Bremen’s 560-year-old Rathaus was built and rebuilt in the early 17th century to suggest might and civic power. The glorious structure on one side of the Marktplatz achieves this effect not with towers and battlements but with glass—a graceful sweep of tall Renaissance windows interspersed with statues of Charlemagne, the electors of the Holy Roman Empire, and ancient philosophers. A medieval hall on the ground floor, supported by massive oak pillars, was once used as a marketplace and theater. Upstairs is the grandest room in town, a Festival Hall that is 40m (132 ft.) long and 13m (43 ft.) high. It’s the site of the annual Schaffermahl, a banquet for 600 male ship captains and owners that sets up waves of feminist protest every year (the men-only rule was relaxed a few years ago when Chancellor Angela Merkel was invited). The gentlemen dine beneath four colorful ship models that hang from the ceiling as a reminder of the trade that once brought Bremen its enormous wealth. The hall was also used as a courtroom, a function denoted by a huge painting depicting the Judgment of Solomon. Look also for the painting of a ship at sea; walk past it from right to left to enjoy the optical illusion. The Festival Hall reveals another secret in the Guldenkammer (Golden Chamber), a room-within-a-room that floats above the main hall, concealed behind wood panels and paintings. In 1905, artist Heinrich Vogeler decorated the intimate chamber in red and gold leather with a riot of bird and flower motifs on the door panels, lampshades, screens, and carpets. The Germans call the effect gesamtkunstwerk, basically the fusion of a lot of elements into one pleasing whole, which it is.