The City of Bremen lies on the lower reaches of the river Weser in the middle of the North German Plain. Just a short distance downstream, the river estuary flows into the North Sea, passing the string of East Frisian Islands which enclosed the Wattenmeer, a unique biosphere nature reserve and national park within the State of Lower Saxony. The capital of Lower Saxony, Hannover, the Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the neighbouring Netherlands are all just an hour's train journey away. Nowadays, almost 550,000 people live in the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen which, together with its sister town of Bremerhaven, makes up the smallest state in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Bremen can look back over a long tradition of commerce and maritime trade, a proud history which has also left its mark on the town of today. The ports which have had such an impact on the development of the town made Bremen famous as a marketplace for goods from all over the world. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Bremen und Bremerhaven were also important as a gateway for passenger traffic. All told, more than seven million people left the country via the ports of the two-town state. Bremerhaven became the largest port of departure on the European mainland for adventurous emigrants seeking a new life in the new lands. Since 2006 Bremerhaven has a "German Emigration Center" and since 2009 a "Klimahaus" which offers a journey through the climate zones.
Whereas shipbuilding was of the utmost importance for the economic development of the State of Bremen, this has since been superseded by other industries and now it is the automotive branch and car manufacturing, the aviation industry, space technology and the foodstuffs industry which have been choosing Bremen as their preferred location.