Bremen, Germany – come for the jazz, stay for the beer
Kristi Fuoco


more-medieval-streets.jpgWandering through the medieval streets of Bremen, Germany.



Great music, great beer, soccer mania and ridiculously old buildings. It doesn’t get much more European than that. My first venture outside of Hamburg made for a true German weekend away.

First views of Bremen.
I thought I was in Holland for a moment!

The quaint city of Bremen is just one lovely hour train ride away via Hamburg’s Haupbahnhof (main train station). Here’s my tip – travel in a group if you can and you will cut your train travel costs down significantly. Make friends with scary looking people in the train station if you must and your single fare will go from around €21 down to €10 if you can travel with a group of three or more. Or, you can opt in for a Probe BahnCard through the Deutsche Bahn (German train) system and buy a discount card for 25% or 50% off train travel around Germany.

Since it was a lovely, sunny Friday evening we decided to walk to our rented apartment on the other side of town. What a neat idea! Well…until about two kilometres in of hauling our bags…but, it was worth staying on the outskirts of town. When we finally arrived at our apartment at Werderhöhe 39 in a quiet little neighbourhood it was exactly what we would have hoped for. Bright, sunny, clean and inviting and overlooking a perfect little German garden. Our hostess, Frau Voss, welcomed us warmly and had even sent us a real, snail mail letter in advance to confirm our booking with every detail written precisely. You gotta love Germany. She didn’t speak any English, but what she lacked in my mother tongue she made up for in friendliness. Also, Frau Voss’s daughter works with her as well and can speak English for any of you who might want to book but don’t have nifty fluent German speakers with you like I did. It is well worth venturing out here for if you want a quiet little retreat. We found it hard to even want to leave our apartment. I could easily live there. Hey Frau Voss, need a new tenant?

Greg, Yvonne and I in front of the
Voss Apartments on the way out
for some jazz. 

We had come to Bremen for the main purpose of meeting up with my cousin Greg’s uncle, Tom McClung, who is a fantastic jazz pianist living in Paris (and who was also staying with Frau Voss). Tom and his fellow bandmate, saxophonist, Jean-Jacques Elangué, came to Bremen for jazzahead! from April 19th-22nd, where jazz musicians of the world come to network, perform and drink a lot of Becks beer (since it is from Bremen after all). My first European jazz festival did not disappoint. On Friday night we managed to see three fantastic groups from “Overseas” night (strange for me that North Americans are overseas now and Europe is local) starting with the funky vocal sounds and badass rhythms of Vinx from the USA (who we also happened to bump into later in the train station), to Oran Etkin, a quartet of pure magical fusion with a mixture of jazz clarinet and sax, klezmer, amazing balafon from Mali and African drumming. As an ethnomusicologist I’m always particularly critical of fusion ensembles, but I’m telling you..this one works. I’ve never heard balafon playing like that in my life, and yes, I have heard balafon before. Last, but most definitely not least, was the more traditional (from a jazz perspective), and mind-blowingly talented Brazilian trio, Trio Corrente from São Paulo. They were beyond tight…they were like a perfectly sealed Tupperware container, if you can compare jazz to food preservation devices. I guess I just did. Their drummer, Edu Ribeiro, was unreal..I think he eats rhythm for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The whole audience was buzzing and gave them a thunderous and long applause at the end of their set.

I seriously love old medieval streets. 

The next day was yet another perfect German day. We wandered the idyllic medieval parts of Bremen, watched a German soccer game between Werder Bremen and Bayern München. We watched the game in a little Irish pub that steadily filled up with people and excitement as the underdog, Bremen, continued to dominate the game. Unfortunately in the end they lost the game after a very sad goal by one of their own players against themselves. Awkward! Ironically this was the same guy who had scored the first goal against Munich in the first place. And of course, this whole experience wasn’t complete without some Becks in hand and some street soccer games. I felt so German.

Later that night, we were lucky enough to hear that our very own Tom and Jean-Jacques were going to play up a storm in a jam session at Moments club in town. In their adventures that night Tom and Jean-Jacques had made friends with some fun Italiano jazz guitarists, Daniel and Stefano Mincone, who all ended up jamming together until past closing and wanted to party some more after that. Well, let’s be honest, in the end, we pretty much got kicked out of the club, but that’s how things roll when you’re “with the band”. And the important thing was that wicked jazz music was enjoyed by all involved, including the friendly owner of Moments who chatted with us once we were kicked out.

Bring on the next music fest and German town!


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Kristi Fuoco

KRISTI FUOCO – Social media enthusiast, English teacher, writer, marketer, traveler, music lover. West Coast Canadian gal living and working in Germany and traveling around Europe. Current city – Hamburg.

Twitter: @kristifuoco

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My experience in Germany has been invaluable. In addition to learning German and taking part in another culture, I have learned so much about myself. I am confident that I can thrive away from the comforts of home and that I am dynamic and flexible. This is exactly what today’s employers are looking for – giving me a competitive advantage in the working world.
Kate from British Columbia – working for an international not-for-profit organisation.