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Bremen in Time of War

(From The Illustrated London News, August 27, 1870.)

The operations of the French fleet in the North Sea and the Baltic, with the preparations for defence along the coast and in the harbours and rivers of North Germany, will be illustrated with sketches by a Special Artist of this Journal, two of which are engraved for the present Number. The following is a portion of his descriptive correspondence:--

Few English travellers on the Continent visit the city of Bremen; yet there is not a city in Europe much better worth visiting than this north-west seaport of Hanover. From Emden there is railway communication direct through Oldenburg to Bremen. The country through which it passes is dull and uninteresting, but with a good deal of excellent loamy land, and some very poor, light, sandy soil, and, in the neighbourhood of Oldenburg, a great deal of wood. The railway enters Bremen by a fine iron-girder bridge over the river Weser; and on leaving the station the traveller is not a little surprised to find himself in the centre of a large square, laid out in beautiful gardens and surrounded by splendid hotels and private mansions. Bremen was formerly a fortified town, with huge ramparts, glacis, and moats. These have all been destroyed: scrap and counterscrap have disappeared, and all vestiges of the forms of the military works have been obliterated by the skill of the landscape-gardener. The altered slopes have been plated with ornamental trees, and the moat made into picturesque, many-shaped pools and canals, at times almost lost amongst the rich foliage on the banks, or else opening out into broad sheets of water, covered with waterfowl. Round the ornamental grounds thus formed are built the villas of the wealthy merchants of the city. Bremen is famed all over Germany for the wealth of its inhabitants and the pride and exclusiveness of the principal merchants. The villas that surround the ornamental grounds are of all sizes and styles; some are palaces, suitable only for a merchant-prince: others are exceedingly small; but all are built in the most perfect manner and with the most refined taste. The prevailing style is classical, leaning rather to the Greek than to the Roman. It is many years since the fortifications of Bremen were destroyed and the mounds planted, so that the timber is fine and well grown. This suburb of Bremen is more like what one would expect to find, but would not find, in some fine old Italian city on the shores of the Mediterranean, and certainly one would never expect to see it within a few miles of the shores of the cold North Sea.

The old town is inclosed within this ornamental suburb and the river Weser, which here, though broad, is shallow, choked by sandbanks, and fast filling up. The town is quaint, picturesque, and as clean as any town in Holland. The streets are spacious, well built, and full of splendid shops; while here and there amongst the masses of houses rise stately towers of churches and buildings that bear testimony to its former greatness. Not that Bremen is a decayed place now; on the contrary, it is one of the most flourishing ports of Germany, carrying on an immense business with every part of the world. The principal building is the Rathhaus, in the market-place, originally late Gothic, but having a remarkably fine Renaissance front towards the market. It is an excellent example of this style of architecture, every portion of the front being covered with sculptured decoration, generally in excellent taste. In front of this building is a rudely-carved stone statue called a Rolandsdäul. This is of great antiquity, and is supposed to mark the spot where the sacred trees formerly stood, and was set up when the Germans were first converted to Christianity. Opposite the Rathhaus is the Bourse, a building of modern Gothic, in very questionable taste. Along the side of the Weser there is a fine quay planted with trees; before this the steamers and river craft lie to discharge their cargoes into the innumerable large and magnificent warehouses with which Bremen abounds. This city of Bremen has at present in it more than 18,000 troops, who are quartered in all the hotels and many private houses. They are nearly all Landwehr-a steady, stern-faced body of men, who look as if they would fight most certainly, but seem not much pleased at being dragged from their homes, their families, and their peaceful occupations, by this war. During the time I have been here I have never seen a case of drunkenness or disorder amongst the military. Their general bearing is unexceptionally good; they do not look smart, and there is no pipeclay, yet they seem precisely the class of men an officer would wish to have behind him, for they are safe to follow where he leads, or stand and die where he bids them. The Hanoverians, like all other Germans, are of one mind in the matter of this war. They say they are out to fight for the Fatherland, and they desire to know no more. On this question Germany seems to have but one heart.

Sixty miles below Bremen, at the point where the Weser enters the German Ocean, are the seaports of Bremerhaven and Geestemonde, forming one port of great importance, well provided with good docks, quays, and warehouses. It has rather a desolate look at present, as it is crowded with ships of all sizes laid up on account of the war. Conspicuous amongst these is the fine fleet of Transatlantic screw-steamers of the largest size, belonging to the North German Lloyd's. There are about twenty-five in the fleet, but not more than twelve are laid up here. The whole fleet is, however, in safety, none of them now being at sea. These are all Clyde-built ships, very large, and fitted in the most complete and efficient manner. In a dock near this is another melancholy instance of the waste of war, the dock being nearly full of the mast yards, spars, and gear that have been taken out of the ships that have been sunk in the channel of the Weser to block its navigation. I am sorry to say that the only shipments that I saw taking place in this usually busy place was a cargo of torpedoes to be laid in the ship tracks at the entrance of the rivers along the coast. A large, strong, old whaler was also being prepared ready for sinking; this was the last of a line of vessels that would effectively block the navigation of this important shipway.

From this place I purpose going to Hamburg, and on to the Baltic as quickly as possible; for there are rumours here that a fleet is leaving France with troops on board, with the intention of landing on some point on the coast.


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