By Rodger Hall
Rub the front hooves and nose of the donkey on the statue in the old market square in Bremen and your dreams will come true in this picturesque German river city according to an old folk story.
The internationally acclaimed bronze sculpture features a donkey with a dog a cat and a rooster standing on top of each other. The fairytale recorded by the Brothers Grimm says all are unwanted and set out for Bremen to live without owners and become musicians. On the way they find a house with a fine table filled with food about to be eaten by a band of robbers. The donkey put his front hooves on the window ledge, the dog jumped on the donkey’s back, the cat climbed on the dog and the cock flew up and sat on the cat’s head. The donkey brayed, the dog barked, the cat miaowed and the cock crowed, and their unusual ‘music’ scared off the robbers.
Known as the Bremen Town Musicians the statue was only erected in 1951 and has surprising pride of place considering this is a fine example of a medieval town. However, you don’t have to go far to experience Bremer Altstadt (old quarter) that includes the Town Hall, a world heritage listed site, built between 1405 and 1410 and regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings of its kind in Germany. Nearby is the Protestant/Lutheran St Peter’s Cathedral with its distinctive Gothic architecture that dates from the first half of the 13th century.
Bremen’s picturesque red-brick old quarter is certainly one of the best preserved of its kind in Europe and home to regular markets, and plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops.
Within walking distance is St Martin’s Quay and the River Weser that also played an important role throughout the history of this seafaring city.
Bremen is known as ‘The village with a tram’ because of its compact size by European standards and its excellent network of transportation via trams. The river pathways, idyllic parks and open space are also a feature and cycling is popular with the area boasting the most cycleways in Europe.
Bremen is also home to Germany’s space industry and two of its famous corporate inhabitants are Mercedes-Benz, who have a factory here, and Beck’s Brewery.
The brewery tour offers an insight into the history of beer and the international success of this company. The tour takes about two hours and includes a sampling test at the end where visitors get the chance to try the lesser known Haake-Beck brew. Our guide informs us that beer is 7000 years old and tells the story of how a women invented beer.
In the last two weeks of October the city hosts Freimarkt regarded as the oldest fair in Germany and is similar to the Octoberfest in Munich. The traditional German food and drink and a massive fairground are all part of the festivities known as the Fifth Season in Bremen.
You could not wish for more in Bremen, but judging by the shiny front hooves and nose of the donkey there are plenty who have.