I've only been here for one day and already I kinda love this town. It's not outrageously huge, so one can walk it pretty easily. I spent last night and much of today wandering around down in the Altstadt ("Old Town") area, which includes the big marketplace area and all the old historical architecture. To give ya'll an idea of what I've been doing today, come along with me and I'll show you around!
Let's start off with the hotel where I'm staying:
It's called the Park Hotel and it is fan-freakin'-tastic. Designed to look like an old Baron's residence, it's the only 5 star hotel in town. The beds are incredibly firm, but for some reason I slept incredibly well on them. Perhaps I'm not as big a fan of the soft beds as I thought.
To get into downtown, I have to pretty much walk through the Bremen Central Station, or the Hauptbehnhof:
Honestly, I don't think this picture really does it justice. But hopefully this is set up so that when you click on it, you get the big version. Trust me, it's gorgeous. Also full of little newsstands and restaurants and whatnot.
Then, I crossed over the remnants of a moat that used to protect the north side of the city. Of course, there used to be walls there too, but I think they were taken down in order to facilitate the construction of windmills and parks, as there are examples of both all along the old moats. Unfortunately, the only picture of the windmill I got won't display right in blogger since I took it with the camera held sideways, but just tilt your screen or your head and you'll get the idea.
By then it was just a few blocks into the market center. The market is a large open area surrounded by buildings that are really quite old. Or, at least, they are supposed to appear old. Because big portions of Bremen were destroyed in WWII it's not unusual to find that buildings that appear really old were actually built in the 1950's. Here's an example of buildings that I think are actually old, that face the marketplace and are pretty representative of the architecture:
Just to the right of these buildings, on the north side of the square, is the old city hall or "Rathaus". It is gorgeous, built in three phases, first Gothic and then later a renaissance-style facade was added in the 1600's. It is simply beautiful, and totally worthy of clicking in order to see the full-size picture.
Located in front of the Rathaus (and visible in the above picture too) is the statue of Roland, the patron of Bremen. Legend has it that as long as the statue of Roland stays standing, Bremen will remain a free city. I'm not sure whether that's just superstition or a sign that Bremen has some sort of magical stone golem who will come to life if the city is threatened and smite Bremen's enemies with his pointy knees. They must be some sort of weapon, I don't know why they would be pointy otherwise.
Also in the square, just east of the Rathaus, is St. Peter's Cathedral. The steeples are nearly 300 feet tall, it's got real medieval mummies inside, and local legend says that local men who reach 30 before getting married have to sweep the steps of this cathedral until a local girl gives them a kiss to free them from their task. Good thing I came when I was 32, because that might have taken up a lot of my morning.