to October, vintage car owners descend on Schuppen Eins to display their sports cars and beloved vehicles, to talk shop about restoration work and to seek inspiration. Visitors are always welcome too.
And that’s not all: there’s always something going on in the old – but new – quayside warehouse. Temporary exhibitions on wide-ranging subjects often occupy the lobby. Running until November, for instance, is an exhibition by the Chamber of Architects, which explores how buildings are repurposed. How fitting that it should take place inside one of Bremen’s finest conversion projects. The events calendar also includes fashion shows, model car fairs, and on St Nicholas’ Day on 6 December, there’s a festive family concert with the Bremen Philharmonic Orchestra.
And now, back to the subject of food. After a long walk down the boulevard (a great tip for a rainy day activity), our thoughts returned to our meal out. Al Dar is situated at the entrance to Schuppen Eins and is Germany’s biggest Syrian restaurant. But that doesn’t mean it has the feel of an aircraft hangar. Far from it. It exudes a warm and friendly atmosphere, and the decor is very unusual, cleverly combining Middle Eastern flair with the unfinished concrete of the erstwhile industrial surroundings. The food just so happens to be delicious too … Try the lamb and pine nuts lightly roasted in olive oil and served on a bed of chickpea purée with freshly squeezed lemon juice and tahini. The flavours of the vegetarian (or vegan) mezze platter will whisk you away to distant shores: tabbouleh, olive salad, falafel, houmous, muhammara, labneh, and sambusik pastries filled with cheese or spinach. And, to finish, Syrian rosewater pudding and homemade fig ice cream. Delicious!
This extensive display of car heritage is as integral to Bremen as the three-pointed star is to a Mercedes bonnet. After all, Bremen is an automotive city. The city built its first car back in 1903, and the story then continued with production for local car makers Borgward. Today, the huge Mercedes-Benz factory in Bremen is a hub for the automotive industry. It is the city’s biggest employer and produces 300,000 cars every year.
If Schuppen Eins leaves you wanting more vintage cars and automotive heritage, be sure to get a ticket to Bremen Classic Motor Show. Taking place in February in Bremen’s exhibition centre, it showcases masterpieces on two and four wheels. And Schuppen Eins will be displaying some of its favourite cars there too.
Click here to watch our film on Schuppen Eins.