As we rolled slowly over the cobblestones Chas said “I’m pretty sure we’re driving through a pedestrian zone.” My response – “no that can’t be true…this is how the GPS told us to go…” Well I’m hear to tell you that GPS systems shouldn’t be trusted implicitly in Europe!
This is how we began our first stop on our American road trip. We were on our way to Wismar for the night. I picked Wismar because I’d visited for work and found it to be a charming retreat on the Black Sea. I knew my husband and folks would also love it. But, then, for some strange reason, I began to doubt if they would share my opinion of this city. Perhaps they would find it too small, not busy enough… I began to think that we should make some stops along the way. As I studied the route I saw two clear options: Bremen or Hanover. I opened up Rick Steve’s guide to Germany, flipped to the city index and couldn’t find Bremen or Hanover. Well, that didn’t help. I needed more data. One of my neighbors is from Bremen and her descriptions of the city were nice, so Bremen it was.
We arrived in the city a little after noon and I did what I usually do, which was to set the GPS to the city Centre. This normally works pretty well to find the interesting parts of the city. As we approached the pretty buildings, always a good sign, we suddenly found ourselves driving down a road that seemed an awful like like a pedestrian zone… Turns out it was, oops! Fortunately not many people about and no trains. We quickly found a P sign for a parking garage and headed in that direction. After the car was safely secured we headed in to town.
Our first sight was a beautiful church, but we were hungry and thirsty and we were delighted to find a market underway. We made a beeline for the market and found a number of wonderful booths selling bread, meat and cheese. I’d had a similar experience in Luxembourg when I visited with some girlfriends over the winter. Dad was drawn to the meat booth and found some delicious salami. Mom picked out a bread. Cheese was next on the list and we grabbed a few, especially some of the local cheeses. Everyone carried a little bundle of goodness as we searched for a brauhaus where we could stand outside to eat and have a local bier.
It didn’t take long to find the perfect place and we bought a local draft bier and then gathered around a circular stand up table to share our farmers market lunch. It was a sunny day, blue skies above and we were on a narrow side street at a brauhaus from the 1700s. These sorts of moments are wonderful.
On our way to lunch we stopped in the local tourist office and picked up some tips on places to see. The first advice was to definitely visit the old district in town called the Schnoor. It was quaint, a few too many shops for my taste, but I’ve come to realize this is how these districts stay in business. We couldn’t resist posing for a picture on one of the pretty little cobblestone lanes.
We took a meandering path in search of the reason we had stopped in town – to admire the four musicians and, of greatest importance, to touch the donkeys hoofs for luck. Along the way we paused in a giant brauhaus. Munich style bier was on tap and we enjoyed a pint to refuel our adventure.
Soon after we struck out again we decided to stop in the giant church to admire the art and architecture. It’s a very impressive place and I admired the nice folk-style painted interior. It reminded me a little of Matthias Temple in Budapest. Art that is approachable is very appealing to me.
As our eyes adjusted to the sunlight we roamed toward a tall statue in front of the Rathaus that celebrates trade. It’s done in a beautiful medieval style.
Still, we hadn’t found the four musicians. I was picturing a large statue that would be easy to find so I was a little perplexed. I popped in to a store and asked a lady where I could find the four musicians and she walked out of the place and led me across the square and around the corner to a construction zone. Suddenly, there it was, tucked between the scaffolding, in the shadow of a large building, the four musicians. I thanked our spontaneous tour guide for leading us to the statue. Then we waited our turn and experienced the ceremony of touching the donkey hoofs. The hoofs are shiny bronze, polished from many hands seeking luck.
As it turns out the donkey hooves did bring us luck. We had clear weather our entire trip. Moral of the story, make your first stop at a universal good luck charm and fate will smile upon your adventure.
My cat is attacking me now so it’s time to stop for tonight.
Next stop Lubeck and then on to Wismar.