I’ve been meaning to post these for a while now, but somehow I never got around to it. Alas, better late than never.
In the first week of the summer holidays, I took a day trip to Bremerhaven with my Mom. I gave her a choice where she wanted to go and she picked Bremerhaven, because – so she said – she hadn’t been there in ages. Now I get to go to Bremerhaven quite a couple of times every year, either on translation business or for school trips, because the city’s zoo and its four museums (more on those later) are popular destinations for school outings. Still, my Mom wanted to go to Bremerhaven, so to Bremerhaven we went.
Now Bremerhaven is a bit of a historical oddity. The town was founded in 1827 by Bremen’s then mayor Johann Smidt (who is mainly known for founding Bremerhaven and for being a horrible Anti-Semite), because the river Weser was increasingly silting up, while vessels became bigger. As a result, Bremen, located some 60 kilometers inland, was in danger of getting cut off from the international shipping trade. So Bremerhaven was founded at the estuary of the river Weser to serve as a harbour for the city of Bremen. The town name literally means “Bremen’s harbour”.
Ever since then, Bremerhaven has mainly been a harbour. In the 19th and early 20th century, it was one of the main harbours for emigrants headed to America. If your ancestors came to the US from either Germany or Eastern Europe, there is a very good chance that they emigrated via Bremerhaven.
Nowadays, Bremerhaven is the 4th largest container port in Europe and the 16th largest in the world. It’s also a hub for the offshore windpower industry and for vehicle in- and exports. Approximately 1.3 million vehicles pass through Bremerhaven every year. They are parked in huge lots at the vehicle terminal, which is the dream of every car thief and filmmaker, because there is no better place on Earth to film a car chase. Alas, I have no photos of the vehicle terminal for you today, because it’s a bit out of the way.
Bremerhaven was hit hard by the decline of the shipping and shipbuilding industry in the 1980s and 1990s and suffered from huge unemployment, poverty and the unfortunate tendency to vote for rightwing extremist parties. In the past fifteen years or so, it has experienced something of a rebirth as a tourist attraction and rainy day destination for holidaymakers on the North Sea Coast. Though we didn’t just see German tourists or white Americans (who come because of the emigration history), but also plenty of Asians and also several black tourists.
And now on to the photos. I have split this post into two parts. Part 1 includes general city views, while part 2 focusses on ships, particularly the historical ships that can be seen on the grounds of the German maritime museum.
Bremerhaven is also an important harbour for the fishing industry. This is the touristy part of the fishing port with a lighthouse, the “MS Gera”, a fishing vessel from the 1950s that is now a museum, and the restaurant ship “Hirsch”
Victorian warehouses have been converted into restaurants and shops at the so-called “Display window fishing port”, one of Bremerhaven’s many tourist attractions.
The Victorian lock at the entrance of the museum port and the old lighthouse in the distance.
The bow of a vintage sailing ship points at the old lighthouse in Bremerhaven. The old lighthouse was built in 1853 by architext Simon Loschen and is also known as the Loschentower. It’s still active.
The German emigration museum, a popular destination for schooltrips and tourists, with the old lighthouse in the background.
The paving stones in front of the emigration museum bear the names and emigration dates of people who traveled via Bremerhaven to America.
The emigration monument at the Willy Brandt Platz. In the background, you can see the quay for the ferries headed for the island of Helgoland.
The newly refurbished Willy Brandt Platz (named after a former German chancellor) with nautical signage and a lighthouse. Because of its distinctive shape, this lighthouse is known as the minaret.
A look from the Willy Brandt Platz across the mouth of the River Weser with bonus seagull. On the right you can see nautical signage. The little blob on the horizon on the left is Langlütjen I, an artificial island that served as a fort from the 19th century all the way up to WWII. The even smaller blob in the middle is the fort Langlütjen II. Nowadays, both are preserves for maritime birds.
I tried to take a closer photo of Langlütjen I with the zoom of my camera. But at Beaufort 8 winds and with no tripod, the photo only came out blurred. Wikipedia and this site about military ruins have more about Langlütjen I and its sister fort Langlütjen II.
A look across the river Weser from Bremerhaven. On the far side you can see production halls for offshore wind turbines.
Bremerhaven has a rather distinctive skyline, seen here from the Willy-Brandt-Platz. From left to right, we have the minaret lighthouse, the artificial rocks of the Zoo by the Sea, the restaurant “Strandhalle”, the Columbus Center, a mall and apartment building, the Sail City Hotel and the glass dome of the Mediterraneo mall.
Another look at the Bremerhaven skyline. From left to right, we have the climate house, the Columbus Center, the Sail City Hotel, the dome of the Mediterraneo mall, the emigration monument, the radar tower of the Alfred Wegener Institute for polar research and the Kaiserhafen.
A look at two of the newer and more notable buildings in Bremerhaven. The flying saucer shaped thing is the climate house, a science museum. The tall one is the Sail City Hotel.
A look up Sail City Hotel. The round bit at the very top is a restaurant and observation deck.
Bremerhaven’s skyline seen from the other side. From left to right we have the glass dome of the Mediterraneo mall, which supposedly copies the shape of the dome of the cathedral of Florence, the Sail City Hotel and the climate house.
The entrance hall of the climate house. The climate house is on the left, the entrance to the Mediterraneo mall on the right and the overpass to the Columbus Center mall at the far end.
Inside the Mediterraneo mall. The aisles are decorated as a faux Tuscan city. Why build a faux Tuscan city in North Germany? Only the developer knows.
The café under the glass dome of the Mediterraneo mall with faux Renaissance arcades and a fountain.
A look up at the glass dome of the Mediterraneo mall.
This statue of Christopher Columbus stands in front of the shopping mall cum apartment building that bears his name and looks out across the museum harbour and the river Weser. The Columbus Center itself is a typical example of 1970s brutalism, a massive concrete monster that would survive even a nuclear blast and is coincidentally my first choice for holing up after the zombie apocalypse.
A look along the shopping mall inside Columbus Center. It’s already freaking ugly, but it has actually improved a bit since I was last there, because the walls and ceilings used to be in natural concrete grey, which made the place look like a tomb.
This figurehead beside the entrance of the restaurant Schiffergilde (skippers’ guild) is one of the few bright spots inside Columbus Center.
A giant wooden arm lies discarded at the entrance of the maritime museum. On the left, you can see one of the many exhibits, a modern sailing yacht.
The German maritime museum has extensive grounds and outside exhibits of various historical ships. I took lots of photos of those ships, but I’ll save those for the second part of my Bremerhaven post.