Downtown parks were a staple in German cities, some of them even larger than the size of the downtown. Examples included the massive "Green U" in Stuttgart, the city park across the river from the Cologne Dom, Hamburg, and Berlin. Among those I have visited, I would rate Bremen's combination of the Stadtgraben, Bürgerpark, and Stadtwald as the best. The combination of activities and sights available was great, and they blended in with museums, convention centers, and points of interest. I spent virtually a whole afternoon exploring these parks, and it was worth the exercise.
The Wallenlangen was a park formed inside the city's former moat, the Stadtgraben, surrounding the Altstadt and bounded by the road "Am Wall" which followed the old city wall. This V-shaped moat gave the Altstadt the shape of a sun rising. The park is on the inside, on hilly ground. The paths lead visitors among several monuments, most of them abstract -- such as a huge concrete trophy cup, an unnamed statue of a man and a horse, and a fountain of a doe and three fawns. The first photograph shows the Windmill am Wall, a windmill of the classic Dutch variety perched on a hill in the middle of the Wallenlangen above a flower garden. The Windmill is now a popular restaurant. In the southeast, the Wallenlangen ends at Goetheplatz, a park surrounded by the city art gallery (Kunsthalle), and the Theater, which has a pleasant outdoor riverside café.
After I completed my tour of the Altstadt, I followed the roads back past the train station to the series of three adjacent parks -- the Barkhof, Bürgerpark (citizens' park), and Stadtwald (city forest). The Barkhof ran alongside the train station to the city convention center. In the center, it had a very big, and rather ugly (my opinion) elephant sculpture made entirely by red bricks. The Barkhof was dotted with sculptures of famous Bremers and hosted a small Protestant church.
The main building of the convention center district, the Stadthalle (event hall), is shown in the second photograph. The building shown was one of four huge modern facilities covering about two city blocks along Theodore-Heuss-Allee. The center had a massive exhibition hall (Messehalle), the Congress Center, and the Schlachthof Arts Center. The Stadthalle was a sports arena, and the city's tourist catalog included equestrian events and cycling on its 2003 calendar.
I soon reached the entrance to the Bürgerpark, a two-mile long park filled with activities and sights. I first encountered the Hollersee and Park Hotel, a beautiful white manor behind a sculpted pond, surrounded by stone figurines. Following the paths to the left, I passed by two of several huge kiddie parks (Spielplatzen) that were all packed with families.
I reached the Emmasee, a huge shallow pond that was surrounded by a large café, a miniature golf course, and a harbor for wooden boats to rent. The Emmasee was at the southern end of a looping waterway that surrounded the middle of the park, ideal for boating.
Just on the other side of the bridge I stood on when I took the third photograph was an exotic animal zoo (Tiergehege). This outdoor zoo had animals brought in from all over Asia and Africa, most of them small, tame animals such as goats, deer, and cows like the ones shown in the fourth photograph. The Tiergehege also had a small bird sanctuary.
Further north, almost center of the park, I came upon the most beautiful of the restaurant complexes, the Meiereivilla, a wonderful villa with a beautiful flower garden over a large pond, called the Meiereisee. The interior of the villa was a very classy restaurant that attracted a bowtie crowd as I returned later. The garden grounds also had a simple café and ice parlor. Another three hundred yards up was another resthouse, the Waldbühne, or forest stage. Normally a café, this gazebo-shaped building was also used for outdoor concerts during the summer.
Beyond the Bürgerpark was the Stadtwald, or city forest, which included a fitness trail and horse-riding zone. A marked route took joggers on a 15-step exercise drill that combined running with calisthenics. The horse trail was not only used by individual riders, but horse wagons who regularly patrolled the main street paralleling the park. The Stadtwald's primary features were across a highway, the city's camping ground and the peaceful City Forest Lake.
My final stop on this tour was to the University of Bremen, upon which the Universum Science Center -- the flying saucer-shaped structure shown in the fifth photograph -- sits. I took a tour of it, even though I was handicapped by my limited German and the exhibits were not bi-lingual. It was a good educational experience, although it was clearly geared for families. The Center was divided into three separate topical paths that snaked up and down the three floors inside -- anatomy/anthropology, geology, and astronomy. It included an interactive playground that permitted visitors to demonstrate various scientific principles using contraptions set up by the museum. For example, a wind chamber was set up to demonstrate how tornadoes formed, and the turn of a knob made it stronger or weaker. Centers like this were not uncommon in Europe, and I enjoyed them because they are great at encouraging people to explore the sciences and do things that were tough to replicate in a classroom.
This tour definitely involved a lot of walking, probably a good five miles by the time I was done. But what better way to spend a pleasant afternoon than outside among some of the best parks around? For those wanting other options, the city botanical garden was a few blocks east of the Bürgerpark, while to the west was the Bremen Space Center, a fairly new attraction. So, don't feel like you have to confine yourself to the Altstadt!
Trips taken 6-7 September 2003 -- Page last updated 18 August 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin