An Emotional Return to Bremen

Today would have been my father’s 87th birthday, sadly he passed away in January this year. Last weekend my sister and I returned to Bremen to lay him to rest and to revisit some of the places of our childhood and youth (we have both long since moved away, my sister to Heidelberg in the south of Germany, me to the UK). Our father had lived in Bremen for almost his whole life, only moving to Heidelberg to be near his daughter when his wife (our mother) passed away in 2008.

As there are no direct flights from Heathrow to Bremen any more I flew to Frankfurt on Wednesday evening and stayed at an airport hotel. Their noise insulation was very impressive, I didn’t hear a thing of the motorway and the planes landing right outside my window. On Thursday morning my sister picked me up for the long drive to Bremen. The Autobahn was very busy and slowed us down significantly, meaning we didn’t arrive in Bremen until late in the afternoon. At least we crossed the river Weser in some brilliant sunshine. When stopping to buy some fruit on the way we also stopped at Jan Reiners, an old narrow gauge train locomotive. Until 1954 it had pulled a train along the Jan-Reiners-Damm, which passed right outside the plot where our father’s house was built in the early 1960s (the train track and dam was converted to a walking and cycling path). After checking in at the Park Hotel we had a quick look around the hotel and went for a short sunset walk in the Bürgerpark. In the evening we went for a nice meal with a cousin of our father and her husband at the Meierei, talking about our father and more.

Friday started with a run in the Bürgerpark for me, before we drove over to the Hachez outlet shopping store. Hachez was the favourite chocolate of our father, so I think it was quite fitting that I left with 1.3kg of chocolate, I think my sister was in a similar range. We continued into Bremen town centre, direction Marktplatz. We took pictures of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten, the Bremer Roland, the Rathaus and the Dom as well as the Schuetting, before meeting up with one of our aunts (a sister of our mother). The Sun even came out for some of the pictures and for a while we could sit outside at the Raths Apotheke.

By lunchtime it was time to drive over to the cemetery, the Riensberger Friedhof. The five of us met up with the urn carrier at the gate of the cemetery. He took us into the waiting room, among other things some minor administrative steps had to be completed. My sister and I had decided against a formal ceremony, we opted for only the burial with the urn being carried to the grave by the urn carrier. After a few minutes reflection we started the slow walk to our father’s final resting place. Unfortunately (or may be fittingly) the weather had turned by now, it was cold with occasional rain as well as a fierce biting cold wind. Once we arrived the urn was placed in the prepared hole, we had a few more minutes for quiet reflection, leaving flowers and saying our final good byes. Finally the urn carrier filled the hole and put a pot of flowers our father’s cousin had brought on top. As the grave was new our fathers name wasn’t on a stone just yet, but it was listed on a board. We then visited the grave of an aunt and finally the grave of our mother, who was laid to rest here back in 2008. As her plot was full by now it wasn’t possible to bury our father in the same plot. His plot and his stone will look the same as our mother’s though once his plot fills up. I quite like this style and we both feel it’s right for our parents (for myself I have a different idea, but that’s not for this entry).

As we all started to feel the cold by now we decided to move on and drove over to the Bürgerpark for tea and cake at the Kaffeehaus am Emmasee. We spent an hour or so talking about the funeral and our parent’s life and memory. A nice end to the occasion. Later in the evening my sister and I went for a meal at the Gasthof zum Kaiser Friedrich in the Schnoor area with our aunt. From here we also called another aunt (our mother’s second sister) who unfortunately couldn’t be with us in person.

After such a long and exhausting day I had looked forward to a good night’s sleep, although that wasn’t meant to be: That night a cold I believe I had picked up at home in England (when I returned to work I found a colleague had exactly the same symptoms at the same time as me) hit me quite strongly. I hardly slept that night and felt quite bad the next morning. I was so tired I almost fell asleep at the table during breakfast. After a lunchtime nap I felt slightly better and we drove out to Kuhsiel, a popular weekend destination during our childhood and youth. We went on a short walk along the Blockfeld dam protecting the land from the Wümme River. As the restaurant/café at Kuhsiel was closed for refurbishment we enjoyed a hot chocolate and cakes at the Dielencafé . During the walk we also by pure chance bumped into one of the best friends of our late mother, giving us the unexpected opportunity to catch up with her. In the evening we went to Bremen’s oldest Chinese restaurant before an early night.

Sunday morning I felt a bit better and after a last walk in the Bürgerpark I felt fit enough for the long journey back. My sister drove me back to Frankfurt (with an unexpected detour to the outskirts of Oldenburg, where I had gone to university) from where I flew back to the UK.

A few pictures:

(Click on the pictures for the larger version)

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