Basic Text: Surprising Bremen
From worlds of knowledge to technology parks
'Well, I never knew that!' is a phrase often uttered by people visiting the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen for the first time. The fairytale city of Bremen is traditionally known for its history and its cosmopolitan outlook. But Bremen is also the tenth-largest city in Germany, a European centre for aerospace, a city of science and home to the Überseestadt district, one of the largest urban development projects in Europe. Bremen, a destination full of surprises.
Innovation by tradition – breaking new ground has always been Bremen's forte. This is a place where history is lived and the future is shaped; where Hanseatic heritage, tradition, cutting-edge technology, science and space travel come together in perfect harmony. Whether it's worlds of discovery, science centres, university research or pioneering technologies, Bremen has initiated countless projects which prove that science is anything but dry and boring.
"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I'll remember. Involve me and I'll understand." Ancient wisdom from the Chinese philosopher Confucius, which Bremen has turned into reality with museums that provide information in an entertaining way and discovery centres that are more than just a fun day out. For the 'knowledge worlds' in Bremen, the magic is in the mix – a wealth of information that is well explained and clearly presented. From Universum Bremen to the Ethnological Museum and the botanika – the various worlds of knowledge in Bremen really know how to bring their subjects to life.
Is it a silver whale or a giant mussel? The exterior of the Science Center fires the imagination before you even step inside. There was only this building when Universum Bremen opened in September 2000 but now it is part of a larger discovery park.
The Science Center alone has 250 hands-on installations where people can experiment and learn by doing. The EntdeckerPark, Germany's first open-air science adventure park, is themed on movement and is particularly popular with children, who can defy gravity at the 'water screw' or discover what it feels like to be a yo-yo. Inside the Science Center, visitors of all ages can go on a journey of discovery themed on mankind, Planet Earth and the cosmos. They will need to engage all their senses to find out what happened after the Big Bang, how a tornado is formed and which languages are spoken around the world. The Universum's SchauBox stages new exhibitions every year, exploring a remarkable range of subjects. It's always worth a visit, whether the focus is on the mouthwatering world of chocolate or the creativity of nature with its rich diversity of colours, shapes and sizes. More than three million people have passed through the Universum's doors since it opened in 2000, making it one of the most successful science centres in Europe.
At the heart of the beautiful scenery in Bremen's famous Rhododendron Park lies botanika, the green science centre. In an area covering more than 4,000 square metres, visitors get a close-up look at the captivating world of the rhododendron, from roots to blooms. In the discovery centre, the first part of the gardens, all the senses are stimulated: interactive experiments and multimedia stations provide a fascinating tour of Asia, revealing some of the diverse sounds and smells that nature has to offer.
All through the year, visitors can take an exciting and informative expedition through the world of plants in the botanika hothouses and admire exotic shrubs in their original form. Rhododendrons from Nepal, Tibet, Yunnan and Burma, along with statues obtained from these south-east Asian regions, accompany the journey through the Himalayas and Borneo. The thundering waterfall and a giant Buddha statue form a splendidly authentic backdrop. Sacred poles from indigenous Asian tribes, prayer wheels and a Chinese tea pavilion are just a few of the other features that reveal a new and unfamiliar world with so much to discover.
Africa and Asia are in close quarters at Bremen Ethnological Museum. Opened in 1896 the museum brings together under one roof a unique mix of commercial, ethnological and natural history with its collection comprising 1.1 million exhibits. Loving attention to detail and the location of the pieces in this grand old building with its 17-metre-high atrium turn a museum visit into an experience to remember. Since 1999 the Übermaxx display rooms have housed treasures from the museum archives. This part of the museum is connected to the main building by a bridge. So if it's raining outside you can move between collections without getting wet.
But Bremen does not just impart scientific knowledge, it also puts it into practice. Bremen has been making its mark on the world of science for more than 100 years and can justifiably call itself a city of aerospace expertise. From shipbuilding and aircraft construction to space labs and rocket stages, Bremen has cemented its reputation as a home of high-tech industry. The Airbus Defence & Space facility in Bremen offers an insight into the latest research and development for the space programme. It is a working site too: visitors can watch parts being put together for the Ariane 5 rockets and the Automated Transfer Vehicle or ATV. On the Bremer Touristik-Zentrale (BTZ) space tour, you get to see scientists at work and discover how technicians on the ground stay in touch with colleagues in space.
The Fallturm drop tower at the Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) also reaches lofty heights: an impressive 146 metres tall, it towers above Bremen University. A guided tour of the tower reveals what is hidden inside. Here it is possible to create on Earth what was only possible before by a trip into space or a parabolic flight: zero gravity. A presentation with a film screening and some short experiments demonstrate how gravity affects us on a day-to-day basis. The tour also visits the integration hall, where experiments on weightlessness are put together, and the control centre where the experiments are monitored.
As a frontrunner in the integration of science and business, Bremen was named Germany's first 'City of Science' in 2005. This led to the opening of the House of Science, which offers exciting insights into the work of universities and institutes. Exhibitions, lectures and panel discussions put the public in touch with topical issues relating to science and research. Schoolchildren and teachers have the opportunity to enter into dialogue with the scientists. Every Saturday at 11am there is a science matinee. The Musik um 6 events and the Forum Wissenschaft und Wirtschaft invite members of the creative scene and the world of business respectively to interact with the science community.
Bremen is also home to world-famous brands, including the German headquarters of the multinational brewer AB InBev, which counts Beck's beer among its products. Other companies that are based in the city include Mondelez (formerly Kraft Foods) – the makers of Milka chocolate and Jacobs coffee – and Mercedes-Benz. A guided tour of the Mercedes-Benz plant reveals how these prestigious vehicles are made and what makes the brand so special. It provides an opportunity to look behind the scenes at one of the most modern automotive factories in the world and witness the genesis of the SL, SLC, C-Class, E-Class Coupé and the all-terrain GLK. It's even possible to get behind the wheel of a GLC at The Rock, Mercedes-Benz's all-action off-road training track.
Automotive heritage comes under the spotlight at Schuppen Eins, a classic car and motoring centre in Bremen's Überseestadt district. People even live here: twenty luxury apartments with views of the Europahafen can be found on the first floor of this historical brick building – offering direct vehicular access via a car lift. On the ground floor of the two-storey former warehouse, the 150-metre boulevard is home to stylish retailers, restaurants and companies that restore, repair, recondition and sell vintage vehicles and modern classics. Their glass-fronted workshops allow people to watch them at work and observe their day-to-day business.
The transformation taking place in the Überseestadt district in the west of Bremen has been going on for almost 13 years. The regeneration of former docklands has played a huge role in urban planning over the past few decades. Major European cities such as Rotterdam and London have already shown how disused docklands can be given a new lease of life. The Bremen Überseestadt project joins the ranks of other outstanding European dockland regeneration schemes and is one of the largest urban development projects in Europe. Bremen's economic development agency is driving forward development on the site, which is one kilometre wide and 3.5 kilometres long, and Bremen City Council has invested approximately €350 million into the Überseestadt fund. It is estimated that additional private investment in the site will run to around €1 billion.
The dockland renaissance started with the modernisation of red-brick warehouses such as Speicher I and Speicher XI, which today offer an innovative mix of art, culture and office space. Numerous creative companies have moved into Speicher I, while historical Speicher XI can count among its tenants the University of the Arts, the dockland museum, various businesses within the service industry and the Überseestadt information centre. A host of new construction projects, such as attractive residential buildings and the Porthäuser offices overlooking the Europahafen, underline the appeal of the Überseestadt district. The next phase is the addition of leisure attractions. The GOP Variety Theatre opened in 2013 next to the new Steigenberger Hotel. This will ensure a steadily increasing flow of customers to restaurants that have already opened, such as Alte Feuerwache or Restaurant Port in Speicher XI.
For more information on Bremen and its many attractions, call the BTZ information hotline on +49 (0)421 30 800 10 or visit our website at www.bremen-tourism.de.