Bremen, another Hanseatic League city, surprised us.  I knew Bremerhaven, the port city for Bremen, had been heavily bombed during WWII, but Bremen had an even larger intact old city than Lubeck and a section called the Schnuur with winding streets and medieval houses.

The central part of the city was comprised of beautifully intricate and ornate renaissance era buildings.  We encountered a brass band on the steps of the cathedral performing traditional music and found that they were a travelling Salvation Army Band.  We toured the cathedral and discovered a free concert of renaissance music performed on period instruments was to be presented that night and without charge.

Bremen, Germany 13

Bremen, Germany 13

Bremen, Germany 12

Bremen, Germany 12

Bremen, Germany 11

Bremen, Germany 11

Bremen, Germany 10

Bremen, Germany 10

Bremen, Germany 09

Bremen, Germany 09

Bremen, Germany 08

Bremen, Germany 08

Bremen, Germany07

Bremen, Germany 07

Bremen, Germany 06

Bremen, Germany 06

Bremen, Germany 05

Bremen, Germany 05

Bremen, Germany 04

Bremen, Germany 04

Bremen, Germany 03

Bremen, Germany 03

Bremen, Germany 02

Bremen, Germany 02

One of the Salvation Army staff visited with us and encouraged us to see the neighborhood called the Schnuur, which we did.  The Schnuur was charming and one of the retail shops had a treasure Heidi had been searching for at every stop in the Alsace and Germany, Bon-homme (miniature painted wooden figures).  The whole shop was devoted to these charming keepsake/toys and she purchased a shepherd maiden and pub keeper.  Something to go along with my cuckoo clock.

We tried to have dinner in a beautiful traditional Bierstube, but already at 5 they were fully booked.  Remembering our luck in Lubeck we headed for the Ratskeller and in the end that was an excellent choice.  The aged charm of the dining room and well-prepared traditional offerings were happily enjoyed.

After dinner we walked back to the cathedral for the concert performed by a harpsichord, 2 violins, and a viola da gamba.  The seating was intimate, and we were able to hear and see perfectly during the one-hour concert.

We had a great rest at the Best Western with breakfast amidst a room full of German tourists and were well prepared for the long drive to Bruge.  I was beginning to become anxious about the car and avoiding any incidents on the last long and two short driving legs before we turned it in at Charles de Gaulle airport.  Also, we were thinking more and more about home.

A short postscript observation about the masonry artistry in the churches and cathedrals in Northern Europe. The quality of the masonry work, artistry, precision of line, and finish was masterful throughout Italy and even in residential settings.  In France the finishes were more austere, but the line and artistry were superb.  As we moved into the Hanseatic cities the churches and cathedrals lost their precision of line.  They were out of plumb with fissures in the walls and built with brick rather than stone.  The inside finishes were noticeable less sophisticated and of course what had been catholic had become protestant.

My thought is that the foundations in the Netherlands and the Baltic north were not set on stone, but rather piles driven into relatively unstable ground.  Maybe it also reflects the later adoption of Christianity and perhaps a lighter hold on the culture.  The great churches in France and Italy represented huge investments in labor, wealth, and cultural enrapture with the achievement.  Scholars have called the work on the major cathedrals the “moon shot” of their times.  I did not see the same degree of fervor exhibited in the North and for me made it more comprehensible.  The power of the cathedrals of France and Italy were unfathomable in their grandeur and so left me in a state of wonder and mystery and reverence.