Helen Rose Outdoors Diary
I'd never visited Northern Germany so decided to take a cruise from Rosyth. Cruises combine a holiday relaxing on board with waking up every morning without effort in a new placee. Perfect for the lazy traveller! The cruise was for one week. We left Rosyth on the ship and passed under the Queensferry Crossing, the latest addition to Scotland's famous Forth Bridges. The 1.7 miles (2.7km) structure is the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world and also by far the largest to feature cables which cross mid-span. This innovative design provides extra strength and stiffness, allowing the towers and the deck to be more slender and elegant.
After a day on the North Sea our first port of call was Heligoland; an archipelago in the south eastern corner of the North Sea – the only German islands not in the immediate vicinity of Germany. The islands were previously in the possession of Denmark and Britain. They are the only German islands with a sea stack (Lange Anna). They claim to have richer air with iodine and oxygen than anywhere else in Germany. We took a tender from the ship to the port and walked up the well-marked paths along the top of the red sandstone rock cliffs. On the way we passed bomb craters now growing with grass where grey moorland sheep were grazing. The area was badly bombed during WW2 due to its strategic location and is in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest artificial non-nuclear single explosive detonation. The little town looked very Danish with the coloured houses. Heligoland is duty-free which attracts a lot of visitors.
We continued up the River Elbe which is a wide river leading to Hamburg. Leaving the dock we were immediately in the new Harbour City where the old warehouses are being transformed into bijoux residences and the entire area is being regenerated. The former warehouses now provide opportunities for the service industry. I was particularly impressed by the coffee museum coffee house where we could watch the coffee being roasted and see how the bags of coffee beans were brought in to the warehouse. Also, in this area is the new opera house, Elbphilharmonie, where there are long elevators to a high point in the building providing views across the city. In the centre of the city is a manmade Lake Auβenalster surrounded by modern white housing and parks. The town hall (Rathaus) is also a prize with its elaborately decorated façade. Hamburg dates back 700 years to the Hanseatic League.
Further on the tour we drove down the Reeperbahn which is famous for the Beatles' emergance in clubs there. Most appropriate for me having visited Liverpool earlier in the year. We then visited St. Michael’s church for a Bach organ recital. It is the largest Baroque church in Northern Germany and has three organs, one of which is reputed to be the largest in the world. This church has excellent acoustics with its high naves. Walking around the harbour area there is good outdoor sculpture within the gardens. Many of the oldest buildings in Hamburg were lost in WW2 and only a few streets have been preserved.
We travelled along the Elbe and then turned in to the River Weser where we docked at Bremen. Bremen is a newish town but with a UNESCO World Heritage listed statue of Knight Roland dating back to 1404 in its central Market Square. The old centre is small enough to take in on a walking tour. The Renaissance/Gothic style town hall with its magnificent façade is one of the finest civic buildings in Germany. It is the only European town hall built in the late Middle Ages that has not been destroyed or altered, managing to survive in its original form over the centuries. Unfortunately, we could not have a tour of the interior where model ships hang from the ceiling to honour the maritime history.
The other attraction was the iconic bronze sculpture of the Bremen Town Musicians based on the Grimm’s fairy tale animals. We walked from the Market Square to the Böttcherstraβe, where we were greeted at the entrance by the Bringer of Light wall sculpture. Beyond this was the Glockenspiel House where 30 bells of Meissen China ring three times a day. We were lucky enough to hear them. It was on to the Schnoor Quarter, the oldest part of Bremen with its pretty little timber houses.
We sailed up the North Sea back to Rosyth in lovely, calm, sunny weather, unusual for this area as the Captain reminded us! A very enjoyable trip full of history and beautiful architecture.
Coming attraction; Windermere.
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