Posts Tagged ‘Bremer Stadtmusikanten’

Bremen Roland: Bremen’s “Statue of Liberty”

Monday, October 16th, 2017

The Bremen Roland is a statue that symbolizes trading rights and freedom. It stands in the  famous market square (Rathausplatz) of the City of Bremen, Germany. Measured from the ground to the tip of its canopy, the tall stone statue reaches a height of 34 feet. The Statue of Liberty in  New York Harbor in Manhattan would dwarf it with its 305 feet from the ground to the tip of the flame. When it comes to age, however, the Bremen Roland beats New York’s Statue of Liberty by a whopping 482 years. The Bremen Roland was erected in 1404; New York’s Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886. Both sculptures are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Roland statues can be found in a number of German towns that were once part of the Holy Roman Empire. According to legend, Bremen will remain free and independent for as long as Roland stands watch over the city.

The 613-year-old Bremen Roland statue. The shield is emblazoned with the two-headed Imperial eagle. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The 613-year-old Bremen Roland statue. The shield is emblazoned with the two-headed Imperial eagle. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

History of the Bremen Roland

The young knight, Roland, was one of the principal warriors of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor who reigned in the 9th century. During his 46-year reign, Charlemagne won many battles but was badly defeated in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, an area between France and Spain. Roland died in that battle and became an iconic figure in medieval Europe, a symbol of civil liberties, freedom and justice. The Bremen Roland is the oldest surviving statue of its kind. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1087 

After the archbishop’s soldiers destroyed its wooden predecessor in 1366, the city fathers commissioned the current Bremen Roland, carved from limestone. Over the years, the statue was repaired and restored a number of times. During the most recent renovation in 1989, workers discovered a cassette with Nazi propaganda inside of the statue. Apparently, the cassette was deposited there in 1938.

Significance of the Bremen Roland

A representative of the Emperor and dressed according to the height of 15th century fashion, Roland’s task was to protect the city and to guarantee its market rights and freedoms. The Bremen Roland statue stands in the market place in front of the Town Hall and intentionally faces the church. The placement served as a reminder that city rights prevail over the prince-archbishop’s territorial claims.

Fun facts surrounding the Bremen Roland

The distance between Roland’s knees is exactly one Bremen “Elle”, a historical unit of measurement. In 2004, the city fathers played an April Fools joke on the Bremen population. They released a press statement that the Bremen Elle is still in use as a scientific measurement. Internationally known as LMR (Length Measurement Roland), it is employed in airplane construction and space travel, the statement read.

Just as rubbing the front hoofs of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten donkey is said to bring good luck http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/bremer-stadtmusikanten-story, rubbing the knee of the Bremen Roland supposedly guarantees a return to Bremen.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

Bremer Loch – It crows, meows, barks and brays

Monday, September 25th, 2017

The Bremer Loch (Hole of Bremen) is a cleverly disguised underground collection box. It was installed directly in front of the State Parliament (Buergerschaft) among the cobblestones of the market square in Germany’s northern city of Bremen. Since 2007, tourists happily drop coins or paper money into a slot of what looks like a bronze manhole cover. They are rewarded for their donation with a musical thank you from one of the Bremen town musicians (Bremer Stadtmusikanten). Hearing the singing musicians express their gratitude from the depth of the Bremer Loch makes donating all the more fun. Often, visitors drop one coin after another into the slot just to hear all four animal voices.

 

The Bremer Loch (Hole of Bremen), a subterranean collection box. The Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Bremer town musicians) provide the musical thank you. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The Bremer Loch (Hole of Bremen), a subterranean collection box. The Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Bremer town musicians) provide the musical thank you. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

How the Bremer Loch works

Underneath a manhole-looking cover, the Bremer Loch is a 36 inches deep and 20 inches in diameter steel container. When a visitor pushes coins into the slot of the box, the money passes a photocell. A light barrier triggers the animal voice of one of the Bremen town musicians http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/bremer-stadtmusikanten-story/. Moments later, the donor hears the cock-a-doodle-doo of a rooster, the meow of a cat, the ruff-ruff or a dog or the hee-haw of a donkey come out of the Bremer Loch. With each small donation, a different voice from the famous quartet of the Bremen City Musicians answers. The animal voices have been pre-recorded on a chip by Radio Bremen.

The Man behind the Bremer Loch Idea

Professor and designer, Fitz Haase, came up with the Bremer Loch idea to assist the city’s charitable organization. Indeed, since 2007, between 12,000 and 17,000 euros are dropped into the slot every year. A manhole that crows, meows, barks and brays is a novel and fun way to get tourists to participate in helping to donate to local charitable projects. In early 2017, the total amount collected since the inception of the Bremer Loch was around 150,000 euros. The collections are managed and distributed by the Wilhelm-Kaisen-Buergerhilfe, a charitable foundation. To learn more about which organizations and projects have been supported by the foundation, go to http://www.bremer-helfen-bremern.de.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

Bremer Stadtmusikanten Story

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

The Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Town Musicians of Bremen) might well be the city’s best-known logo. The four animal “musicians” standing on each other’s backs are based on an old folktale recorded by the Brothers Grimm. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/brothers-grimm-fairy-tales-and-more/. A 6.5-foot bronze statue on the west side of Bremen’s city hall, right next to the Ratskeller (Town Hall Cellar), depicts the Bremer Stadtmusikanten: A donkey forms the base of the pyramid. A dog stands on the donkey’s back. A cat towers on top of a dog and a rooster perches on top of a cat.

 

Statue of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Town musicians of Bremen) in front of Bremen's city hall. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Statue of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Town musicians of Bremen) in front of Bremen’s city hall. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Rubbing the front hoofs of the donkey is said to make a wish come true. Apparently, many visitors gave it a try because the donkey’s hoofs gleam in the sunlight.

Synopsis of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten folktale

Once upon a time, four domestic animals – a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster – reached their sunset years. In the mind of their masters, each had outlived his usefulness. The donkey was too old to carry the sacks of flour to the mill; the dog lacked the stamina to hunt; the cat couldn’t catch mice anymore and the rooster was slated for the soup pot. Each of the creatures had served its master faithfully for many years and was now being treated poorly because it got old. Dreaming of a fulfilling life, each leaves his home for a life, independent of his master. By a twist of fate the four animals happen upon each other on their way to freedom and agree to walk to Bremen together to become town musicians.

On their way to their new life in the big city, they have to rest for the night. The four prospective town musicians spot a lighted cottage and hope for a place to sleep. The cottage belongs to a band of robbers who are just about to enjoy a table full of ill-gotten delicacies. Standing on each other’s backs and hoping to secure some food for their efforts, the Bremer Stadtmusikanten make music to the best of their abilities. The donkey brays, the dog barks, the cat meows, and the rooster crows. Terrified by the strange sounds, the robbers abandon the cottage. The animals settle in, enjoy a good meal and live happily ever after in the cottage.

Interestingly enough, in Grimm’s folktale the four Bremer Stadtmusikanten never actually arrive in Bremen. They stay in the cottage in the woods. But the story is so intimately connected with the City of Bremen that its citizens have adopted it.

Statue of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten

The Bremer Tourist Bureau commissioned German sculptor Gerhard Marcks to create a sculpture of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten. In 1951, Marcks gave his creation to the City of Bremen on loan. Only two years later, the city purchased the sculpture for 20,000 Deutsche Mark.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com