Sedate picnics, shanty songs and making a splash
In summer, Bremen hosts a wide range of open-air events
The rays of the midday sun shimmer on the windows of the magnificent Renaissance town hall, the mighty Roland statue stands guard over the people below, and the Bremen Town Musicians outside the town hall remind us of fairytale adventures: visitors and locals alike enjoy sitting under a parasol on the market square, sipping a coffee and soaking up the atmosphere.
Plays, open-air concerts, maritime festivals, cultural events, street circus and sport: a visit to Bremen in the summer is anything but boring. Summer in Lesmona, for example, is a musical highlight in Burglesum in the north of the city, and usually takes place in early July. Hordes of music fans, prepared for all weathers, lovingly pack their picnic baskets and flock to Knoops Park, where the German Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and celebrated soloists put on musical performances of the highest calibre. In the intervals, the audience can enjoy wonderful views of the river Lesum, which makes this outdoor concert and picnic experience all the more delightful.
The Breminale at the Weserwiesen is a free, open-air event in early July. From a one-man band to bands known all over Germany, the various acts perform in red-and-white striped marquees, on boats and on the Weser beach. There is also plenty to enjoy away from the stage: street performers showing off their skills, actors delighting the crowd, stallholders selling their wares, and an impressive range of food and drink stalls. The Breminale is a cultural experience for young and old, with a special children's area offering a host of exciting activities.
In July, a hundred red rubber rings are thrown into the river Weser. It might sound like child's play, but the Haake-Beck Rubber Ring Regatta is a challenge only for the hardiest of competitors and a real test of stamina and speed. One hundred pairs have to propel themselves 1.6 kilometres upriver on a rubber ring until they reach the finishing point at Café Sand opposite the Osterdeich. No aids are allowed, the participants have to paddle using only their arms and legs. The spectators and fan clubs provide plenty of encouragement, of course, to ensure that their favourites reach the finishing line in the shortest possible time.
But before the starting gun is fired for the regatta, another fun event takes place. At the Haake-Beck Rubber Ring Run, competitors try to walk or run across the 100 rubber rings spanning the river Weser. Concentration and balance don't go unrewarded, for there is a litre of Haake-Beck beer for every rubber ring that is successfully crossed. Live performances featuring star names generate a great atmosphere in the evenings, and the firework display over the river Weser makes this event a real cracker.
The La Strada street circus festival in August is a colourful and lively affair, showcasing the captivating and subtle art of circus entertainment. The squares around the town hall, the Roland statue and the Bremen Town Musicians statue are transformed into a giant circus ring. Street performers from all over the world come to Bremen and entertain and enthral their audiences with spellbinding tricks and routines. With its fantastic line-up of acrobats and artistes, dancers and dreamers, mime artists and multi-talented performers, this summer open-air spectacle is one of the largest and most lavish of its kind and is popular outside Germany as well.
Another August event is the annual Maritime Festival. This musical extravaganza in Vegesack in northern Bremen features an eclectic mix of cajun, folk, rock and classical music, chansons and sea shanties. Bands, musicians and choirs from all over the world perform songs and ballads about home shores and far-away lands. This annual festival offers a varied programme of entertainment to accompany the live music, and attracts thousands of visitors every year. It's now one of the leading festivals of its kind. Thanks to the great atmosphere and exceptional location, word of the event has spread throughout Europe and reached as far as Australia, New Zealand and the USA.
But if you're looking for peace and quiet, head for the Bürgerpark, the 'green oasis' at the heart of the city. The English-style landscaped park is popular with joggers, and also cyclists who can stop in the beer gardens for well-earned refreshments. There is an extensive network of walking paths that take you past pretty natural features, children's play areas, an animal enclosure and a mini-golf course. You can relax on any number of sunbathing lawns or explore the area in a rowing boat on the park's waterways.
Much ado about nothing? Certainly not! Shakespeare in the Park is all about passion, jealousy, romance and betrayal. In August, plays by England's greatest playwright are performed before captivated audiences in the Bürgerpark. It is the perfect location for Shakespearean theatre – the playwright was known to be a man of the people who liked to be close to his audiences, and at the original Globe Theatre in London, which was built by Shakespeare's playing company, his plays used to be performed under open skies.
On one late-August evening, visitors flock to the beautifully lit market square to enjoy the warm summer temperatures with a glass of wine from the Bremen Ratskeller. Eine große Nachtmusik is the motto for the evening, which marks the start of the Bremen Music Festival. This annual event has been running for 20 years and is a real highlight for fans of jazz and classical music. For around three weeks in late summer, internationally acclaimed musicians perform in this region between the Ems, Weser and Elbe rivers. The festival presents ambitious programmes which often include rarely performed pieces – for many, a truly unforgettable experience.