What’s become of this wretched blog site?
I came here with a mission: detail how one can effectively experience a new culture in the time-frame of a mere weekend. For my readers to become Weekend Ramblers, and seize their slow hours of weekend rejuvenation with adventure and jubilation.
So join me on a sleep-deprived genuine ramble of a two-day adventure to Germany’s third city-state, Bremen.
Thursday night, a time reserved for drunken students or working adults trying to pinch off the second to last day of the week. For me and Ivana of Black Hummus Diaries, this Thursday night meant getting on a sleepy €20 FlixBus to Hamburg. Armed with a facemask and a thermos full of red wine, we were ready to nap all the way to Bremen.
For several hours, we napped more than slept, hunched into our tight chairs dosed by cheap Chilean wine. We alighted in Hamburg to switch busses at five in the morning, sleepy-eyed and losing hope of any real rest.
Hamburg is a big party city, which luckily means that there are places open at this ridiculous hour. We huddled into a Turkish kebab shop, where the workers were sleepy but aware from a full night of dealing with drunkards. There we sat drinking tea, groggy faced and killing an hour before our bus to Bremen arrived.
Turkish women sat eating soup preparing for their day near pale drunk Germans in their lederhosen fresh from Oktoberfest, nursing girthy kebabs that oozed viscous tahini down their swollen knuckles. Then there was us, cold and sipping thick black tea.
Fighting premature slumber, we packed ourselves into the bus to Bremen. Napping once more, we awoke in the bankrupt but beautiful Bremen; home of Hanseatic League architecture, the Beck’s Brewery, and animal street musicians.
There’s something unique about wandering around cities at horrendously early hours of the day. The town is still sleeping, and the streets are only populated by like-minded early birds looking to snatch something more tangible than a worm. The old town of Bremen is incredibly compact, with the new parts of the city stretching along the bank of the Weser river. The old town is stylized like any other Hanseatic League city, like Copenhagen, Gdańsk, or Amsterdam. They all have the kind of graham-cracker cookie meets rainy depressing city architecture that really appeals to me.
What started as a low hanging drizzle turned into a sticky rain that covered the entirety of the city. We escaped into the library, where Ivana had some meetings for work while I napped like a grandpa in a large armchair in the corner. I’m not sure how I expected to wander a city with a night of bus napping, but with each year this kind of rambling gets more and more difficult. Like a mute lion, I yawn big and mark my territory: the kingdom of sleepiness. Yet, we soldier on.
After my nap and Ivana’s business calls, we went back out into the rain to wander Viertel, the more modern and hip part of the city. Every city has a once-ghetto now hipster-gentrified part of the city, and Viertel serves as that side of Bremen. Bremen is famous for having houses with glass-covered porticoes as entrances, an ensemble that should have been repeated elsewhere in the world. Buildings are quaint and adorable, now covered in thick graffiti tattoos. Drugs are sold on the street while mustached hipsters pass in and out of organic markets or wood-clad cafes. We wander a while, grabbing a falafel before heading to the home of our couchsurfer. Our couchsurfer, larger than life, offers us tea from herbs picked by his mother in their mountain house in the rural countryside. That’s romantic as shit, and I’m sold.
I always forget to get permission from my couchsurfer’s to write about our experiences, so please don’t confuse my lack of acknowledgment of our host’s awesomeness as a disrespect. I merely just don’t want to share anything that they would not like encapsulated on the ethereal scroll of the internet.
The next day, we are blessed with sunshine and a warm autumn breeze. We head to the train station to rent bikes with our couchsurfer and head out for his favorite bike route north of the city and into the countryside.
A ride through Bürgerpark on the Northside of the city results in a maze of winding dirt felled paths, green expanses for beers and trees to get lost in. We pass by the petting zoo and keep heading North into our relatively unknown.
Outside of the city are the typical Schrebergartens, or little garden houses which city dwellers own for weekend drinking and gardening festivities. We stop near the houses for a sit on a bench along a canal for a bit of coffee from our thermos.
Onward we ventured, smiling in the sun and enjoying our last rays until the beginning of next spring. The countryside around Bremen makes one feel that they’ve escaped it all, with that oddly pleasing cow dung smell hanging over bucolic expanses. The countryside doesn’t differ much from that offered in the Netherlands or Denmark, but perhaps the attitude of the Germans is what makes Bremen a bit different. Especially in Germany, where I have received different feelings from people based on the city I was in. People in Berlin can be a bit forceful or fake, Hamburgers can be cold like the Danes, Leipziger’s can be complacent and a bit self-righteously hippy, but Bremer’s are calm and smiling. There isn’t a wealth of cultural activities to forgo in Bremen, but the atmosphere is laid back and the people certainly feel more welcoming than in other parts of Germany.
We make our final stop on our sunny bike tour to a dairy farm selling their own freshly made ice cream. Little blonde children scurry about while other people who rode out here on their sunny Saturday sit outside enjoying their tangy local creamy delights. Moments like this make me love the Couchsurfing community. How on Earth would I have ridden out into the fields of Bremen and gotten fresh ice cream had it not been for our amazing host?
After ice cream, we lazily headed back, trying to squeeze every last bit of sunshine out of the day before the clouds set in.
Our sleepy weekend adventure drew to an end, so we shared goodbyes with our Couchsurfing host who had guided us through the hills of Bremen. He had a party to go to, and we had an overnight bus to catch back to Aarhus.
But no overnight bus ride is devoid of stories. We were accompanied by several drunk Germans, one of which started canoodling with a sober woman sat minding her own business. He was intent on his dirty deeds, which resulted in one of the other drunk men reeling around in his carpet covered seat to slap the sloppy smile off his face.
We arrived in Hamburg around Midnight, and as anyone does in Hamburg, we hit the bars before our two a.m. bus to Aarhus. Strangely, most of the bars were closed aside from a bumping bar filled with Equatorial Guineans partying the night away sitting next to a quiet bar of dealers and alcoholics.
My inner Bukowski will always go for the latter.
Inside was a silent scene with two Eastern Europeans playing a gambling machine, several slovenly men sitting at the bar with their beer, and a poorly ageing Eastearn European woman with a wrinkling boob job, peach blonde hair, and long fake nails calling everyone “Mein Schatz” in her thick Eastern European German. She was running some sort of crazy business there, with shady folks coming in and leaving with different bags of whatever dust they desired. She knew we weren’t coming in for nose candy or tasty nugs, so we didn’t have the pleasure of being her “Schatzi’s”. She poured our beer into dusty plastic cups, a sign that this outstanding establishment had seen its share of greasy broken glass bar fights.
We saw evidence of this when someone randomly came in and picked a fight with one of the alcoholics at the bar. The alcoholic yelled and threw a barstool at the man, quickly putting an end to the scuffle. Several seconds later and the bar returned to its status of alcoholics drooling over their gambling machines and small bags being handed back and forth.
Once our beers were drained, we felt it was probably time to get out of there to catch our final bus back to Aarhus. We would arrive several hours later, giving me just enough time to think over Bremen.
When making this trip, I had preferred to venture to Rostock rather than Bremen. I was unsure what Bremen would even offer, but after going I now see that it is a city unlike the others I’ve seen in Germany. It is far more laid back and cozy, offering its inhabitants a comfortable and quiet life with just enough charm to keep it from being boring. It doesn’t have the sights of the other German major cities, but it has its own charm that makes it worth the journey.
Even though my bones are still creaking and my brain was delirious, the trip was worth the ramble with my weekend hours. Thank you for taking the time to read through this post, and I hope to be posting some more rambles soon enough. In the mean time, get out there and get rambling!