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Down the drain…
The economic downturn and global structural change have had a massive impact on Germany’s north. All the more tragic when it’s your own home.
Early in the morning in the harbor. The Aprilia rolls along seemingly endless warehouses. The right-angled road network, the Gerda museum trawler, the permanent smell of salt and fish – everything is as familiar as the screaming of seagulls, which is drowned out in the next moment by the deep horn of a steamer. The spicy sea air ensures a clear head, who realizes with gratitude that much has remained the same. Historic brickwork made of dark brick for processing fish around the clock. Mostly family businesses with direct sales of smoked eel, plaice and cod. Outwardly, Bremerhaven’s fishing port stubbornly defies modernity. Economically, you stay afloat with fish fingers on a large scale: 70,000 tons per year for Captain Iglu and Co. from the world’s largest factory for frozen fish. Apart from this dubious delicacy – it feels good to finally be home in the north again.
Ten minutes later. Heringstrasse, corner of Lunedeich. “Ever heard of the fishing port race?” Red truck, friendly driver. Uwe Wenta peered down from the high seat of the articulated lorry at the angular Italian with a foreign license plate. Deadline pressure? A few minutes of chatting among bikers would not be important. The main thing is that he is in Stuttgart this evening. And back to the sea tomorrow. A life without a dike? “No, let it be.” Especially not without the annual race in the harbor. The “Monte Carlo of the North” – memories do a somersault. Whitsun 1979. Showdown in Fishtown for the full throttle faction, which is so worried on the narrow course between the warehouses. Cobblestones, rails, no run-off areas. Total madness. The spectators – very close, only separated from the track by bales of straw. In the middle of it all is a sixteen-year-old, who has arrived on a brand new, red Yamaha DT 50 M. With 2.9 HP against the North Sea wind to freedom, the parents in their hometown 80 kilometers away clueless which virus is currently nesting in their boy.
Back in the here and now. Georgstrasse, finally Columbusstrasse. Battered asphalt on the way to the center. Mouse-gray house fronts, old buildings in need of renovation, noticeably many empty shops. The city has aged rapidly since the withdrawal of the nearby US Army in the late 1980s. The casual boys had provided their pockets full of dollars as an economic factor. There was a touch of the big wide world as a bonus. The word had got around to us in the country that the wildest parties were celebrated here. Occasional forays were the result. Because of the music. Freshly imported soul and funk. Neue Deutsche Welle never had a chance with me.
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Down the drain…
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Sad cityscape: business tasks are not an isolated case in the north.
Three towering apartment blocks mark the city center at the museum harbor, dominating the silhouette. Bland buildings in the Neue Heimat style that are modeled on ship chimneys. The view from the roof of the Columbus Center should be awesome. The Weser and Wadden Sea as a shimmering silver surface, mirror-like reflecting the clouds driven by the wind. The first sun worshipers are now drawn to the lido opposite. “This is how you recognize tourists. Or those who have no work. ”Stefan, mid-30s, mustache, light blue tracksuit. His hand feels over the Aprilia’s tank. Since Harz IV, only a Golf I has been considered. Did I know that the unemployment rate in Bremerhaven would now be 21.5 percent? “We are worse off than many areas in the new federal states.” You just have to watch out for the many vacant apartments.
At the customs office, turn left into Franziusstrasse. A few bursts of gas are enough to get to the overseas port. A huge, misshapen loaf of a ship spits out Far Eastern automobiles. 2000, maybe 3000 pieces in a few hours, whizzing in a long row across the spacious area as if remote-controlled. New cargo is already waiting. German bodies for the international market.
“With around 1200 shiploads per year, that makes over a million vehicles that are handled here in the car terminal.” Peter Janben is a pensioner and knows his way around. He spends more time in port than at home. Over there, that’s Norway. His gaze is directed towards a luxury liner painted in blue and white. “Launched in 1960, 312 meters long, space for 2,500 passengers and a crew of over 1,000.” After two years of berth, the pot would soon leave for Malaysia, presumably to be scrapped. “It’s a shame with such a beautiful ship!” The Aprilia stops right in front of the mighty bow. Goose flesh. The child in the man stirs. Going to sea came before the engine driver.
“One Labskaus for everyone!” Meeting point at Kaiserhafen – the last bar before New York. A tour group enters the harbor bar, which is equipped with unusual souvenirs in every corner, within sight of Norway. Bavarian dialect between ship models, old diving suits, figureheads, countless maritime paintings. The walls have been used as a guest book by ship crews from all over the world for years. Because visitors want to tell something at home in southern Germany, only real sailor’s food comes into question: cured beef, pickled beetroot, pickled cucumbers, onions and herring. Blended into an unsightly mass in the meat grinder. Some really need a schnapps afterwards.
Fishing port race
Every year at Whitsun the asphalt glows in Bremerhaven – the fishing port race is definitely a mega-highlight of the two-wheeler scene with a high addiction and cult factor. Around 30,000 fans are now the rule in Fishtown when the narrow course between the docks, warehouses and bales of straw in nine classes (36 starters per class) for trophies and – even more important here – for honor. The secret of success of the organizer M.S.G. Weserland e.V .: an extremely dense program (two times 14 laps per class), open paddock, crisp side events and the opportunity to be closer to the action as a spectator than in any other race. Next date: June 4 and 5, 2006. Current information such as the schedule, vehicle classes and the documents for the entry can be found on the Internet at www.fischereihafen-rennen.de. Don’t forget your rain gear!
Northern Germany (info)
Fishing romance? The job is tough.
Despite all the misery – Bremerhaven and the country around it are an exciting travel destination. You won’t find mountains and passes here, but the impressions in the port and on the coast make up for this shortcoming.
Bremerhaven is on the A27. If you are coming from the west, take the A1 to the Bremer Kreuz and turn onto the A27. From the south: head for Hanover on the A7 and turn north of the city at Dreieck Westenholz onto the A27. To get to the fishing port, take the Bremerhaven-Wulsdorf exit.
There is hardly a shortage of hotels and pensions: the North Sea coast is all about tourism. However, reservations should be made during the summer holidays. Simple, comfortable and with a garage for the motorcycle: “Hotel Columbus”, Lange Strabe 141–145, 27580 Bremerhaven, phone 0471/95440, Internet: www.columbus-hotel.de. A single room is available from 30 euros per night, a double room from 49 euros. Great breakfast room with a lot of seafaring atmosphere. Further information is available from the “Tourist Info”, Obere Burger, 27568 Bremerhaven, phone 0471/43000, on the Internet at www.bremerhaventourism.de.
Time required: two days; Route length approx. 350 kilometers.
A must in the northern German port cities: a detour to the respective port facilities. The most interesting route can be found in the Bremerhaven overseas port. A round around the three imperial harbors leads past the landing stages of many large vessels, the large locks and the Lloyd shipyard. An observation tower made of stacked containers provides an overview of what is happening – and something is always happening here! THE place for a break in the harbor: “Meeting point Kaiserhafen – the last bar before New York”, Franziusstrabe 92 (www.treffpunktkaiserhafen.de). The traditional Lloyd shipyard (www.loydwerft.com) offers guided tours through the impressive factory facilities every day at 12.30 p.m. (eight euros per person). Tickets and information are available from the tourist information (see above). Also worth a visit: the fishing port, where the legendary fishing port race is held once a year (see box). In the so-called “Schaufenster Fischereihafen”, a converted warehouse, there are numerous fish restaurants, pubs, a seawater aquarium and much more. Info: www.schaufenster-fischereihafen.de. A walk through the recently opened “German Emigration Center”, the largest adventure museum in Europe, should not be missed. There, unique exhibits and “backdrops” tell the story of the more than seven million German emigrants in the past two centuries. Columbusstrasse 65, 27568 Bremerhaven, phone 0471/902200. Be sure to look at the website: www.dah-bremerhaven.de. The “German Maritime Museum”, Hans-Scharoun-Platz 1, 27568 Bremerhaven, is also exciting; www.dsm.de. Indispensable for beer fans: a visit to the Frisian Jever brewery. The tour costs 6.50 euros. Registration under phone 04461/13711; www.jever.de. One last tip: The sensationally beautifully located beer garden at the “Kurhaus Dangast” in Dangast on the Jade Bay has long enjoyed cult status in the north.
Ideal for “North fans”: “North Sea Coast of Lower Saxony” from Reise Know-How for 10.50 euros. The book provides a lot of useful information for all those who are traveling between Leer, Emden, Wilhelmshaven, Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven. The best map: the “MOTORRAD General Map”, sheet 4, on a scale of 1: 200000 by MairDumont. Attractive motorcycle routes are specially marked on these weatherproof sheets, and racing and off-road routes, hotels and meeting points are also listed. Price: 5.90 euros.
Northern Germany (2)
Unfortunately only scrap value: the beautiful one “Norway” just before her last trip.
A bus honks. The double-decker for the harbor tour. Shift change at the meeting point at Kaiserhafen. Shipyard workers take the vacant spaces, truck drivers from the nearby container terminal, sailors from Asia, American crew members with “Pride of America” written on their jackets. One is among oneself again.
The Aprilia catches the hook at the Lloyd shipyard. Shipbuilding since 1857. Huge warehouses, a floating dock, huge cranes. The “Queen Elizabeth 2”, the “Europa”, the “Norway” and the “Norwegian Sky” were launched in Bremerhaven or were repaired here. The “Pride of America”, the last major project for the time being, is ready to be discontinued. As a floating hotel city for luxury cruises, the modern styled white giant towers above all port buildings. Made in Bremerhaven as a seal of quality that can be seen from afar. The future of the shipyard is still uncertain, and it has been threatened several times. More than 10,000 workers were once employed here. The port benefited from a huge wave of emigration to the New World, which began in the mid-19th century and shipbuilding flourished. Today just 530 people are employed at the shipyard. Global competition has left its mark.
Cross the city and head north. The Aprilia urgently needs exercise. Past the amusement mile, Candy’s House, Happy Midnight Bar II, Club Kristall. Neon signs on shabby facades, garbage in front of the doors, at best a third-rate red light ambience. Another quick coffee at the kiosk. Two Asian women from the “Mai Thai Club” peer over, laugh, and devote themselves again to a fighting dog that is pulling the leash like crazy. “Boys, get out of here. We don’t like photos here! ”Tracksuit in XXL format made of light balloon silk – the dog’s owner and both of them at attention. A scene like in a western. Time to leave town.
Place with tradition: Bremerhaven dance club “Sound”.
Curves between Wremen, Dorum and Cuxhaven? At most a slight kink. The road is bordered between the dike and lush green pastureland. Mighty farmhouses with spruced up half-timbering and thatched roofs appear low. Gardens the size of soccer fields. A driveway leads over the dike and the path ends in front of the mudflats. Every now and then the sun flashes through the rapidly moving wisps of cloud and delivers surprising light reflections in these brief moments when the rays are reflected in the isolated puddles of water. Luminous dots move in the mud outside. Strollers in Ostfriesennerzen, the yellow raincoats that are obligatory in this area. Beach chairs serve as a box seat for a unique spectacle. From here the gaze wanders indefinitely to the horizon. It is this sky that makes the north appear so huge, which makes every object, however insignificant, something special. As imposing as the Alps may be – they cannot keep up with the incredible generosity of this landscape.
Cuxhaven on the Elbe. Dignified ambience. A seaside spa that makes a living from tourism. Three million overnight stays last year, more than in any other health resort in the republic. Estimated average age of visitors: 60 plus. Other motorcyclists? Nothing. Low German seaman’s songs sprinkle me when I refuel. Posters reveal that the Musikantenstadl will soon be a guest. “Moin.” The greeting for morning, noon and evening. With a fisherman’s shirt, a blue troyer and a Prince Heinrich hat on his head, the gas station attendant uses every cliche. To the harbour? “Behind the center.” Marching mentality. Not a word more than necessary. The Aprilia passes “Feuerschiff Elbe 1”, rolls past long halls for fish processing, arrives at the bright red dock of the Mutzelfeldtwerft. Old and new fishing port, America port, free port. Two tugs are moored on the quay walls, the many cranes remain completely motionless at the edge of the deserted harbor basin. A trip like through an industrial museum. Withdrawal to Bremerhaven. 40 kilometers on the A 27. No speed limit, no traffic, no curves. Heavy gusts of wind from the right nevertheless cause abnormal inclines. The propellers of the huge wind power plants rotate in the limit area.
One euro for a pot of coffee, one seventy for a generous sandwich. “Kiosk Weserschlosschen” in Blexen attracts hungry early risers after a short ferry ride across the Weser with an unbeatable price-performance ratio. Birch avenues line the route across the sparsely populated Butjadingen peninsula to Langwarden. Empty streets that run at right angles to each other, the damp pastures and meadows criss-crossed by countless canals and rivers. Because of the drainage. Otherwise cows, sheep and people would sooner or later sink into the swamp. North German province. Regulars’ table brothers in Tossenserdeich give tutoring in Plattdutsch. “Kom un Beer” means caraway and beer and “bi de Dorpsluud”, the villagers, is drunk in this order without exception.
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