It's Grimm up north The Hannover part 2

Scare stories about the hotel wifi being terrible were inaccurate, so with a mildly ropey head I was able to iPlayer myself some Have I Got News For You early doors, rather than wake Helen. What eventually woke her, and me since I'd nodded back off, was an unwanted knock at the door. We'd locked up and put the chain on, and I shouted "nein danke" or something, but bah. Stop doing cleaning so early!

It was early 'n all. About 0930. Time for me to get up and go out though, on my own; we had charger fail, so it fell to me to pop round to Saturn - Germany's answer to the question "what would happen if we merged Comet and Maplin?" - to buy a USB-C to USB-A cable. Thus Helen was able to charge her phone, which might come in useful if we were to go anywhere picturesque.

Wrote up the story of our BA flight to Hannover on Friday night, and then set off out to the station just as an alert came through that there was some kind of disruption to BA today. Perhaps it was lucky we'd come out the previous evening.

We were heading to the station because we weren't intending to spend any time in Hannover today. It's our bolt hole, but we'd decided some weeks back to take a day trip to Bremen. One niedersachsen ticket later, via some free chocolate and a pretzel and baguette purchase, we're on a very crowded platform. Entirely by luck we happen to be standing exactly where a door stops, so we get seats on what ends up being an inordinately crowded service.

It's about an hour and a quarter to Bremen, marked by nondescript intermediate stops and some vague luggage/seat rage, as some people have shoved their cases on empty seats despite the service being full. We end up agreeing to be boxed in by some suitcases.

Famous German efficiency, especially on the railways, fails us as some announcement is made just south of Achim about some form of trouble or other, and we end up being about 15 minutes late into Bremen. The hauptbahnhof here is pretty stunning. They do know how to do stations in this neck of the woods.

Bremen instantly seems a bit less staid than what little we've seen of Hannover. More cosmopolitan, more dreadlocked punks with dogs on strings, more beggars and homeless folk. Doesn't seem remotely sketchy though. Our aim is to find this zig-zag shaped park we'd seen on Google maps, beyond which is the alt-stadt and also Schnoor.

Oh, here's a windmill. That's quite nice.

Beyond here is indeed the alt-stadt, though not before the dual busking tuba players belting out the Star Wars theme music. The old stuff actually kind creeps up on us, hidden by shopping streets, until whoa! There's a hoofing great cathedral, and loads of other old stuff, and a platz full of folk talking (and, occasionally, singing) about Jesus.

The big hitter, which Helen actually knew about in advance, is a statue of the Musicians of Bremen. These are four animals, stars of a tale told by the Brothers Grimm. Past their prime, the critters form a wandering band who, en route to their destination of Breman, partake in some serious mercenary work against itinerant brigands. Kinda like a musical version of the A Team. But animals. And German. Anyway there's a statue.

Around it were tens of people, all in a vaguely chaotic queue to have their photos taken stroking the donkey's feet (good luck) or nose (not so good luck, apparently).


Next up, walking past all the Jesus people and the unfortunate girl having a fit over the way. Lots of people helping out, thankfully. Kinda hope none of them are trying to perform an exorcism.

On the other side of the square is Böttcherstrasse, a small passage with some museums and shops, opening up into a nice little square with a couple of pubs/restaurants. The strasse has an impressive opening.

So says Wikipedia, Böttcherstrasse was an attempt by some fella in the 1920s to build a street dedicated to Nazi ideals, but the Nazis themselves didn't like it and considered it degenerate art. Huh. Also there's a leter box I'm peculiarly taken by.

Out the other end, we walked along the main road and then ducked into the area called Schnoor. This is the oldest part of Bremen, a series of small streets full of buildings built in the 15th, 16th, 18th and 19th century. No explanation is given for what happend in the 17th century. Perhaps it was a period of awful architecture? (Later, we learn that there was a war that century, so perhaps people were either a bit too busy to build, or busy destroying new stuff)

Before exploring it properly we double back to get some cash out, expecting that we might finally need some. On our way to the ATM a lady asks us for directions - in German - to Schnoor, and I manage to answer her accurately and entirely in German myself... using hand gestures and the single word rechts. Go me!

Once we have money, we realise we can now afford a pint, so we sit down and have a pint at the kaiser's hof.

Finally, we do actually wander through Schnoor. It's both an area and the name of the main road within it, full of craft shops, souvenir shops, working artist studios, cafes, etc. The whole place is fantastic. There are walking tours all around, but it's still not hugely crowded.

At the far end there's a sign to a museum, and another to a theatre, but we're interested in neither. What the bloody hell is this permanent Christmas shop all about though? I guess it's apt since this trip is Helen's Christmas present, but seriously. What?

Inside, it's just a shop selling a wide variety of posh decorations. Thankfully they aren't playing festive music. There's also a Mrs Claus statue that looks to me like Maggie Thatcher. Shudder.

Back up through Schnoor again and it's time to retrace our steps, and look for food. The heat has been beating down on us all day so we're looking for places with outdoor seating in the shade, and are regularly foiled; no luck at the platz, no luck at Böttcherstrasse, no luck at the cafe by the windmill which has a sign saying something about technical issues.

Eventually we find a tapas bar with a confusing way of ordering, at least to me - write stuff on a bit of paper, take it up, wait to have your name shouted out when the food is ready. Our waitress - not that anyone waits on tables here, actually - is tri-lingual in German, English and Spanish which helps enormously. We order a ton of food and some very nice booze - Helen loves her sangria di cava.

I look very sophisticated while tucking in to the cheese fingers.

As we sit, a group of middle aged men dragging a trolley full of booze wander past, with music blasting out of some speakers. This is about the 5th such group we've seen today. Seems like people in Bremen have an excellent way of enjoying themselves.

Back to the station, I take a moment to photograph the shop that sells dartboards plus shitloads of weaponry.

Guns for show
Knives for a pro

As I was doing so, Helen was cornered by one of the chuggers who had earlier been complimentary about my beard. She says they were attempting to get her to feel charitable about children, and became dismayed when she said she preferred cats.

In the station we have around 10 minutes in which to purchase booze for the journey plus bonus for the hotel room, and some chocolate. Hurrah for Spar. The train is on time but, as with our outbound service, there's a 15 minute delay due to some unknown problem near Achim. Damn it.

I forget about the chocolate for way too long, given the temperature, so eating my Twix is not the wonderful experience I was aiming for.

Helen is drinking Beck's, which is actually a local beer from Bremen, and reading about the city and all the things we saw and didn't understand. Probably should've read all that in the morning or days prior, but better late than never.

By the time we're back in Hannover we're both a bit drunk, actually. Not that we've had a hell of a lot to drink, but the heat and dehydration and comparative lack of food has done for us. Since we're not hungry, and we are tired, we decide our evening is best spent drinking more in our hotel room. Thanks to the train delay we drank one more than expected, so need to head out to buy more, plus perhaps it's a good idea to get some food in ready for breakfast in the morning.

The only place nearby we can find is a big Lidl in the basement of the station. It's not an edifying experience. All the food - all the food - looks awful, and we end up buying none. Up by the cheeses, however, is a man brazenly taking stuff and putting it straight into the bag on his shoulder.

Our basket is filled with liquid though, all ridiculously cheap booze and a few softies. There's a bottle of prosecco which the shelf claims costs €2,69 - so insanely cheap it must be utterly appalling and I can't wait to try it. Everything else cost bugger all too; we end up buying plastic bottles of screw top beer, the bottle of prosecco, a can of prosecco, plus apple juice and coffee stuff. Classy we ain't. At the till, the brazen shoplifter is escorted past us and through the doors out to the warehouse by a security guard, but not in a particularly aggressive way - more in a "sigh, not you again, you have to stop this..." manner.

Back in the room we put our bottom notch booze in the mini bar fridge and drink the already-cold good stuff we'd brought back from Bremen. And then, predictably enough, we both find ourselves exhausted and promptly pass out before 10pm, listening to a podcast neither of us can even remember the next morning.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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