Our first destination was the Deutsches Auswanderer Museum, which is a museum of German immigration
. It won the 2007 Best Museum Award if that makes any difference. :-) The overall experience was wonderful though - you enter and pay your fee and the Museum staff gives you a ticket as if you are getting ready to board a vessel to America. You also have an electronic card which allows you access to more information about a certain immigrant - you get to follow their journey and learn more about their history.
First, we went into a room with some introductory information. From there is was onto the ship! We went into an area that locked like the dock, complete with the hull of a ship sitting there across the water. There were mannequins speaking different languages and again, you get to hear their stories. From there, you go through what looks like a cabin or living quarters where all of this specific immigration information is held - graphs, charts, audio guides - all detailing the amount of people traveling, where they were traveling from . . . After that you actually board the ship, climbing up the walkway. We heard more stories about how long it took to travel, what the conditions were like, how they changed over the years. At the end of the journey, we get into Ellis Island and go through the Immigration Control center (and we saw who could be an American citizen and who couldn't).
Finally, we saw a couple of short films about people in the States and where they came from - and their ancestors' stories
. Really neat stuff! I couldn't find any additional information about my great-grandfather than I already had, but it was really nice to understand what the trip was like. By the time we finished our tour, the sun was bright and high, so we decided to walk along the coast for a while. It was a brilliantly sunny day by then, and we found the Bremerhaven Zoo and decided to make a quick tour. I'd never seen polar bears before, so that was cool. Also, the seals and sea lions were really nice to see. We strolled back to the car and went off to the find our hotel, which was not too far down the road. It looked out over a big ship which was in fact a seafood restaurant (which I would avoid) and a nice corner of shops and restaurants.
We went down to the shops that night in a spitting rain and had some dinner. The food was good and I had chicken and a beer that looked great but didn't taste like anything. Oh well! After a walk along the pier we got back to the room to watch some Fussball (soccer) and catch some zzzzz's! Hamburg tomorrow!
After another delicious breakfast, we played with the kids some more before we left for Bremerhaven. It was about a two and a half hour drive, with more farmland and rain clouds. As Claudia and I approached the seaport of Bremerhaven, the clouds parted and gave us some welcome sunlight. More tall white windmills stood out against the sky and we started seeing more and more seabirds flying over the Autobahn. Obviously, we were getting close! Bremerhaven is a port on the North Sea on the northwest of Germany, and it is one of the major shipping areas (along with Hamburg). Also, it is the main departure point for most of the German immigrants who sailed to the United States from the 1800's through the mid 1900's (my great-grandfather included). As we get to the sea, many masts from ships stick out. It reminds me of Portland, Maine quite a bit - very much a seaport with older buildings and streets.