Metro Manila · From Megacity to Bremencity - A Filipina's Tale

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That initial separation stage when the plane takes off is what pains the most, much like the snapping of a rubber band – quick, sudden, and gone. But all worries disappear when that final connecting plane landed in Bremen Airport. The prospect of a warm shower and a cozy bed in 9⁰C spring temperature helped me muster that last bit of energy to transport my luggage to the flat where I’ll stay.

A Filipina in Germany

Bremen is one of Germany’s smaller major cities (and this was apparent with the never-ending tourist flock downtown). It lies in northwestern Germany and has a population of about 0.5 million people. Bremen did not disappoint. I have roamed around places in Asia and Europe, but the city just felt  a little close to home. With a huge Filipino population in the thousands, my auditory senses feel less nostalgic. However, Filipinos you would encounter in Bremen are not quite similar as back home, as they have had adapted to the German ways (a rather inevitable turn of events after three or so decades of living).

Beyond the not-so-frequent craving for Filipino food, Bremen is an exciting city for the gastronome and the thrift. Gouda, emmentaler, butterkäse, camembert, brie, fresh mozzarella, and other cheeses are much more affordable here. Meat products are also way cheaper too, from hackfleisch (minced meat) to bacon and mortadella. Then, the chocolates we all love here: Ferrero Rocher, Kinder Riegel, Kinder Bueno, Ritter Sport... 2 Euros more or less for a standard pack.

Bremen City

“Town Proper” or City Centre, is how tourists would call it, but to the locals it’s Downtown. For tourists, this means photo ops, but for locals, downtown is where you can get amazing grub; such as pommes frites bigger than my fingers, and wursts larger than life; the traditional cafe experience; and, on the side, entertainment in the form of a crazed bride in white or techno man in silver.

The Market Square is Bremen’s focal point, but Waterfront is putting up a good fight, with Germany’s first Primark. Shopping is one of the citizen’s major pastimes, judging from the overflowing shoppers with paper bags hooked around their arms in the malls and out the streets, especially on Saturdays.

The Bremen Freimarkt is one such fair I was very lucky to have experienced during the last two weeks of October. The Freimarkt was first held in 1035. Thus it is the oldest known fair in Germany, and the biggest festival in Northern Germany. There is a Kleiner Freimarkt at the Market Square which, from the name, is basically a smaller version of the fair, also present with kiddie rides and fair grub.

Then, the "Freimarktsumzug" is a parade held on the second Saturday of the festival. Though the temperatures are freezing, with a drizzle to accompany it one too many times, the fair is almost always packed. After all, the fair is adjacent to the Main Station. So Backfisch (means baked fish, but is actually fried) in one hand, and Schmalzkuchen (lard cake) on the other, I had to trudge with and, at times, against the stampede of fair-goers.

Still Feels Like Home

All these are genuinely new experiences to me. Still, Bremen feels close to home. With streams of Filipinos left and right, add a constant flow of Filipino seamen docking its harbor for a pint of brew, I never had to miss the smiling faces, the jet black hair, and the rolling ‘r’ sounds.