Cold enough to visit an Eisbär

I live in a smallish, northern, German city on the Weser River. Bremerhaven has five first class museums (that I know of) and a zoo. All of these are a short walking distance from my apartment. Exciting for a suburban girl from Delaware.

This morning Andreas’ graduate student, Cassandra from New York, (so upstate she can “see” Canada from her house) and I decided to visit Zoo am Meer. (zoo next to the sea). We chose to go on an icy cold day because the zoo is home to mostly colder climate animals and creatures that live in the water, including an Eisbär (polar bear). I’m not a huge fan of zoos and I certainly did not want to see the poor polar bear in the heat of summer. Thus, a frosty November morning seemed like happy polar bear weather.

We assumed this was a duck until she decided to check us out. Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
We assumed this was a duck until she decided to check us out. Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Before moving to Bremerhaven, I read a short chapter in a German guide book describing the city. The book suggested that Bremerhaven was good for a day visit at most, and there was a very strange zoo created out of cement to look like a giant rock.

Arctic Fox, Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Arctic Fox, Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The zoo is strange, however, I really enjoyed my visit. It may be because Cassandra and I were the only visitors for a while. The habitats were nice and well planned around a climbing area for children in the giant rock landscape. Most of the animals seemed pretty content for being stuck in a zoo in Bremerhaven, including the polar bear.

Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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No match for a polar bear. Photo of the author by Cassandra Elmer.
No match for a polar bear. Photo of the author by Cassandra Elmer.

A Fishhead and a redhead walk into a cafe’ in rainy Schleswig

How do two Americans in Germany celebrate a birthday? They travel to Schleswig! Now I have my German friend’s attention. They’re all thinking, Schleswig, what the hell is so special about Schleswig? Everything and nothing, friends, it was a fun, laid-back, easy, romantic weekend away.

Schleswig, Germany from a window in Gottorf Castle
Schleswig, Germany from a window in Gottorf Castle

In July Andreas brought me to Lübeck for my birthday. So, I said that he should pick his favorite place for his birthday. Easier said than done. So many choices! One week I was told that we would travel to Spiekerroog, the next week to Föhr, every few weeks he would choose a new place. Finally, a week before his birthday I begged for a decision, so that I could Google the place, and his finger landed on the map at the town of Schleswig in northern Germany.

Andreas is born and raised a “Fishhead.” He loves fish, cold, windy, rainy weather and sitting in little cafes eating “Kuchen” listening to the locals speak “Plattdeutsch” by large bodies of water. Schleswig was all these things.

We stayed in a small hotel instead of an Airbnb which is unusual for us, but it was attached to a little restaurant, included breakfast, and was on the water. The hotel was located by Holm an old fishing village. In the center of the village is the oldest Abbey in northern Germany.

The oldest Abbey in northern Germany. Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The oldest Abbey in northern Germany. Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

A beautiful, idyllic place full of cafes and artisans. The people in the village are proud of the age of their homes and often have the year posted in large iron numbers.

Andreas Muenchow appreciating the glass art in front of a gallery/ studio in Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas Muenchow appreciating the glass art in front of a gallery/ studio in Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

They and the rest of the city are also extremely fond of roses. There are two or three trained rose bushes on the front of every house and most stores. It must be amazing when the roses are in season. We were lucky enough to see some blooms in November.

A lane in Holm. Notice the rose bushes trained against the houses. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
A lane in Holm. Notice the rose bushes trained against the houses. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The biggest surprise for me in Schleswig was the art collections. We visited an Outsider Art museum located in a poorhouse from 1630.The building was almost more interesting than the art. Next, we walked to a modern art museum located in the old stables of Gottorf Castle.

A surprisingly wonderful museum showcasing modern art by north German artists. A must see if you visit Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
A surprisingly wonderful museum showcasing modern art by north German artists. A must see if you visit Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We also viewed the art collections in the Castle as well.

The chapel in Gottorf Castle, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The chapel in Gottorf Castle, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We found the Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig (hard to miss the tallest building in town) that had its original stained glass. Most of the churches we’ve visited so far have been bombed and replaced with modern glass so this was really exciting. (for me)

An amazing 3-D wood carving. The intricate details were unreal. Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
An amazing 3-D wood carving. The intricate details were unreal. Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Beautiful, intricate, huge stained glass window in the Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Beautiful, intricate, huge stained glass window in the Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Between museum visits and walking around town in the rain were many stops to café’s for coffee and cake.  Andreas had birthday cake many times over the weekend.

Cake at the castle. Salted caramel and marzipan. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Cake and coffee at the castle. Salted caramel and marzipan. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

In the first café we sat near a Danish girl in snow pants who also celebrated a birthday. Her family played a tiny music box and sang Happy Birthday in English.

The birthday boy, Andreas Muenchow, with his favorite gooseberry torte and hot chocolate. Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The birthday boy, Andreas Muenchow, with his favorite gooseberry torte and hot chocolate. Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We didn’t just eat cake in Schleswig, although it felt like it, Andreas also enjoyed many fishy dinners with local beer which made him pretty happy.

Super good, fishy birthday dinner. Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Super good, fishy birthday dinner. Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The best indication of whether Andreas and I like a place is if we start researching housing prices, which we did on our third café morning. I recommend giving Schleswig a visit. It seems to be very popular with bicyclists during the summer months. There is also the Hedeby Viking Museum which we missed due to walking distance and time restraints. I’d like to return there someday.