If you like seaports, you will love Bremerhaven's new Havenwelten, which means Harbor Worlds. In a small area, you'll find Klimahaus, the German Emigration Center, the German Maritime Museum, and the Zoo at the Sea. Harbor Worlds is now, they say, "the largest tourism complex in Northern Germany." I'm sorry I didn't get to see the rest of Bremerhaven, but I loved Harbor Worlds. Here are some of the top things to do.
Klimahaus (Climate House)
(Havenwelten, tel. 011/49 471 9020 300; www.klimahaus-bremerhaven.de) Admission € 12.50 ($18.75); open daily.
The most innovative "museum" I've seen in a lifetime of travels is in a modern, lozenge-shape metal building on Bremerhaven's waterfront. Klimahaus (Climate House), which opened in June 2009, lets you experience a round-the-world trip by walking through the exhibit. The central core of the museum is this journey, with individual rooms replicating the climate at each stop. You'll need a coat for Antarctica, but may have to shed it in the African and Samoan rooms.
The "leisure-world experience" first introduces you to different climates around the world. The trip then involves tracing the line of 8 degrees east longitude, not around at the equator or between big cities. Happily, the signs are both in German and in English, making the trip fun for visitors and locals alike.
You start your "trip" from Bremerhaven, which is 8 degrees east of Greenwich and thus 8 degrees east longitude. (An easy way to remember the difference between longitude and latitude is that longitude includes the letter "g", and G stands for Greenwich, where in 1884 the world decided to base 0 degrees (the prime meridian), making things either east or west of that point in London. Greenwich couldn't be at 0 degrees of latitude, as that would put London at the equator).
You travel south on the 8th degree to Isenthal in Switzerland, then to Senege in Sardinia. Leaping across the Mediterranean, you visit Kanak in Niger (the Sahel Desert, 105 degrees Fahrenheit), then Ikenge in Cameroon (tropical heart and humidity, including sounds and smells, with an insight on deforestation). Next is Queen Maud Land in Antarctica, then you head north to Satitoa in Samoa (cloudbursts and foliage, plus a look at the coral reef), and Gambell in Alaska (getting cold again). Your final trip is over the North Pole to Langeness in Germany before arriving back in Bremerhaven. I liked the Sardinia section, where tall grass envelops you as you enter, making you feel the size of an insect.
Other exhibits are divided into "Perspectives" (past, present, and future aspects of climate) and Elements (air, water, earth and fire, the latter involving volcanoes), each on different floors. In the Elements section, you can carry out little climate experiments yourself.
Bremerhaven isn't coming new to the problems of global warming. The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research is based here, and other partners in the attraction include the famous Max Planck Institute for Meteorology and the German Meteorological Service. But the directors of Klimahaus say their project is "the first knowledge and adventure world that devotes itself to such a complex subject as the climate."
The museum also has a restaurant, a gift shop, and huge steps that lead up from the lobby to the RTW Journey (a great spot for people-watching). The place is popular, attracting 300,000 visitors in its first three months.
German Emigration Center (Deutsches Auswandererhaus)
(Columbusstrasse 65, tel. 011/49 471 902 200; www.dah-bremerhaven.de) Admission €10.50 ($15.75), open daily
Highlighting its experience as the harbor from which over seven million emigrants departed for the New World, Bremerhaven is a logical place for the German Emigration Center, which opened in 2005 on New Harbor. Between 1800 and 1950, more than one million people left from this harbor. The spots from which the other six million departed are the Old Harbor, Emperor's Harbor, and Columbus Quay, where Elvis Presley came down the gangplank as a GI arriving in Germany for his tour of duty.
You first enter a replica of the Emigration Hall and are assigned the boarding pass of a real emigrant, whose journey, problems, and life story accompany you throughou your tour of the museum. I drew the pass of Paul Lemke (1851-1908), who emigrated in 1886 from this spot. Lemke wasn't your usual emigrant, though. He had traveled before as part of a ship's crew and had settled a while in Hawaii (before the U.S. annexed the islands). In Hawaii, Lemke became the tailor to the king at the time. (Apparently the king loved Prussian military uniforms, and Paul knew how to make those pretty well). There are also documents for men like Carl Laemmle ("the man who founded Hollywood"), who emigrated in 1884. By the way, of the seven million, at least three million were from Eastern Europe.
The museum's center is the Farewell Hall, where a huge replica of a steamer looms over a group of believable life-size wax figures getting ready to board. The time is 1888, the ship Lahn ready to leave. It's a particularly moving diorama -- you can stand in the middle of the crowd, imagining what you might have felt as the emigrant. Another area, the Gallery of the 7 Million, answers the question of why emigrants left (revolutions and the class system being only two of the reasons).
There are also reproductions of ship cabins, dormitories, and dining halls, as well as part of Ellis Island (also known as the Island of Tears by those rejected). At the latter is an amazing display of the questions asked of immigrants, the short time limit on their answers, and a test you can try yourself. (I failed when time ran out). There's also a fine short movie in which emigrants tell the story of their lives in North America. By the time I finished the tour, I could see why the place got the European Museum of the Year Award in 2007.
With genealogy tourism on the rise, you can research your ancestors in the Forum Migration on a battery of laptops. Note: German keyboards are a little different, and some keys can't be read easily as they've been used so much. You can ask for additional help for a fee of € 40 ($60), part of which is refunded if there are no positive results.
Unlike Hamburg, incidentally, Bremerhaven is directly on the North Sea, not up a long river as is the larger city.
Other Attractions at Harbor Worlds
The National German Maritime Museum (www.dsm.museum), which opened in 2000, claims to have the world's oldest boat and the submarine Wilhelm Bauer (said to be the last U-boat of World War II).
The Zoo at the Sea (www.zoo-am-meer-bremerhaven.de), which opened in 2004, concentrates on animals from the North, including polar bears, seals and the like.
Guided tours of Harbor Worlds operate on weekends for €8.50 ($12.75).
Where to Eat
There's a fine café in the German Emigration Center, where a specialty is a pork and potato stew with pickled herring filet, topped with a fried egg at €8.90 ($13.35). I dined on a fine vegetarian dish, cheese spaetzle with spring onions, at €6.80 ($10).
There's also a restaurant in Klimahaus, called Langengrad, which means Longitude, where small dishes run from €2.50 ($3.75).
Where to Stay
Why not stay at the Atlantic Hotel Sail City (www.atlantic-hotels.de)? The beautifully-designed structure, which opened in 2008, is like a ship's mast, rearing 19 floors above the museums and attractions around its base. There are 120 rooms, a fitness center, a restaurant, a bar, and rooms from €193 ($290).
Bremerhaven Touristik (tel. 011/49 471 94646; www.bremerhaven-tourism.de)
Harbor Worlds (tel. 011 49 471 414141)
German National Tourist Board (www.cometogermany.com)
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