Spring Break in Germany

The historic town of Berchtesgaden overlooked by the snowy Watzmann mountain in spring,  in Berchtesgadener Land, Upper Bavaria, Germany
Photo by bluejayphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
The Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8° Ost museum takes visitors on a journey across the world through several different climate zones.
The Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8° Ost museum takes visitors on a journey across the world through several different climate zones.

Family vacations are the time to reinforce learning and to teach your children about the world, as the adage goes “seeing is believing.” You can teach your little ones about oceans in the Caribbean, about ancient history in Rome, and, in an unexpected destination in Germany, you can teach them about both the world’s climate and culture. Bremerhaven in Germany sits directly on the water, where the River Weser and the North Sea meet. This often overlooked city, the largest on the German North Sea Coast, is only about a two-hour drive or train ride from Hamburg, making it an ideal day trip or pass-through stop on a broader European vacation. We suggest jetting over from the Sofitel Hamburg Alter Wall, which is known for its spa amenities, which parents will love. Or if the family wants a gastronomy-scene, stay at the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten, which is home to Haerlin, a two-star Michelin affair. Once in Bremerhaven, head to its memorable museums for a day of experiential learning.

In the Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8° Ost’s Antarctica room (here), the temperatures drop down to 21 degrees. However, the polar station provides refuge from the cold and allows visitors to keep learning.
In the Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8° Ost’s Antarctica room, the temperatures drop down to 21 degrees. However, the polar station provides refuge from the cold and allows visitors to keep learning.

Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8° Ost is dedicated to the world’s climates, specially the climates running along the eighth degree of longitude (where Bremerhaven sits). With more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, it opened in 2009. Here, children will go through the exhibit “journey,” where they will climb rock formations in “Switzerland” and cross into a glacier cave that is actually frozen.

Then it’s off to the next room, made to look like the island of Sardinia. Here, it will seem like they have been shrunken to the size of an insect. Children will see massive blades of grass and oversized insect models. Next it’s the desert in Niger, a riverscape in Cameroon (that includes live fish that an employee mostly caught in Cameroon himself), an ice shelf in Antarctica and more.

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The German Emigration Center (here and below) takes visitors on a journey through reconstructions of what it would be like to be an emigrant in 1888.
The German Emigration Center (here and below right) takes visitors on a journey through reconstructions of what it would be like to be an emigrant in 1888.

The best part is that each room, which represents a different destination, smells and feels like the actual destination. That’s right, the Antarctica room is set to 21 degrees, the European rooms have 50 percent humidity and the Niger desert, of course, is a steamy 98 degrees. Don’t worry, in rooms like Antarctica, you can escape inside the “polar station” quickly to warm up and keep learning. We also hear, the ultimate crowd pleaser with the kids is the sandy beach in “Samoa.”

Overall, there are several different climate zones that families can visit, and children can also participate in other hands-on activities like learning how to reduce their carbon footprint. This museum is best suited for children 10 years old and above, and it takes about three hours to do all the sites at a leisurely pace.

Note: The museum is normally open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but it will be closed on December 24, 25, 31 and January 1. To book a guided tour in advance, contact Manuela Zenker ([email protected]).

Interested in teaching children about culture and heritage? The German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven is the museum to visit. It pays homage to Bremerhaven’s past; more than seven million emigrants left the city between 1830 and 1974 for the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Australia (90 percent settled in North America). As Europe’s largest museum focusing on the topic of emigration, it takes visitors on a journey through reconstructions of what it would be like to be an emigrant in 1888.

First, you see what it would be like to say goodbye to your family and friends on the wharf in Bremerhaven, bound for a new home. Then it’s on to the ship to see the difficult conditions that people traveled with. Finally, museum-goers will see what it was like to land at Ellis Island in New York and travel through Grand Central Terminal. We think that kids that have been to Ellis Island and Grand Central before, or learned about them in school, will enjoy this part.

Next, in a separate building that is part of the museum, families can learn about Germany as an immigration country over the past 300 years. If you’re considering traveling during a school holiday in Germany, there is the opportunity to participate in a special children’s tour, during which the little ones get a chance to dress up in period clothing and pack their suitcases like emigrants.

However, we think the best part of the museum happens after the exhibit. Families get complimentary use of the family research center, once through the museum. Here, visitors will get access to information on those who emigrated from Bremerhaven, including passenger lists, American census reports, birth registries and ancestry.com databases. It is possible to gain information on a relative, and the results and possible imagery of the ship a relative left Germany on can be printed out directly from the center for a fee.

In total, it will take about two hours to see the museum, but remember to leave plenty of time for family research at the end. There are also guided tours in English that can be booked that last about an hour-and-a-half. German Emigration is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but it will be closed on December 24. Contact Evelyn Laske ([email protected]) for booking.

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