Bremen is in northern Germany. It has a population of around 750,000 and although inland somewhat, it has a dockland area which is being regenerated and a river which has tidal rise and falls each day. It is about the 10th largest of German cities and has some green credentials. These green credentials include a number of traffic free routes around the city and these are brilliant for cyclists, walkers and runners alike. We were in the northern suburbs and could get right into the city centre through using these routes, which is pretty impressive.
These routes, at least in our neighbourhood, included a number of circular routes and for myself Route 1 was a 4.5 mile loop. This was almost entirely traffic free, completely flat and very pleasant.
The Routes were generally well signposted with signs normally at alternative junctions. It was encouraging that cars have to give way to runners and cyclists at intersections with the Routes.
I was pretty surprised at the number of people who smoked in Bremen, although perhaps the percentage is little different across Germany. Equally I was also surprised to see there were cigarette machines dotted around in various places.
And now, some running
It was on Route 1 where I clocked up the most runs and I absolutely loved these. They were mostly in the early morning (my most favourite time of day) but there were a couple of spins around Route 1 in the evening. This was hilarious at times as I had a cycle escort which, for most of the time, helped me achieve a pretty good pace. Other times, well, let's just say they were having some fun and I pressed ahead! There were, however, a couple of serious bits:
My youngest daughter (Hannah) is a budding coach and athletic event official. Every now and again she would come alongside me, make sure I was running at a reasonable pace (i.e. under an 8 minute mile) and yell "SPRINT" and I'd go for it with every ounce of energy I had and aim for a parked car or lamppost ahead, then just a little further.
Route 1 goes past Bremen Prison, in fact it loops around the extensive grounds. The buildings include old austere Gothic buildings through to more modern buildings at the rear. The extensions include a new perimeter wall with a couple of interesting murals.
It is this mural which seems to say so much. It depicts a ribbon along the prison wall being cut by a couple of children. This then allows the brick wall to fall away leaving a huge hole in the wall. For those children, you can't help wonder if their Dad is somewhere in that prison. Why can't they see their Dad? Why should they serve his sentence as well? If only it could be that easy to get to their Dad, to feel his arms around them, to hear his voice, his breath, to be lifted up by him. You look at their faces and you see their pain, their emotion. The girl looks as if she's having to harden up, after all it's tough when people know your Dad is inside.
In the UK more children are affected by the imprisonment of a parent, compared to those affected by divorce. This is a deeply troubling statistic which has a profound influence on children, our communities and society as a whole.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-prison. We need prisons to protect us from the harm offenders could inflict on individuals and society.
There were almost none on the Route 1 at all. In fact there was only one runner on Route 1 that I saw, although its possible there are loads at other times. And cyclists, yes, there were plenty and mostly riding sit-up-and-beg hybrids. Some of these had triple chainsets which seems an over-kill in such a flat environment. However, all was not lost as we had the opportunity to dash down to the Bremen Triathlon after the Sunday morning church service.
Clearly there is a healthy and vibrant triathlon scene in Bremen with a sizeable club, judging by their stand being flocked with wannabes like myself (yes I picked up a leaflet!). I did feel for the competitors as it was such a hot day. I guess what surprised me was the huge variety of those taking part and this was reflected in their choice of bicycles.
Yes there were a good number of time trial bikes and other road bikes which were adapted of a triathlon. Some were incredibly expensive, carbon fibre Dura Ace equipped machines. Others included some nice hybrids, some questionable hybrids, a handful of mountain bikes and at least one Bike Shaped Object. Perhaps the nicest were some lovingly looked after bikes from the 1980s. Some were almost original with their groupsets intact and others which had been updated with contemporary components.
As I mentioned above there didn't seem to be many runners out there in Bremen. I looked on Google and found No apathy allowed which is a nice personal blog, written by an American ex-pat living in Bremen for the last few years. Amongst other things, she's a runner. That's cool and please do check out her blog.
Overall this was a wonderful holiday with my family, staying with a lovely and lively family in Bremen. As a rule, I seldom have much desire to return to places I've already been to, on the strength of there being so many other new places to explore. And yet more and more, I find myself wanting to return and re-live some holidays where we know there is so much more to explore, see and experience. We also love meeting new people and becoming friends.
|At Bremen Triathlon with my eldest daughter|