a slogan which may well be true.
It is always nice to go shipspotting - especially when the ships are older and full of character. Bremerhaven is a good place for doing this. But why not stay a bit closer to home, if you’re a fan, and make a detour to the Vegesacker Hafen (Vegesack Harbour). Accessible by bike or train, the port lies practically in the heart of Bremen-Nord; one of Bremen’s two half- towns, situated at the Northern edge. The harbour was constructed by the Dutch from 1619 to 1622, right in the middle of the Thirty Years’ War. Vegesack was supposed to be an offshore terminal for the main port in the city of Bremen.
About 12 miles (20 kilometres) downriver, bigger ships had to be lightered, as they could not reach the Schlachte embankment due to the Weser’s aggradation. After experiencing an eventful history, Vegesack- until the year 1939 a town in its own right- became the home port of the biggest German fleet of herring loggers.
In the years from 1885 to 1968, these ships, and the Bremen-Vegesack fishing company, (Bremen-Vegesacker Fischer-Gesellschaft) defined life around the inner harbour. The last ship remaining from these glorious times is the lugger “BV Vegesack”, which had been constructed by the Bremer Vulkan as a gaff ketch in 1895. It has been renovated in the years of 1979 to 1980 and has formed the centre of the Vegesack maritime tradition ever since. A tradition with a good name - Vegesack became one of Germany’s official “museum ports” five years ago. This was for good reason because ships such as the lugger “BV2 Vegesack”, Hanseatic cog “Roland of Bremen” gaff ketch “TS Atlantic”, built for Kaiser Wilhelm the Second in 1871, or the once- Bremerhaven-based, still fully-functional firefighting boat “Feuerlöschboot 1” allow fans and those to be to immerse themselves in Bremen’s maritime history. But this is only one of several options:
All who feel the lure of ships and the sea should also definitely board the training ship “Schulschiff Deutschland”. It is not only the last remaining "full ship“ in German waters but has the status of a veritable maritime museum. All rooms on this ship are preserved the way the engineers had designed them before the 86-metres-long ship left port in 1927 at the Tecklenborg-Werft in Bremerhaven. When you are boarding the “White Swan of the Lower Weser, “ as the ship is often called, you can either explore the ship by yourself or in a guided tour. Both has its advantages, because the people who initiate visitors in seafaring secrets have often used to be sailors themselves. Not only have they detailed knowledge about the Schulschiff Deutschland, but also a lot of stories and anecdotes to tell…The harbour and the “Schulschiff Deutschland” have been a part of Vegesack’s “maritime mile” from the year 2000 on.
Since 2010, the “maritime mile” reaches forth to the “Schaufenster Bootsbau”
(Boatbuilding showcase). On the former premises of the Bremer Vulkan shipyards, visitors can watch more or less closely while big and small boats are being constructed. It is open during weekdays from 11am to 18pm. Guided tours take place at 2 pm.
They close only at the weekend, because the “boatbuilding showcase” belongs to the Bremen employment institution “Bremer Bootsbau Vegesack” (BBV), and nobody will continue working at the showroom then.
But there will be another attraction at the opposite end of the “maritime mile”next to the inner harbour and the “Schulschiff”: The Hafenspeicher (haven granary) will host a permanent, multi-media exhibition about Vegesack’s history and shipbuilding at the Lower Weser. But if the exhibition, which has been planned to be ready in June, will really be opened in Autumn, as its creators wish, is not yet quite clear.
The trip in the centre of Bremen-Nord can be complemented by a little walk through the Stadtgarten, which origins hail back to the botanist Albrecht -Wilhelm Roth, a vicar’s son who was born 1757 in Dötlingen and worked in Vegesack as a doctor. But his greatest passion were botanics. It is no wonder that he was the author of the first systematic compendium of German plants.
Traces of his activity can still be seen in the shape of an interesting range of exotic trees and shrubs, as well as local plants. The Vegesack Stadtgarten is the green heart of Vegesack and stretches alongside the entire Weser embankment just below the Weserstrasse, which would be worth a visit for its architecture alone. It is the only remaining street in Bremen which still has an avenue pattern. Overlooking the Weser valley, there are stately homes which have been built by the once-powerful merchant families as a residence or summer retreat. On the other side, however, unique captains’ houses, who bear witness to Vegesack’s great seafaring past, have also been preserved, adding to Vegesack' s special maritime flair.
Text: Ulf Buschmann