Spring blossoms and stirring breezes
When spring arrives in Bremen, people love to stroll in the city's parks and along the banks of the Weser
The first rays of spring sunshine tempt people out of doors, a light breeze is blowing, the buds on the trees begin to blossom and the gardens are filled with the scent of flowers. When spring arrives in Bremen, people love to stroll along the Schlachte Embankment towards Überseestadt and through Rhododendron Park or enjoy the many events taking place at this time of year, such as the Osterwiese spring fair and the Vegesack harbour festival.
When you see little painted eggs hanging from tree branches in the gardens, then you know that Easter is fast approaching and the Osterwiese spring fair is about to begin. The opening firework display drives away the winter and heralds the arrival of spring. You can also savour schmalzkuchen doughnuts, candy floss and other delicious treats, ride the big wheel and the wild mouse, drive bumper cars and win prizes.
The Osterwiese spring fair might be a colourful affair, but Bremen prides itself on being green. That is not a reference to politics, nor the colours of Werder Bremen football club or the Beck's brewery, but to the sprawling green spaces, parks and gardens you find in the city. Here, you can lose yourself in a sea of blooms in every shade from brilliant white to bright yellow, from fiery red to vivid violet. In May especially, horticultural enthusiasts can look forward to a riot of colour at Rhododendron Park, as this is the peak flowering time for around 10,000 rhododendrons and azaleas. The park's star attraction, the rhododendron, is clearly equally at home in Bremen as it is in the Himalayas or in the tropical jungle.
At the heart of Rhododendron Park is botanika, Bremen's 'green science centre', which takes you on a journey of discovery to the Far East embracing Borneo, the Himalayas and a Japanese Garden. The greenhouses whisk you away to distant lands and feature hands-on experiments for you to learn by doing.
For a taste of Bremen's maritime charm, the Schlachte Embankment is a good place to start. You can take a trip on the water or simply watch the ships passing by, go for a stroll or while away the hours eating, drinking, celebrating and enjoying life. The pleasure boats offer a varied programme including a 'Captain's Dinner', an entertaining theatre evening or music concert on board, and leisurely tours to Bremerhaven or further inland on the Wümme or Lesum rivers.
It is not only tourists who flock to the Schlachte Embankment in droves from early May to the last weekend in September. The area is popular with locals too – many come for the quayside market on the banks of the Weser. Artisans display their handcrafted items, market criers engage in witty banter from behind their fully laden stalls, live music plays in the background, and the Bremen restaurants and cafés serve traditional north German specialities as well as some exotic dishes for the market-goers to sample.
Riverboats of all sizes operate on the Weser. A trip downriver will take you to Überseestadt, Bremen's newest and most modern district. You can also walk to it along the river: the extended embankment takes you through St. Stephen's district to Bremen's former docklands with their big ships and little steamboats. The area has retained its charm to this day. The renovated warehouses, and also many of the striking modern buildings, are now art, culture and entertainment venues, restaurants, offices and apartments.
In the chic cocktail bars of the Überseestadt district, you can sip a Singapore sling or sea breeze, names as exotic as the people who frequented the docks in earlier times. The Speicher XI Harbour Museum brings the past to life with stories of seafaring and restless spirits, new beginnings and hope. Situated beside a harbour basin, the museum focuses on the past 120 years of Bremen's port and sheds light on historical events and personal recollections. At this interactive museum, you can smell and touch samples of goods, hoist up sacks and load them onto ships, tie knots and have a go at Morse code.
Further downriver in the northern district of Vegesack, Bremen's seafaring traditions are kept very much alive. Many large and small boats are moored along the 1.8km Maritime Mile and create an impressive panorama. One of them is the Schulschiff Deutschland, Germany's last remaining fully-rigged ship still in its original condition. Strolls beside the water, taking in the sights and sounds of the harbour, are accompanied by the cry of seagulls wheeling overhead.
In early June, during the Vegesack Harbour Festival, the area comes alive with the sounds of rock, pop, soul, blues, jazz, country music and sea shanties. While you listen, you can enjoy a fish roll or an ice cream, sip a coffee or a glass of prosecco, or browse for jewellery, hand-made crafts and bric-à-brac. There are four different stages where groups and solo artists perform. You can take free trips on the Lesum and Weser rivers on historical boats from the Vegesack museum harbour. There is also a 'cutter rowing' competition that features both men and women at the oars.
A lively, colourful festival with a great atmosphere. But just imagine for a moment blissful silence, broken only by the croak of a frog or the chirping of crickets on the riverbank. That is what you can expect on a peat barge tour through marshes and wetlands that were inaccessible in earlier times. The tour starts at the Torfhafen (or peat harbour) near the main train station – where the peat, once the main source of income for the local settlers, used to be brought. Today, visitors depart from this very spot in a simple barge on the peat canal and tour the countryside between Bremen and the Devil's Moor. The trip includes fascinating facts about the lives of the barge skippers and the colonisation of the region. If you're in Bremen on a romantic break, however, you might prefer a dreamy lantern-lit boat ride...