The Pride of Papenburg

Last weekend was a long weekend for us because it was Germany Day. Well, the correct name is National Day or German Reunification Day – but whatever, it was a Thursday, meaning you could take one day off and create a mini-vacation. (In German, we call this a bridge day. In Swedish, it’s a squeeze day.) Of course I seized the opportunity to continue my mission #showhimthenorth. A is moving to Northern Germany soon (yay!) and thus showing him the great region he is headed for makes even more sense. For his birthday, I gave him tickets for a guided tour in the Meyer Werft.

The Meyer Werft is a shipyard – no, the shipyard – located in the tiny town of Papenburg. For me, and many other Germans, the words Meyer Werft and Papenburg always go together. There is nothing else I know of Papenburg, but Meyer has really put it on the map. Speaking of the map, Papenburg is really far west and basically far away from anything. (We combined driving there with a stop at my parents’ to also meet my beyond words adorable nephew and niece who were visiting.)

We learned that the town was founded in 1631 and only some 160 years later, Meyer was founded in 1795. Papenburg was a shipbuilders’ town but of the shipyards only this giant one has survived and today they build several luxury cruise ships per year. When you do the tour, they take your through a museum that looks onto the factory work floor, the dry dock. It is huge. Actually, it is the world’s largest dry dock. In Papenburg. I often tell foreign entrepreneurs and corporate representatives about the concept of “hidden champions” in the German countryside and this is a perfect example of it: Meyer is the world’s market leader in its field (together with one Italian shipyard) and to this day a family business.

Unfortunately we had missed the departure of their latest cruise ship by a few days. The ships have to go through the Ems river which is not really made to transport these ridiculously big ships, so the Ems river barrier was built in 2002 to make the journey possible even at low tide. The ships then go 36 kilometres very slowly to the Dollart bay. It’s quite a sight! We said we’d want to come back to look at the spectacle one day.

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When the ship is ready to leave the dock, they flood the place and take it out. So cool!

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The tour gave us a lot of discussion topics: lobbyism, job security, location factors, environment, luxury and decadence (really, why do you need a rollercoaster on a cruise ship?). I don’t think I am the cruise ship type, but I think I’ll now go research the one-night-cruise on the Queen Mary II from Hamburg to Southampton that A mentioned…

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Inside this boat, we got our tickets.

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Another good thing about the North: drinking traditional East Frisian Black Tea. It’s almost like a ceremony and I really love it.

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Snapshots from the short visit to my parents’ house

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My niece was much less intimidated by these hungry sheep than me

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