Bremen Bike It - Cows, Knipp, Cult
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Blockland – a local recreation area with a cult dimension, just a few minutes from the city and best explored by bike. It’s a farming area, so more cows live here than people. For rare fauna and flora, this marshland is an important and protected habitat. For cyclists, inline skaters and people out for a walk, it is one of Bremen’s most delightful areas for an excursion. The tour kick offs from the main station. Once over the motorway, it’s time to leave the car behind and enjoy a cyclist’s paradise! The city … what city?… is quickly forgotten as the sight of a gorgeous, flat landscape with a unique history unfolds before one’s eyes.
1. Urban jungle with New York flair
The Bürgerpark in Bremen has evolved into what it is today as the result of a long process that began back in 1866, A parkland designed as an idealisation of nature, with watercourses, a great diversity of tree species and picturesque views, is balm for the soul of Bremen urbanites and visitors of every age. It is said that the design of this special Bremen park was also influenced by Central Park in New York. The municipal park, the ‘Stadtwald’, borders on the Bürgerpark and is rather untamed by comparison. Our recommendation: the adventure and nature trail is a fun way to learn more about local plants and animals.
2. Area of Innovation
Talking about knowledge – the drop tower, visible from afar, is a zero gravity simultator and the symbol of Bremen as a centre for science and research. The surrounding area is also home to the university, the Universum Science Centre and the Technology Park. This is where science and business create synergies with enormous productivity. Some quick facts and figures: 20,000 students, 500 high-tech companies, 20 research institutes and one drop tower.
3. ‘Wer nich will dieken, mut wieken’
‘He who doesn’t build dykes, loses ground’. This expansive meadowland should actually be flooded all the time. Since the Middle Ages, however, a sophisticated system of water engineering keeps people’s feet dry – most of the time, at least. Almost 900 years ago to the day, the area was granted to free settlers, but on one condition: that the colonists drain the land and build dykes. With ditches and sluices, they brought the tidal River Wümme and its ebbs and flows largely under control. They made the land cultivable and created a supply network. The many ponds in Blockland, sogenannte ‘Braken’ are present-day signs of former ‘breaches’ in the dykes.
4. Border river: the Kuhgraben
The name ‘Kuhgraben’ (‘Cow Ditch’) is probably derived from an old word for border. In the Middle Ages, the Kuhgraben was not only a drainage ditch, but also an important waterway leading almost to the town centre. Turf, an important fuel for centuries, was one of the many products transported on barges via the Kuhgraben. The Kuhgrabensee lake, hidden behind thick bushes, is a natural paradise, small but untouched. Flocks of different waterfowl that live here or pause during migration can be watched from an observation hut.
5. Knipp, Knipp, Hurray! – relaxation, sport and enjoying life the north German way
The gentle curves of the Wümme dyke are the heart and soul of Blockland. The gaggling of waterfowl is interrupted now and again by cocks crowing. Where turf barge captains used to stop to rest, a string of popular restaurants and cafés now invite day-trippers in for some traditional feasting in the beer garden, or for coffee and cake under apple trees. Canoeists and ‘Knipp’, a kind of white pudding speciality indigenous to Bremen, are as part and parcel of this area as yoga and organic ice-cream.
6. Beautiful views in the land of grasses
Time now to just stop talking and take in the view. To the North, one’s gaze falls on an idyllic little church nestling behind the trees. Since the 12th century, the church of St. Jürgen in the land of grasses, consecrated to Saint George, has withstood the floods from its vantage point on a mound. Looking in the other direction, one can enjoy the view of the ‘Alte Wettern’. The word ‘Wetterung’ originally meant a drainage ditch, but in this case, ‘Alte Wettern’ is the name given to an area of land.
7. Biotope Blockland
One of the great attractions of this meadowland is the extraordinary diversity of wildlife. Being a habitat for endangered bird species, for rare kinds of fish, amphibians and plant varieties, it is essential that special protection be given to Blockland. Bavendamm eco-farm, first documentary mention of which dates back to 1374, is a prime example of ecological farming today. Visitors have the opportunity to learn more about agriculture in Blockland, or to fortify themselves for the bike tour in the farm’s own café.
8. Ice Age in Bremen: the ‘Semkenfahrt’
The first signs of urban civilisation soon appear on the horizon, such as Bremen’s highest ‘mountain’: a refuse tip 50 metres high. The route past allotments and along the old turf barge waterways takes one out of Blockland. On frosty days, those who venture out here may be witnesses to a rather unusual phenomenon: the meadows along the Semkenfahrt, one of the main channels in Blockland, are turned into an ice rink three kilometres long. Thousands of people from Bremen don their ice skates and enjoy the thrill of skating on this specially flooded and frozen surface in Blockland.
9. Return to the city
The route back to the starting point takes you through the idyllic Bürgerpark. Some noteworthy architecture along the way includes the worldly Park Hotel and the ‘Meierei’ – a well-known restaurant where the bourgeois clientèle were mainly served milk, back in the days around 1900. The restaurant’s own cattle used to graze in the fields in front of the building.