Bremen’s most atmospheric street, the lane of the coopers, or barrel makers, runs between the Marktplatz and the banks of the Weser River and looks like something out of a Nordic fantasy. That’s exactly the point. In the 1920s, coffee merchant Ludwig Roselius had the medieval lane knocked down and hired artist Bernhard Hoetger to rebuild the houses in the Brick Expressionist style then popular in Europe, stating “The re-erection of Böttcherstrasse is an attempt to think in a German way.” His pro-Nazi views come to the fore in Hoetger’s gold relief over the entrance, where Lichtbringer (Bringer of Light) glorifies the victory of “our führer over the powers of darkness.” The Führer, however, did not return the compliment; Hitler deemed the curving brick facades “divergent” and “degenerate.”

Along the short lane, look for Haus des Glockenspiels (Glockenspiel House), with its carillon of Meissen bells at noon, 3, and 6pm. Across from the Kunstsammlungen Böttcherstrasse, a tall house sports an exotic facade that resembles the stern of a galleon; there’s even an aquarium imbedded in the lower floor. At the river end of the street stands Robinson-Crusoe-Haus (Robinson Crusoe House), named for the hero of Daniel Defoe’s novel, which begins, “I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen.” Roselius thought the hero who fends for himself so ably when stranded on an island displayed everything that was good about the Bremen character.