Sunday, October 05, 2008

You should visit Bremen.

6 comments
A week ago we headed Bremenward to participate for the 2nd time in an English-speaking expatriate meet-up now known as the infamous WEBMU.

As we rolled out of bed at some ridiculous hour and trundled northward on the Deutsche Bahn, I was having some serious doubts about whether the whole trip had been a good idea. I had gotten a wicked cold after my aunt left and felt like crap. Bremen isn't known for its pleasant weather. I made a mistake setting my alarm clock and had to rush to make the train, not looking or feeling very together. A woman with ridiculously strong perfume sat behind us on the train, making me an exile from my reserved seat, because it was exacerbating my sore throat and making the air taste like soap. The next train went the other direction odor-wise: it smelled like ass. I only ate half my lunch because the smell was making it very non-palatable. Grumble grumble grumble! I was the poster child for White Whine.

I would just like to say how completely wrong I was. This was one of the most worthwhile trips we made all year. All the complaints of the trip and the symptoms of the cold were totally forgotten as we had a great time checking out the beautiful and interesting city of Bremen and hanging out with fellow expats, all itching to connect with the kind of people who allow themselves to connect with each other! (Germans are known for their very reserved nature. It is very hard if you are not from this type of country.)

Before doing anything in Bremen, we first met up with Cliff and Sarah of Regensblog, Adam of That Queer Expatriate, and J of Germany Doesn't Suck to ride up to Bremerhaven, about 30 minutes north of Bremen, to visit the German Emigration Museum.
Bremerhaven Sep 08

Around seven million emigrants left Europe via Bremerhaven in the days of passenger ships to the New World. The museum traces the journey, starting with waiting outside a ship, looking at some personal details of many of those whole left, boarding the ship and checking out the accomodations, and arriving in, as an example, New York City. In the next room after the mock-up Ellis Island immigration office, the current status of a few families of emigrants is shown, along with a map showing US towns that share their names with European cities, and a whole library of US phone books to show the European names that can be found in them. Two short movies are shown, one focusing mostly on immigrants to the US, and the other on immigrants to Argentina. The one for the US was particularly well done, showing those who came over from Germany employing the new immigrants: from Mexico, and drawing parallels to themselves when they first arrived. More Americans would do well to think about this a bit more closely.

In a final room, there are computers to look up information on emigrants who left through Bremerhaven, as well as a display on how we think about the rest of the world and how open we are to new experiences. Many of the ideas were very familiar to us as a group of expatriates, people who have left our own countries. Unfortunately the computer lookup wasn't much more helpful than just having a paid account on ancestry.com.

After returning to Bremen, we met up with Ian from Letters Home for dinner, and were joined later by the crew from My Life in Germany. The restaurant was right across from the famous Bremen Rathaus in a building with a slogan about the former separation of Germany written on it, and the food was quite good, although drinks were expensive! (Note to Ian: Although our pointed use of the word moist was intentional, our exploitation of your primary weakness by doing so was purely an accident!)

The next morning we met up with most of the group, including such minor celebrities as Papa Scott, Mausi, and Heisse Scheisse! There, our fearless and incredibly generous and organized leader, none other than Claire from Cheeseburgers and Sauerkraut, led us on a tour of all the important sights in Bremen's beautiful center. See the photos! The tour was followed by lunch on the Schlachte, an eating-focused area along the River Weser. Claire didn't plan which restaurant we were going to eat at, so we wandered along, and surprisingly, made an almost unanimous choice! There was a Mexican restaurant!! This is a no-brainer for a bunch of expats missing Mexican food, and we apparently haven't had our spirits crushed yet by previous bad Mexican food experiences here in Germany. The food actually turned out to be pretty decent and we had great company at a table with the Regensbloggers and Snooker. Afterward, the five of us found a great Konditorei for some dessert!
Bremen Sep 08
We parted ways for a bit of a break in the afternoon. Damon and I tried to get inside some churches to see them, but all were closed by that point. We wandered over to a cute narrow-streeted shopping area called the Schnoor and looked around, which took up just enough time before we headed back to meet up with Snooker and Adam to walk over to the chosen meeting spot for dinner, the oddly-decorated Spaghetti Haus. There we had the privilege of mingling with yet more cool bloggers like the authors of Deutschland Ueber Elvis, 50% of My DNA, From the Big Apple to the Big Bear, Martinis for Two, and a couple of blog readers who met on a Depeche Mode website! Unfortunately there were a few others that I missed getting to know; the group this year was just so huge! Next year we will need corporate sponsorship and a convention hall!

After dinner, we were all itching for some drinks, and the ever-organized Adam had already pre-selected a little hole-in-the-wall gay bar over by the train station, internet map printout and all! Not only was the music pretty good (Damon's old boss swears by gay bars for this reason) but it was so ridiculously friendly I was starting to wonder if I was still in Germany! For the second night in a row, we cabbed it back to our far-out hotel...a bit pricey, but we were completely exhausted again.

On Sunday morning we enjoyed the brunch buffet at Alex near the Dom, then went our separate ways. Damon and I finally snuck in a look inside the Dom, which was open, right before we boarded our train for the long, crowded journey back to Heidelberg. (Apologies to anyone at the meet-up who may be finding themselves starting to show symptoms of a cold now. By the train ride home I was burning through zillions of Kleenexes and had turned sort of pink.) Can't wait until next year, wherever it may be!!

6 comments:

  1. Hey C and D --- it was great seeing you guys again. Great write-up! Hobe your cold iz a bid bedder. Only one question... what are my secondary weaknesses? Now I'm all freakin out... :-)

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  2. Ian: Hmm, not sure about that yet...I guess we'll have to make it a project for the next meet-up to find out!

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  3. Mike, you were missed! (Seriously, when we were discussing the political lean of various expat blogs!)

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  4. Howdy to the both of you!
    It was a lot of fun meeting ya'all, and I hope we can arrange it again real soon.
    As for the next official meet up (cough*Berlin*cough), I like the idea of corporate sponsorship!

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  5. Everyone seems to develop a cough when they talk about the possibility of Berlin next year... ;)

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