German Emigration Center Bremerhaven

by Douglas Murray ’12

IMGThis past Thursday, the 18th of November, our “Dickinson” (German 340) class here in Bremen went to the Deutsches Auswandererhaus Bremerhaven or the German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven, Germany.  Along with Professor Ludwig and a few other German students, we traveled by train from Bremen to Bremen’s port, Bremerhaven.  In 1827 the city of Bremen purchased the land that is today Bremerhaven because the Weser River in Bremen was too shallow for large trade ships.  Therefore, Bremerhaven has since been an integral part of both Bremen’s trade-oriented economy and emigration.

IMGUpon arrival at the museum in Bremerhaven, we waited a few minutes before starting the tour.  The tour assigns each person an actual emigrant from the past who left Germany or Central Europe for the New World.  It was very interesting to follow this person’s progression through Bremerhaven’s port and eventually their arrival in the New World.  Once the tour started, I was impressed to find that it wasn’t a stereotypical museum.  This museum was based upon interaction and had numerous stations and displays set up throughout the IMGexhibitions.  Each different room featured a scene that actually emigrants experienced years ago.  Whether it was the harbor with a life-size transport ship anchored waiting for you to board or the internal compartments of the ship that showed where the emigrants lived during the journey across the Atlantic, this museum really set up a realistic experience.

My favorite part of the tour was the room we entered immediately before boarding the model transport ship.  This room was fashioned after an old library or a room used to hold various files and records.  Decorated with various maps and diagrams depicting the 18th and 19th centuries, you really felt like you were several centuries back in time.  Many of the drawers on the walls slid open and revealed interesting facts about the emigrants.  The most interesting immigrant to the US that I found was Levi Strauss who left Bremerhaven a few years before 1850 for better economic opportunities in the states.  The fact that you could actually relate well-known historical figures like Strauss to the some 7 million emigrants who left Bremerhaven, really fascinated me.

At the end of the tour our group was guided to a bright room filled with computers and other displays.  Here you could search through various databases to find ancestors who left Europe for the New World.  Since various nationalities traveled through Bremerhaven for the New World, one did not need German ancestry to find distant relatives.  However, I was not able to find any of my family’s ancestors in the databases because I did not bring the proper information.

Overall I would say visiting the museum was a really good experience.  Being an American, one always hears about all of the immigration and diversity that makes our country what it is today.   This museum really highlighted the sheer number of emigrants who left Europe for the New World, mainly the United States, and put into perspective how difficult their struggle was.

Impressions of Bremen

by Samantha Claussen ’12

Whenever I talk to people back home about what it’s like in Bremen, I always find myself talking about the big, general impressions. They’re easy to talk about: the University, my classes, the old city and the landmarks there, the various markets and celebrations they have, how dark and cold it’s starting to become… These are all important things to get a general picture of Bremen, but they’re not the reason I find myself growing more and more attached to this city. No, it’s the little things that I’ve noticed that really make me adore the city and its uniqueness, the ones that I forget to tell my friends andbremen schnoor family about when I’m Skyping and chatting, because the little things don’t pop out at me unless they’re right in front of me. So I guess this entry is a list of tiny things in Bremen, things that you might not pick up on just by going to the big tourist attractions. And this isn’t even all of them, because like I said, these things don’t occur to me unless they’re right there.

AThere are strange quirks that the city has, like the odd sculpture of monkeys in front of the central train station, or the disquieting statues of three bikers and two joggers on the main walkway at the University. There’s the Bleikeller, the Lead Cellar, tucked away in the basement of the Cathedral, with an eerie display of bodies that were naturally mummified. And I’ve seen a few statues in a number of places that remind me of variations of the Cow Parade, the statues of cows that are painted with different themes. The Bremen take on this, however, is done with a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster, after the Bremen Musicians.

IMGAnd then there are the tiny details that you don’t pick up on unless you’re paying close attention. The sewer covers have tiny keys stamped into them, the symbol of Bremen, and bottles of Beck’s also share the key as a symbol. There is a mouse in the Cathedral, though I can’t tell you the story about that one—you have to be a true Bremer to be privy to that information. 😉 There’s the reason the Roland faces the Cathedral—he was built as a symbolic balance of the power of the city and personal rights versus the power of the Church. The whole city is steeped in history, and it seems like around every corner there’s a story hidden, waiting to be discovered. The details snowball together until all of a sudden you have a picture of the city that could never be imagined just by reading up on the landmarks and snapping pictures on a tour.

You can fit right into Bremen by doing something small, like wearing a Werder Bremen scarf. I went out into the city yesterday, a game day, wearing one, even though I didn’t go to watch the game myself—I had other things to take care of. But I heard the results of the game on the radio as I stopped at a kiosk for a snack (0-0, unfortunately), and watched streams of people wearing green and white returning from the stadium. Because I ended up walking back in the same direction as the people who were at the game and had identified myself as a Werder fan, I got stopped several times by people who wanted to know what the score was. I was even stopped by a couple women who asked for directions to the central station.

When it comes down to it, however, it’s people that really bring everything together. While chatting with a classmate as we waited for the bus, an old woman picked up on the fact that I was from the US, as we were comparing Uni Bremen and Dickinson. She told me in English, with a perfect British accent, that she had studied in the US in 1951 and later returned on a Fulbright scholarship, and that she understood that it was hard to go to a new country and learn in a completely different language. She told me, with a very warm smile, that she was confident that I would overcome challenges presented to me and succeed at the University of Bremen, and then serenely bid me farewell as her tram arrived. A brief, five-minute conversation like that would never have happened if I were just a tourist. I’m happy to be here, and I love all the little details that make up my Bremen experience.

Everything is more extreme in Hamburg

by Julie King ’12

Saturday October 23rd we had our first Dickinson excursion outside of Bremen. With our semester tickets we can take regional trains to a good number of cities within Niedersachsen, the state surrounding Bremen, and we can go to Hamburg, which, like Bremen, is one of the three city-states in Germany, the third being Berlin.

We left our apartment at 7:10am to meet at the central station at 8:00am. As awesome as German public transportation is, the street trams don’t start at our stop until 8:00am on the weekends, so we had to walk part of the way at what we college students consider an ungodly hour – especially considering that here at 54 degrees North, the sun doesn’t rise until close to 8:00.

We pulled into the Hamburg central station around 9:30am for what was actually my second visit to Hamburg. Earlier in the month Insa, Bill, Doug and I went to Hamburg for an evening.  My first visit we walked around Speicherstadt, which is a canal-filled warehouse district built in the late 1800′s.  It’s a beautiful district, and later I was surprised to learn that Hamburg actually has more bridges than Venice.  Later in the evening we got a taste of the Redlight District along the famous Reeperbahn (street) before catching heading home at a reasonable 11:00pm. (In reference to the title, I must say that Hamburg’s Redlight area is a District, whereas in Bremen it is only a short street).

Our official Dickinson visit to Bremen was a more wholesomely educational trip.


Hamburg Rathaus

It started out with a tour of the city hall, which in my opinion was a little excessive. (I prefer the older, smaller, more approachable Bremer Rathaus). The current Hamburg Rathaus is actually the “new” city hall, built between 1886 to 1897 ; the original burned down in the great fire of 1848. The new city hall has hundreds of rooms, each of which are lavishly decorated, to house the Hamburg senate and parliament, as well as two mayors. Some of the rooms have leather covered walls bedazzled with Hanseatic or Hamburg related designs.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and the Dickinsonians

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and the Dickinsonians

The most massive hall even had chandeliers so large that they weigh 1.5 tons each. My favorite fact from the tour, is that on New Year’s day city hall is open to the public so that you can personally wish the mayor “Happy New Year,” just be prepared to wait a long time in line.  After the Rathaus tour we took a slight detour to have a group photo in front of Lessing, one of Germany’s most famous writers. The only ones I can think of are the ones I have read, “Emilia Galotti”, Nathan der Weise, and a fable “Der Rabe und der Fuchs” (the raven and the fox).

Our next activity was a boat tour of the Hamburg harbor.


Hamburg Habor

Germany’s biggest port and the second biggest/busiest port in Europe after Rotterdam in the Netherlands.  Despite the cold and the wind, we (or at least I) enjoyed more than an hour of sightseeing and information from our humorous tour guide who used to be sailor on one of the massive container ships. Also hidden in port amongst all of the commercial ships was the world’s largest and most expensive personal yacht, owned by Roman Abramovich (the 4th richest man in Russia who also owns FC Chelsea).  Overall, my favorite part of the boat tour was just seeing the Hamburg shoreline because of the variety of the ages and styles of all the different buildings.

By time we were done with our boat tour, we were all quite hungry and ready for lunch at Joh. Albrecht Brauhaus, right along one of the canals.  We each got a delicious house draught beer. I had a delicious bowl of pumpkin soup for an appetizer and a vegetable “Flammkuchen,” which is sort of like a flatbread pizza.

After our leisurely lunch we took the subway to the St. Michaelis church. Supposedly it is one of the more famous churches in Germany, which it must be considering Loki Schmidt’s funeral was held there earlier this week. (She’s the German equivalent of Nancy Reagan). To work off our generous lunch, we climbed 400 steps to the top of the tower for a beautiful view of Hamburg.

The weather worsened and just as we arrived in Sternschanze, the artsy, liberal, young area of Hamburg, which is…surprise… a bigger, dirtier version of Bremen’s Viertel. The rain was a good excuse to pop into to a coffee shop where we enjoyed a hot beverage and lively discourse. After that we decided it was time to head home, and had an uneventful, sleepy ride back to Bremen.


Crests of Hamburg (left) and Bremen (right)

Overall, I really like Hamburg, and I’m pretty sure I’ll go back, especially considering it’s free with our semester ticket. It’s even been recommended a few times that we go to Hamburg to go to the clubs and then stay out so late that we go to fish market when it opens and take the first train back to Bremen. I’m not sure I’m up to European party stamina yet, but perhaps before the end of the year I will try it. But for those of you who don’t know, Hamburg is called the “das Tor zur Welt” the gate to the world because of its port and its crest, but the joke in Bremen is: Hamburg may be the gate to the world, but Bremen has the key (because the Bremen crest is a key).

A Night at the Ratskeller

by Nicole Couturiaux ’12

Two weeks ago our program celebrated our arrival in Bremen with a welcome dinner in the “Ratskeller,” the UNESCO world heritage wine cellar and restaurant below the city hall building. It’s tradition for the new group to gather here in October, after our individual language courses across the country, to enjoy each other’s company and start the year off with a traditional north-German meal. The 6 of us were presented with our long-awaited visas, making us official citizens of Bremen.


Poets Michael Augustin and Sujata Bhatt also joined us for dinner. The couple has a strong connection to our program – both are former Dickinson Writers-in-Residence and they remain active contributors to Dickinson’s literary programs. As a first-year student, I listened in on their readings at our annual international poetry festival Semana Poética and even journaled about Michael’s poems as an assignment for my German class at the time. Two years later I was surprised and thrilled to reminisce about Dickinson traditions and compare favorite Carlisle restaurants with them. The night concluded with a photo of our well-fed, very talkative, and quite jubilant group in front of the famous Bremer Stadtmusikanten.