History & heritage
The history of Bremen is anything but dry or dull. Over the years, a number of curious events have fundamentally changed the course of history in the Hanseatic city.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Bremen joined the Hanseatic League, an association representing the interests of northern European merchants, on 3 A ugust 1358. Upon joining, the city had to promise to accept and obey the League’s rules and resolutions. And Bremen’s identity is still inextricably linked with its Hanseatic heritage, as is reflected in its official name: the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.
When a ship carrying over 1,000 GIs pulled into Columbus quay in Bremerhaven on 1 O ctober 1958, it was barely possible to move for reporters and onlookers. And the reason? Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, was on board. The US superstar had been stationed in Europe for his military service, and his first steps on German soil were made in the so-called fishtown.
Bremen, together with Bremerhaven, forms the only federal state in Germany
consisting of two cities.
BREMEN ACROSS THE ATLANTIC
On 12 A pril 1928, a Junkers W33 aircraft named ‘Bremen’ became the first
to cross the Atlantic from east to west. It took around 36 hours for the plane to fly from Dublin to Greenly Island in Canada. One year later, the steamship ‘Bremen’, owned by the city’s Norddeutscher Lloyd line, received the Blue Ribbon for achieving the fastest transatlantic crossing.
A FIRST FOR BREMEN
ARD, Germany’s very first public-service broadcaster, was founded on 10 June 1950 in Bremen. Known as ‘The First’, the channel is still going strong today and provides an alternative to privately owned and commercially financed TV stations.
SALVATION IN THE SCHNOOR
The Birgitten Convent of Bremen, located in the historical Schnoor quarter, was founded in 2002 by the Roman Catholic Order of the Most Holy Saviour. It was the first of its kind to be established in the city since the Middle Ages.
LANDING ON FIRM GROUND
Bremen Airport, which opened in 1913, had a paved runway before any other
airport in Germany. The first international aircraft took to the skies from
Bremen as long ago as 1920.
The first man-made harbour in Europe was built in 1618 in Bremen-Vegesack in the north of the city. This was necessary because the Weser river was increasingly silting up as it flowed through the old quarter, which meant that the bigger merchant vessels could no longer dock there.
600 YEARS OF WORLD HERITAGE
The Gothic town hall from 1405 and the stone Roland statue can be found on the market square, the historical heart of the city, and are Bremen’s most famous landmarks. In 2004, the ensemble gained UNESCO World Heritage status.
FIRST ON THE MOON AND FIRST IN BREMEN
The USA opened its first consulate general in Europe in 1794 in Bremen. Since the American War of Independence came to an end in 1783, our Hanseatic city has maintained close trade relations with the United States.
THIRD TIME LUCKY
There is a local saying in the city suggesting that success comes for people of Bremen at the third attempt. Its origins lie in the history of the city, which in the Middle Ages had its own particular rules of law, for example three courts of appeal, three witnesses for conclusive evidence and three proclamations for establishing legal validity. The people of Bremen were also granted three special rights by the Holy Roman Emperor – to wear gold and furs if they were councillors, to have their own jurisdiction and to freely engage in shipping on the Weser river.
GUARDIAN OF THE CITY
The Roland began its journey around Europe as a symbol of liberty from Bremen. It represents emancipation from the church and the independence of a city’s people. There are approximately 30 R oland statues around the world – from New York to Brazil, from Croatia to Latvia. And during the French occupation of Bremen, Napoleon was so enamoured by the city’s Roland that he made plans to dismantle the statue and have it rebuilt at the Louvre in Paris.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
The name Bremen derives from the Old Saxon word bremo, which roughly
translates as ‘on the edge’, a reference to the city’s location along the
Weser river dunes.
Bremen aviation pioneer Henrich Focke is regarded as the father of rotary
flight. His FW-61 was the world’s first fully operational helicopter. The prototype’s maiden flight took place on 26 June 1936. A wind tunnel
for aerodynamic and stability tests, which was built by Focke in
1960, stands today on Emil-Waldmann-Strasse and can be visited on
the first Sunday of each month.
TRAILBLAZER IN CONTAINER SHIPPING
On 6 M ay 1966, the US ship Fairland set down its first containers on a German quay in Bremen’s overseas docks. These iconic steel boxes are now the standard bearer for sea cargo. Bremen was thus the first German seaport to engage in container transhipment.
The Roter Sand lighthouse from 1885 is the world’s oldest offshore structure. It is named after the shallow banks of red sand on which it stands. Nowadays, the tower at the mouth of the Weser near Bremerhaven is a listed site of historical interest and visitors have been able to stay overnight there since 1999.
FULL STEAM AHEAD
Between 1817 and 1833, Germany’s first steamship made the journey between Bremen and the small town of Brake in Lower Saxony. It was called ‘Die Weser’.
The Washington paddle steamer owned by the Ocean Steam Navigation Company made its maiden voyage between New York and Bremerhaven in 1847, opening a regular transatlantic service for mail and passengers.