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24-30 April: Germany: Bremen & Essen

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

24-27 Bremen

Monday morning and awakening at 8, the shower was a bit warmer but still had no pressure. Checked out, I was on the street in a light rain at 8:30, heading to the Amsterdam central train station on a tram to keep somewhat dry. Confused, instead of the train to Bremen, I caught the train to Essen, where I’d be next. Realizing my error, I got off at ‘genbosch, changing to a “milk run” train in Deventer where I had a half hour wait which grew by 20 minutes: the platform was cold and windy, offering little protection. The delayed train took me to Osnabrück, where the elevator was out. Hauling my bags up to the Berlin-bound train, I was finally heading in the right direction. Finally in Bremen, I found the right route to the Best Western, but it was renovating, and signage was poor - I walked around the block past the “temporary” entrance before checking Maps.

Check-in went fine, with a pleasant receptionist, who sent me to room 305. From my notes: “Room is rather small - closet is behind the door with one shelf. Wall has hooks and a mirror. To the right is space for luggage, small desk and TV, space for heating water for coffee or tea. Bed is behind the front wall - mattress is boxed in on 3 sides. Duvet and 2 pillows - thin king and square. Bath is no frills, but at least there’s enough shelf space. Wifi is good.”

[Now, I’ll probably complain about my lodgings here and there, but I did book them with a budget in mind, so sometimes I was getting what I paid for.]

Chicken Jalfranzi at Flieger, Bremen
Chicken Jalfranzi at Flieger, Bremen

With the weather messy, I decided I needed a beer, so I walked into Flieger, a few doors down from the hotel’s entrance. The barkeep, a younger woman, was keeping the grizzled older crowd in beverages. I had a light unfiltered Haake Beck Krausen. As I was without a map, she offered me a series of restaurant suggestions. Of course, I couldn’t find my way out of a wet paper bag, so I wound up at Achim’s Beckshaus. To drink more Haake Beck, and to eat Chicken Jalfranzi: Hatinchnenfilt mit Paprika & Zwiebeln in indischer, hausgemachter curry sauce, Basmati reis and Naan. After dinner I came back, walking passing a windmill, and noting that a lot of folks were outside - probably smokers.

Back when I checked in, the receptionist told me of a service they have, where you leave your laundry in the morning, and it is returned that evening washed, dried and folded. Sounded great to me, but when I checked again, the night receptionist had no idea.

Front facade, Domkirke St. Marien/St. Mary's Cathedral , Hamburg
Domkirke St. Marien/St. Mary's Cathedral , Hamburg

Tuesday morning I was up at 8:30, and in the Hauptbahnhof at 9, to take a train to Hamburg. The walk to the cathedral was difficult (tight hips and sore knees,) as I missed having a second pillow. Domkirke St. Marien/St. Mary's Cathedral has a red brick exterior with tall pointed towers, and is fairly simply adorned inside with plain white walls from the floor to the galleries and on to the vault. Traditional stained glass fills the curved apse, with a gold and blue mosaic capping the half dome. The crypt is used as a columbarium.

On my departing walk through the city, I was heading to the Miniatur Wunderland Museum. My brother Bob has an extensive miniature railroad setup in Virginia, and I had hoped to visit the museum to get a better feel for his hobby. Probably halfway, I was aching, with the weather cold, damp and windy.

With hurting hips, I spotted the tall modern spire of Jakobskirke, the Santiago pilgrim’s site in Hamburg. After taking a few pictures, a service started which included interludes from the organ, so I stayed. The prayers focused on the writings of Kevin of Glendalough, a link to my Irish trip last year. Speaking with the preacher afterwards, he told me about a park nearby where blocks have been placed to represent the locations of the piers for the columns of the pre-Reformation St Mary’s cathedral, which had burned in 1842. (It had been a Lutheran church for about 400 years.)

Domplatz, Hamburg:park wich is site of the old St Mary's Cathedral, column piers marked by white cubes
Domplatz, Hamburg: site of the old St Mary's Cathedral

Next to the Domplatz was St Peter’s Church, older on the outside, but modern inside with some great art. At that point I bailed on the railroad museum, and headed to the train station and Bremen. I made a stop in a store for socks - those “no show” socks don’t keep your ankles warm in messy weather. The Eurail pass app on the phone had a different train schedule, but I jumped on the first one out. It rained off and on during the ride, but was getting sunny and warmer once I was back.

Side facade, St Petri Dom/St Peter’s Cathedral , Bremen
St Petri Dom/St Peter’s Cathedral , Bremen

My objective was the Lutheran St Petri Dom/St Peter’s Cathedral in Bremen. Broad, with the central peaked roof bracketed by two square towers with hexagonal spires. The altar had been relocated to the crossing, with the seats placed in the transept arms, apse and nave, each facing into the worship space. While dark surfaces spoke of the building's age, the stained glass was mostly all modern. The crypt was a museum with many archeological finds on display. Nice tiling on the floor, and a good number of German Renaissance paintings hang on the walls. Carvings, both wood and stone, abound.

Heading back to the hotel, I looked for a market without success. The receptionist gave me clearer instructions, and I found the Rewe entrance, as the store itself is below ground level. Bananas, fruit juice, cheese and a roll, along with a few chocolate bars went back with me to the room. I did email for an hour and then headed out to dinner. Maps gave me options, but checking details many were closed or closing soon.

Bremen Mucho Mas, a tapas restaurant, got my business that night. Drinking a Rioja Crianza, I had Pimentos de Patron, Frittierte Auberginias mit Rottersucker Honig (Malaga style), Huhnerflugl (Murcia style) and Flambierte chorizos. The peppers were awesome, not too hot; the eggplant sweet and delicious (something I need to learn how to make!) The chorizo was spicy-hot, with a hotdog pieces presentation. The chicken were wings - 4 each of wings and drummies - which were nicely spiced and near full cooked. My server was Columbian, cute student-type that seems to be common. He brought me a second glass of rioja, this time a heavier pour.

After my second night in Bremen, on Wednesday I woke to construction work beginning at 7:30. Thus I was up and out earlier than planned, however, trains to Hanover are infrequent, so I had to wait at the station for the 9:15. With that train I had 10 minutes to change platforms for the train to Hildesheim. From the station, it was a long, cold walk in windy conditions with overcast skies. Nearly a straight run, I didn’t misstep (for once!)

The Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary was rebuilt after being destroyed in World War II, mainly over the period 1950-60. The cloister and chapel were preserved, but the rest of the building is very modern with very clean lines. Ornamentation is to a minimum. The placement of the cathedra, a high backed chair, was such to not lend itself to photographs. The chandeliers are stunning: capturing historic elements placed at hour-like intervals, the three large metal bands hang over the pews. The cloister and the crypt were open, which I visited. Talking with women in the bookshop, I learned of the nearby pro-cathedral.

Sticking to my itinerary, I headed to the bus stop, getting a round trip ticket to Himmelthur. Riding to the end of the line and enjoying the twists and turns taken during the route, I found the St. Mary's Dormition Cathedral down a slight hill neighboring the train tracks. A Serbian Orthodox diocesanal seat, entry was a challenge. The actual nave and sanctuary is on the upper floors of a building, in a complex which appears to be a seminary, but including a hotel. Trying several doors, I luckily found the right one, coming into a foyer where I heard noises behind a door. I found a Ukrainian woman cooking, and she graciously walked me up the stairs and into the church. The walls were covered with murals with deep blue calligraphy. Leaving me with instructions to honor the iconostasis, I was able to marvel at the icons, the murals and the few remaining stained glass windows from the prior church.

After advising of my departure, I walked up a slight incline to the bus stop, waited 15 minutes and rode the bus back towards Hildesheim. Exiting near the cathedral, I walked to the Basilica of St Godehard, the church used as pro-cathedral during the post-war period before the new cathedral was rebuilt and consecrated, as well as for a period prior to the building of the original cathedral. A huge stunning old church, it has wonderful capitals on the columns, a chandelier similar to those in the cathedral (there’s some historical significance). A professional photographer was set up in the nave, with lighting, reflective umbrellas, and mounted several cameras on tripods. He was shooting a few of the column capitals that I had found fascinating.

I walked back through town, past the old rathaus (city hall), a bridge loaded with locks, and streets lined with shops. The train arrived, and I headed back to a 40-minute change in Hanover. It was near full, but was punctual. I headed back to the room for a much needed whizz.

At Sudtiroler Hutte (which I later found out was a chain) Tyrolean-style bruschetta (Sud Tirol is the German name for northern Italy). Spaetzle with different kinds of cheese, fried crispy onions and a mixed salad. A half liter of house white (grauburgunder) accompanied. The bruschetta was like pizza on bread. It was tasty, as was the main.

When I returned to the room, I set to my backup tasks. Only to discover that I didn’t have my camera! I gathered my jacket and walked back to the station to report it missing. No joy! I was instructed to complete an online form, which I did. I began researching shops in Essen where I might replace my camera, as I was leaving the next morning. I completed my packing, stewed a bit trying to recollect where I last had the camera. I think that because I had disconnected my waterbottle’s carabiner clip, I was juggling too many items when I was leaving the train. In any case, that meant that I would be getting another camera to replace the Nikon Coolpix P900 that I’d gotten after losing my Canon in London in 2019. And no pictures of the three buildings I had visited.

27-30 April Essen

Leaving the hotel Thursday morning in Bremen, I headed to the station, first checking with the police and station staff regarding my lost camera. My plan was to take the 9:44 ICE train for the 2 hour ride to Essen, but the train was late leaving, and spent about 40 minutes at various side rails, apparently because the police were trying to apprehend a thief. I rode with a woman from Hamburg, who was going to Freiberg to visit a friend: due in July with a girl, this was probably her last adventure for a while.

Once in Essen, it was an easy half kilometer walk to the Moxy, and I was set in room 328, facing away from the street. Staff suggested that I try Saturn, rather than Calumny, the shop I’d found online and emailed. [Yes, the Saturn megastore uses the same logo that was on my second California car.] At Saturn, it took 15 minutes to get someone to open the locks so I could check out the available cameras. Nikon had upgraded, the new model is a P950 and, of course, would need different batteries. Laying out a good chunk of euros, I discarded the boxes, as I wasn’t about to haul them around. I asked for and received the detax forms. I left and headed to Calumny, as Saturn had no spare batteries for sale.

Calumny was pleasant, had a spare battery, and was considerably more sympathetic to my loss than the big box store. I will need to get another spare, plus a US-type charging device, as the new camera came with only a cable to charge in the camera. I neglected to carry a SD chip with me, so purchased one to allow me to begin using immediately. Of course, the first two shots on the chip were of my identifying information, a standard process for me, despite it hasn’t worked yet in recovering a lost camera.

External facade, Cathedral of Our Lady, St Cosmas and St Damien/ Essener Münster
Cathedral of Our Lady, St Cosmas and St Damien/ Essener Münster.

First stop was the Cathedral of Our Lady, St Cosmas and St Damien, also known as the Essener Münster. Entering into the rear chapel, I found the sacrament being exhibited on the altar, and set off to figure out how to quiet my camera - it clicked, beeped, and made a shutter noise! Once I could be less conspicuous, I toured the church, a blend of old and new, as this church had had damage during WWII. The white-and-gray checkerboard tiles on the floor was a color scheme that repeated in the edges of the columns and vault.

The stained glass windows were modern, with a lovely blue throughout. The stations, wider, of cast metal, are stunning. Dropping down from the newer portion into the older was like moving through time. The church left me with good feelings. As I passed it several times during the course of my three-night stay, I’d take a moment to return for reflection.

Returning to the hotel room, I used my phone to take pictures of the NIkon’s serial and model numbers. I got a bit dressed, wearing the long-sleeved dress shirt over a polo, the sports jacket and a scarf, and headed to the other (newer) side of the train tracks. Locating the Philharmoniker Halle, I next found a cafe for a light, quick dinner.

A rucola salad with parmesan shavings, ravioli alla Romana, with water and a glass of Montepulciano, Crème brûlée to finish. I was able to get to the hall early enough to watch a moderator and the conductor converse. The subject focused more on his imminent departure (after a 10-year tenure) than the program.

Three pieces were offered: a relatively new piece, the third by the composer for the Essener Philharmoniker, which I found to pretty much just be noise; a Mozart piano concerto, and the Dvorak fifth symphony. By some amazing luck, my seat (Row 13, seat 13) was exactly aligned so that I could watch the Icelander pianist’s hands. During the 25-minute interval I left the auditorium and crossed the crush bar, doing some people watching before returning to my seat. I wound up chatting with the neighboring couple, locals and subscribers, who also passed on the new piece, and enjoyed the Mozart. The “main” piece, the Dvorak, was not one I’d heard, and after listening to the performance, I understood why. A lesser piece, with hints of themes used in other works, it allowed the conductor to soar to double fortes and slumber in pianissimo. Chatting with my neighbors as we left, he used the term bombast at least three times. I guess it was a nice showcase for the orchestra?

I walked back to the hotel, passing through the train station. I backed up my photos, both from the phone and the new camera. The two camera batteries had to be charged. After a bit of email and reading, I crashed.

Friday morning I was up and out, heading back to the train station. My plan was a day trip to Paderborn, so after a 20 minute wait in the station, I was off on a 90-minute ride 140km east. Once there, my walk was pretty much straight down through the shopping district, taking me past an abbey church with tall towers.

Exterior, Hoher Dom Ss. Maria, Liborius und Kilian, Paderborn
Hoher Dom Ss. Maria, Liborius und Kilian, Paderborn

The Hoher Dom Ss. Maria, Liborius und Kilian has a large, tall square tower at the west entrance, with 5 perpendicular (to the center aisle) peaked gables over the nave, a large transept, and normal apse. It is a very large building. I joined an English-speaking tour, but found my interest wandering as there was little substance in the talk. The apse, with the high altar, main altar, choir, cathedra, is raised up multiple steps, and roped off to view. Even the walls of the quire are difficult to appreciate. There are many side altar/chapels, all gated and locked. The organ console and pipes are at the rear, over a stunning triptych. The crypt was closed for the summer (at the end of April!) Needless to point out, I was disappointed by my visit. Plus I found it difficult to get an adequate shot of the exterior.

Reversing my route, I kept an eye out for a shop with bananas, to no avail. Once I boarded, about 10 minutes later a group of young men (17-20yo) got on, were extremely rowdy, with one of them completely tanked. Beer, at lower ABV, is available to 16 year olds, but these had obviously not learned to manage and moderate their consumption.

Back at the hotel I grabbed my Chromebook and journal and headed to the ground floor bar. Armed with my welcome drink, I began keyboarding the blog up to the NYC departure. When I finished writing, I headed out, walking up to and around the Essener Münster, then past the Rathaus and Mcdonalds. While early, for a Friday night I found the neighborhood quite quiet. Taking a chance on Chinese cuisine, I ordered Gemischter Salat mit Dressing, Wonton soup, Kung Pao chicken with a half liter of white wine. The salad was swimming in dressing. The soup was hot, tasty and included pieces of white asparagus! The chicken wasn’t spicy enough for me, and I should probably have doctored it to my taste. But then Mandarin style is usually not fierce enough for me.

And I took a wrong turn and walked down the wrong hill, as I headed back to the room.

Saturday morning I was up at 8, out in 30 minutes, and just missed the 8:41 direct train once I got to the station. My options involved the next train, running 5 minutes late, and involving a train change, or wait for the next express which was already running 20 minutes late. I went with the first option, and the train was good at racing to pick up the late minutes. Heading to Osnabrück, I had to change in Münster, which went easily. At the Osnabrück Hauptbahnhof (Hbf), I learned that a local would bring me closer to the alte Stadt (old city), so I saved a few steps.

Exterior, Cathedral of St. Peter, Osnabrück
Cathedral of St. Peter, Osnabrück

Google Maps was a block off in its directions, putting me in the middle of an open-air market just to the north of the cathedral. The sandstone-colored Cathedral of St. Peter has tall towers. A big building, it wasn’t the huge size I’d been seeing. Fairly simple inside, a double christening was underway as I entered. Being careful not to include any children in my shots, I respectfully made my way around the available portions of the church, getting my inside pictures. Statues of apostles backed the nave columns, the stations on the side aisles. The high altar was up 7 roped-off steps, with the cathedra situated between the old high altar and the newer main altar. I appreciated the rood cross over the entry to the sanctuary, and the huge organ at the west end. The side chapels were interesting, but most were locked. The cloister was open, is used primarily as burial ground, and had another set of stations.

Leaving the cathedral, I took the long walk through town, noting that a good number of people were out on the pedestrian and bicycle only streets. While overcast, the sun seemed to be trying to break through, and the temperatures were maybe in the 60’s (12C).

Back on the train, I returned to Münster. Once on foot, the walk to the cathedral was somewhat long, and ended with an open market in the front of the building, limiting any photography. So I just headed directly inside.

Exterior, Cathedral of St Paul, Münster
Cathedral of St Paul, Münster

The Cathedral of St. Paul is another huge edifice, without a west entry however. The narthex has a modern altar. The stations are in the ambulatory: dark macabre sculptures placed just below my eye level. There are some brilliant modern stained glass windows, and a good statue to St Charles Borromeo. I didn’t get much of a sense of any sanctity in the building - it left me cold.

Leaving, while trying to find the outside shot, I wandered in the market. The vendors were nearing the end of their day, so I was able to get scraps (small pieces) of cheese from two cheesemongers, a small roll at the baker’s. The brie went into the roll and was my walking lunch - it was divine!

I walked back through the shopping district, seriously getting misdirected. A Rewe market appeared, so I grabbed more bread, juice, and chocolate before heading to the station. It would have been tight to make the first train, so I opted for a slight wait for my return to Essen.

Back at Moxy, I had a glass of house red with some of my bread and cheese before heading out to dinner. I tried Il Molino, an Italian place, with an insalata mista and Italian olives to start, Taglierini di Seppia (sepia ink, fresh salmon, garlic) and for dessert, cassata ice cream (zabaglione and chocolate ice cream with candied fruit.) [No pictures]

Back in the room I had the NYC blog proofed, ready to upload and add photos. I read for a bit, did some emails, and then organized my packing for another city change. Off to bed, sleeping well.

Book: Cathedrals to the Glory of God
Cathedrals to the Glory of God

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Cathedrals to the Glory of God

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