Bumbling around Bremen

Cuxhaven has been a very useful stop-over. Lots of jobs that have been lingering (for several years in some cases) have now got done, but Anne was now heading out to the boat via Bremen. She was visiting a friend, so we arranged to have a day out in Bremen. I got a train in to Bremen from Cuxhaven which meant changing at Bremerhave-Lehe – a total journey of around one and a half hours. Once there, Anne’s friend Vicky gave us a whistlestop tour of Bremen. Starting with the windmill just outside the station we then headed into the main town square. Bremen is one of the Hanseatic cities and the local merchants and guilds aimed to dominate the local North Sea and Baltic trade. In the war around two thirds of the fabric of the city was destroyed, but much has been rebuilt since and the city positively exudes history ….

Bremen is also the home or perhaps more accurately setting for the Brothers Grimm fairy tale – the Town Musicians of Bremen. This tells the story of four ageing domestic animals – a story many of us can relate to – who after a lifetime of hard work are neglected by their masters. So, they decide, as you do, to run away and become town musicians in Bremen. The animals – a donkey, dog, cat and a rooster – come across a lighted house on their way to Bremen. Inside they see robbers so, standing on each other’s backs they manage to make enough of a din to scare the robbers off. So, they head into the house and enjoy a good meal. Later in the evening the robbers return to investigate what caused the cacophony and when one of the goes in they are assaulted first by the cat who scratches the robber’s face with her claws, the dog bites him, the donkey kicks him, and the rooster crows and chases him out the door. The terrified robber tells his companions that he was beset by a horrible witch who had scratched him with her long fingernails (the cat), a dwarf who has a knife (the dog), a black monster who had hit him with a club (the donkey), and worst of all, a bat who had screamed from the rooftop (the rooster). The animals were then left to see out the rest of their days in the house, so contrary to the name, they never actually made it to Bremen! Despite that Bremen has adopted the story with a statue in the main square as well as a slot where you can put a euro coin to hear the noises the animals made to scare off the robbers … 

There is an alternative version of the story which was adopted by Jim Henson and the Muppets – The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, though this is set in Louisiana. In the town square there is a statue of the four musicians and it is meant to bring good luck if you touch the front legs of the donkey, though Vicky emphasised to us that this has to be done with the right hand on the right leg!

The Town Musicians of Bremen