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One of the least-known (but most appealing) tourist attractions around Bremen, Germany is the sailboat Franzius, a replica of a traditional "Weserkahn" or Weser cargo barge.
At the beginning of the 19th Century, there were at least 150 boats like the Franzius plying the River Weser, carrying cargo from tall ships moored in the North Sea to the city of Bremen upstream. The boats also were used to transfer emigrants from Bremen to the ships that would carry them to the New World.
The cargo sailboats became redundant in 1888, when the silted-up Weser was dredged and realigned, and most were broken up or simply rotted away over the next century.
In 2000, a project was undertaken to construct a replica based on the traditional design of a flat-bottomed sailboat but with modern molded-timber construction methods and an engine that would allow it to be used for trips as far away as the Netherlands and the Western Baltic.
Today, the Franzius--which was built at the Bremer Bootsbau Vegesack shipyard--offers day trips, sail training, multi-night excursions, and charters throughout the Weser and Elbe estuaries, the Wadden Sea, and points beyond. It's owned and operated by Weserkahn "Franzius" e.V., a nonprofit association founded by Bremen merchants who are dedicated to preserving the maritime history of their trading city, which has been a member of the Hanseatic League since the year 1260.
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