Bremerhaven Bike It - fish ’n ships
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A city like Bremerhaven had to be invented first! Originally built as a seaport offshoot of its big sister, Bremen, Bremerhaven is now home to one of the world’s biggest container terminals. As a centre for science and research, the city is a leading light in marine and polar research, and its unique collection of museums attract people from all over the world. 200 years after it was first founded, Germany’s one and only city by the sea is constantly re-inventing itself! Coming from the main railway station, the tour starts at the Alter Hafen and takes in the Havenwelten museums before landing in the maritime economy of the 21st century.
1. The heart of Bremerhaven: the Old Harbour
From the 16th century onwards, silting of the River Weser threatened to cut Bremen off from its maritime trade. In 1872, the Hanseatic City bought land on the estuary with access to the sea. With the help of experts from Holland, a first harbour basin was dug by hand. With success: the newly-founded town of Bremerhaven soon proved to be a lifeline for Bremen’s economy. The new port developed rapidly into an El Dorado for shipowners and shipbuilders. Today, the historical harbour is used as a museum for oldtimers like the ‘Seute Deern’ or the ‘Wilhelm Bauer’ submarine. Right next door: the German Maritime Museum.
2. Full speed ahead! ‘Havenwelten’
The boom town of the 19th century quickly expanded, but the next century brought crisis: the Second World War left a wasteland of rubble, and from the late 1970s onwards the regional economy was exposed to deep structural changes. The people of Bremerhaven rose to the challenge, however. The German Emigration Center®, the ‘Zoo by the Sea’, ‘Klimahaus® Bremerhaven 8° Ost’, the German Maritime Museum, a shopping mall and Sail City gradually emerged to form what is now the ‘Havenwelten’ (‘Harbour Worlds’). The imposing hotel building with its viewing platform and the avant-garde architecture of the Klimahaus are symbols for the contemporary and successful city of Bremerhaven.
3. Bye bye, Bremerhaven – the gate to the world
Bremerhaven’s history is intimately linked to the waves of emigration in the 19th and 20th centuries. By 1974, more than seven million passengers had departed from Europe’s biggest emigration port to a new life in the New World. Steamships regularly heaved anchor for New York, Baltimore and New Orleans. In the German Emigration Center®, one can see, smell and hear what it was like on board during the crossing to America. The Columbus Quay was used for transatlantic steamships in those days as well. Today, cruise ships tie up alongside the ‘Quay of Tears’.
4. The tidal quay: the world’s longest!
Past lighthouses, locks and harbour basins, the tour continues straight ahead towards the ‘Stromkaje’: one of the most impressive container terminals in the world. Cyclists and other landlubbers are not allowed onto this tidal quay, unfortunately. However, a good overview can be had from the Container Viewing Tower. Ocean giants the size of a housing estate are loaded and unloaded here at breathtaking speed. A good place to recover from the sheer scale of such ships and their cargo is ‘Treffpunkt Kaiserhafen’ – otherwise known as the Last Pub Before New York.
5. Town, country, river: Geestemünde becomes Bremerhaven
Bremerhaven’s border used to be marked by the River Geeste. In 1847, Ernst August II, Crown Prince of Hanover, established the tiny port of Geestemünde on the other side of the river. Shipyards and fisheries soon flourished there. A memorial plaque on the Old Geeste Bridge is dedicated to Friedrich Busse, a fish trader who revolutionised the fisheries industry in 1885 with his ocean-going steamship ‘Sagitta’ and the refrigeration of fish using ice. In the 1920s and 1930s, Geestemünde, Lehe and Bremerhaven were amalgamated to form one city: Wesermünde. In 1947, Wesermünde changed its name back to Bremerhaven. But what about Sagitta? Lost since 1901.
6. Welcome to Fishtown: ‘Schaufenster Fischereihafen’
Buy North Sea shrimps direct from the cutter? Choose from a huge range of fresh fish delicacies? The ensemble around the former fish packing hall is heaven to fans of fish. Where auctioneers used to bellow at top speed to auction fish lots, the new heart of the old fisheries harbour is now the ‘Schaufenster Fischereihafen’ and its many restaurants, cafés and pubs, maritime shops, ‘sea fish cooking studio’ and the TiF (Theater im Fischereihafen). No wonder that fish fingers were invented not far from here more than 50 years ago!
7. The Fisheries Harbour: driving force for regional development
The Nordic street names in the industrial estate match the deep-frozen foods that are processed here. Around 400 different companies and research institutes are based in the Fisheries Harbour. The location offers ideals conditions for the offshore wind industry: Bremerhaven has many experts in the fields of offshore technology, a network of scientists and researchers, and a fresh breeze blowing at all times – perfect conditions for developing and testing offshore wind farms. The next opportunity to replenish some energy is just around the corner – you’ll find Bremerhaven’s smallest pub in a lighthouse, the ‘Brinkamahof’.
8. A journey back in time: the Historical Museum and the Wencke Dock
The route back to the city centre goes past the airport and along the water’s edge. On this bank of the River Geeste stands the Historical Museum, where visitors are taken back in time to the prehistory of the Elbe-Weser triangle. On the opposite bank, an important shipbuilding monument is attracting attention: Germany’s oldest dry dock, built in 1860, was restored to former glory in 2013. Its namesake, Friedrich Wilhelm Wencke, was one of the first shipyard owners to start a business here and to herald in the age of industrialised shipbuilding.
9. Art and science in the city centre
‘Karlsburg’ and ‘An der Karlstadt’ are street names that hark back to the 17th century and Swedish territorial claims. Today, they are the address of an art museum and the Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences. The first house for emigrants stood on the site of the latter from 1850 onwards. The building accommodated up to 2000 people waiting to embark. Almost back at the starting point of the tour, one is struck by another imposing piece of architecture: the highly renowned Alfred Wegener Institute for Marine and Polar Research Almost everybody is familiar with the best-known of its research ships, the ‘Polarstern’.