Die Stadtmusikanten by Gerhard Marcks, 1951



St Petri Cathedral, dating from first half of 13th century

I finally got to Bremen on a day trip from Hanover . . . and it was worth the wait. It took me a few minutes of walking from the Hauptbahnhof to come to that conclusion, though. I feel churlish criticising modern developments in German cities given that it was Allied bombing that obliged them to rebuild in a hurry, but it was Bremen itself that decided to build an elevated expressway – the Hochstraße – across the centre of town.

Like Hamburg, Bremen is both a city and the wider state. It still has a cathedral, while Hamburg completely demolished theirs during the Napoleonic occupation. Bremen’s central Altstadt is smaller, more coherent and much lovelier than Hamburg’s, and its Rathaus knocks Hamburg’s tasteless opulence for six. Since today is a Monday, I had no opportunity/compulsion to visit any of the museums, so I spent my time wandering around and having a leisurely lunch in the wonderful Ratskeller.

The Marktplatz has a very Flemish Renaissance feel to the secular buildings, particularly with the stone guild house. I started with the evangelical Lutheran cathedral and was surprised to find that much of the interior was coloured. Some of it was trompe-l’œil stone on the pillars, which just struck me as odd, but I think I understood that a 19th century restoration had attempted to recreate some of the original Catholic cathedral decoration.


Then came a guided tour the of the upper hall of the Rathaus, which combined Weser Renaissance with Jugendstil.

Then Böttcherstraße, which was transformed in the 1920s  by Ludwig Roselius into something avant garde in brick. It’s quirky – the brick expressionist patterning is freer than in the Chilehaus:

In wandering around, I noted the way that postwar reconstruction had kept some of the elements of the northern Renaissance style but used a more modern idiom. So, stepped or fancy gables and decorative friezes but definitely from the 1950s. I even liked the very mid-1960s Bremen parliamentary building by Wassili Luckhardt.

And then my eureka moment at a Karstadt department store. I had wondered about their distinctive style and found this plaque in Bremen which revealed all:

Then, to crown a good day, I saw a female with cogwheel at the top of Bremen’s Hauptbahnhof:


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