Day 1 – Malmö to Bremen

With the car packed and ready, it was off at 9 am on the 468 km leg to Bremen. passing through Sweden, Denmark to Germany while crossing the 16 km Öresund bridge from Sweden to Denmark and a 1 hour ferry trip between Denmark and Germany.  It took about 2 hours to reach the ferry so it was a perfect chance to take a break and stretch the legs on the ferry crossing. Once on German soil it was onto the Autobahns. Set the cruise control to 140 kph and barrel along as the countryside flashes by. Cruising along at 140 kph I was definitely not in the fast lane. Thought I would leave that to the super cars who flashed by at regular intervals as though I was standing still. However, we were all forced down to a modest speed of 60 kph as we negotiated the myriad of roadworks surrounding Hamburg.

I duly arrived in Bremen around 3 pm to bright sunshine and a temperature of around 18 degrees. A distinct contrast to the 7 degrees I left in Malmö. After checking into the Hotel Stadt Bremen Garni it was out into the sunshine and enjoy a chance to see this old hanseatic (meaning: a medieval merchant guild or trade association) city from the 1300s. It is an inland port located on the Weser River 65 km from the coast hence why it was popular as a trade centre in the Hanseatic guild.

First stop was the town square with its famed Ratshaus (town hall) from the 1600s; its St. Petri Dom (St Peter’s cathedral) from the 1200s; and Bremen’s Roland. Now Bremen’s Roland is a famed statue of liberty from the 1400s. There are Roland statues in many German towns and cities, symbolising freedom and market rights but this is the largest.

From the city square it was a short walk up to Bremen’s oldest district, the Schnoor quarter, with its maze of lanes filled with tiny little 15th and 16th century houses & shops.  The name of the area may allude to the fact that the houses are lined up like pearls on a string (schnoor meaning string or rope in German).

From there I went of in search of Bremen’s famous town musicians – a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster.  An unlikely musical combination I know but it refers to the fairy tale by the Grimm brothers about 4 animals who were getting old and who ran away to Bremen to be musicians and avoid being put down by their masters. I remember reading this one in a book of the Grimm Brothers fairy tales that Mum had won in a Plunket raffle back in the 60s and which I still think is circulating in the family with the grandchildren.

The gist of the story is they ran off together. In the night they arrived at a little house looking for shelter but it was full of robbers.  They decided to chase the robbers off so they could sleep there the night. The donkey put his front hooves on the window ledge, the dog jumped on the donkey’s back, the cat climbed on the dog and the rooster flew up and sat on the cat’s head. They began to play their music: the donkey brayed, the dog barked, the cat meowed and the cock crew. Then they all fell through the window into the room, shattering the glass as they went. The robbers got such a fright at the terrible noise, and thinking it was a ghost, fled into the woods. With the robbers gone the 4 friends settled down for the night. Now the robbers seeing the house all quiet and in darkness suspected the ghost had gone, so the leader sent one of the robbers to check it out. He went inside but unfortunately for him he woke the animals. The cat spat and scratched his face, the dog bit him on the leg, the donkey kicked him as he went past and the rooster screeched at the top of his head. The robber fled back to his group and told the gang the house was inhabited by a witch who spat on him and scratched his face with her long fingers; and by the door there was a man who stabbed his leg; and in the farmyard there is a black monster which attacked him with a wooden club; and on the roof there is a judge who called out “bring the scoundrel to me”.  From that time on the robbers did not dare go near the house but the four friends liked it so much that they didn’t want to leave, and they all lived happily ever after.

And here they are immortalised as a bronze statue by the city hall.

After patting the animals I headed on down through Böttcherstrasse towards the river to enjoy a beer in the setting sun at one of the many restaurants & bars lining the river bank. Along the way I passed the famed carillon in consisting of 30 Meissen porcelain bells which play a mixture of sea shanties and traditional folk songs to the visitors amusement. Once ensconced at a local bar it was time for some food and a good German beer in the setting sun before heading back to the hotel to get some shut eye before tomorrow next leg of the journey to Ypres.

The Wesser River bank

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