* Prices may differ from that shown
Although I am enthusiastic recycler and cyclist, I will be the first to admit that I contribute to more than my fare share of airplane emissions. I know I should unsubscribe to all the airline mailing lists that land in my inbox but I just can't find the willpower to do that. Every time a new one arrives I have to click through to find out what bargains I might be missing and this is how we found ourselves booking flights to the city of Hannover with the German airline TUI fly.
Digging out the Lonely Planet guide to Germany I wasn't much enlightened - lots of concrete, some fine museums, beautiful and historic gardens. Hannover was heavily bombed during World War Two and, although the centre is dominated by a post-war concrete shopping centre, a section of the Old Town as well as some of the most interesting and attractive public buildings were rebuilt as closely to the original designs as possible. I asked two German friends their opinions of Hannover and neither was very positive; I was determined to prove them wrong.
Our hotel was on the Klagesmarkt, a short walk from the heart of the city via the red light area (we never saw any prostitutes on the street but there are a good handful of strip joints and sex shops) and the Old Town. As it was early on Saturday morning we skipped the red light area and proceeded directly to the Old Town. The reconstruction of these narrows streets is impressive and although they are new the painted houses have a lot of character. They are mainly four storeyed houses and painted so many different colours they really reminded me of the houses depicted in fairytale illustrations. These streets are full of little boutiques, cafes and restaurants. It's a pedestrianised area so it's a pleasant place to stroll.
We moved further into the town and came across the post-war shopping area. It is, like so many cities destroyed in the war, a concrete monster but it did strike me that the streets were wide and there were plenty of places to sit and watch the world go by. The main stretch 'Bahnhofstrasse' is a pedestrianised street on two levels ; the lower level is called the 'Passarelle' and has some interesting cheaper shops. It runs from Hauptbahnhof - the main train station - which is an on Ernst-August Platz to Kroepke which is the city's main square. There is a large branch of Moevenpick with lots of outdoor seating where Hannoverians like to stop for coffee (or beer) and huge slabs of strawberry cake. Georgstrasse runs across Kroepke; in one direction, leading to the opera house, you'll find the most exclusive (and of course expensive) stores in Hannover and in the other direction you'll find lost of department stores. The posh side is a favourite place for Hannoverians to walk on a Sunday afternoon and this is known as the 'Schorsenbummel' (my favourite German verb 'bummeln' means to stroll). We did this the next day before taking at seat in the sun at Moevenpick feeling very Hannoverian indeed.
We found the tourist information office opposite the station on Ernst-August Platz and booked tickets for the city tour that afternoon. With a couple of hours to spare we made our way back through the Old Town and towards the river where a huge flea market was in full swing. There was a good mixture of stalls, some selling kitsch 1970s glassware and ceramics, others selling coins, postcards and medals. There was furniture old and new, gorgeous chandeliers and vintage clothing. The flea market crosses over the bridge and lines both banks of the river but on the southern side you'll find one of Hannover's more contentious sights - the 'Nanas'. The 'Nanas' are a series of brightly coloured sculptures of stylised voluptuous ladies that can be found in several places in the city but I think the ones here by the river are the best presented. They were created by French-born artist Niki de-Saint Phalle and the first one appeared in 1965. At first they were the target of much derision but like many famous pieces of public art they are now regarded fondly by the citizens of Hannover and the artist became the first (and only I believe) person to become an honorary citizen of Hannover. Every gift shop in Hannover has miniature Nanas for sale and many shops simply feature them as a permanent fixture in their window displays. I am set on the idea of going back to Hannover to spot all of them!
Back at Ernst-August Platz we joined the bus for the city tour. The guide spoke both German and English but I am sorry to say that the Germans spoke loudly whenever the guide was giving the English commentary and from our seats near the rear of the bus we found it difficult to hear. Fortunately I was able to translate most of the German commentary otherwise we would have missed a great many interesting points.
Although Hannover proudly boasts a 'red line' walking tour where visitors follow a red line painted on the pavement (for which a guidebook can be purchased from the tourist office) we decided to take the bus tour because the weather was poor and because the price included entry to the Herrenhauser gardens. The tour lasted over two hours and took in all the major places of interest throughout the city with three points (including the gardens) when we got off the bus. This included the New Town Hall (built in 1913) where we were shown some models of how the city changed over the centuries, and the Old Town where we were able to learn more about some of the buildings we had seen that morning.
There were several parts of the tour that particularly interested me. The first was a busy road that was actually once a canal and the impressive buildings that line it were the offices of shipping agents. Another was the Sculpture Mile which runs from the regional parliament building to the Herrenhauser Gardens which is punctuated with all kinds of striking sculptures. In fact Hannover is a city that is teeming with outdoor art; there was even a competition to come up with one off designs for individual bus stops!
At Herrenhauser we left the bus and were given the choice to look around independently or to follow the guide (which most people chose to do). There are several very impressive gardens but we visited the Baroque Garden which was designed by Sophia, Princess Palatine of the Rhine, who was Electress of Hannover from 1692 to 1714. There are formal flower beds, a delightful outdoor theatre where the cast change costumes behind privet hedges and an exquisite orangerie garden with criss-crossing gravel paths which is a popular spot for wedding photographs. The entire site is vast and I would certainly make a point of coming back to see more on a future visit. The bus tour stop was interesting but gave only a glimpse of what there is to see.
On our second day we visited the Adventure Zoo (which I have reviewed already on this site) and then the Maschsee which is an artificial lake created in the 1930s from flood meadows. Of course, it's highly popular with water sports enthusiasts but it also attracts walkers and cyclists as it has about 6 Kilometres of paths around it. It has an outdoor swimming area and should I visit again in summer I will be sure to pack my swimming gear. The less energetic can enjoy the water from the comfort of a boat - either cruising or rowing.
We spent Saturday evening away from the city centre, deciding to explore a more residential area in the other direction. This proved to be a good move because we discovered a part of town that has lots of cosy bars, some of them quite quirky and individual. It seemed to be a part of town with lots of immigrants and young people so it was a fun place to watch some European Championship football along with some Swedish guys, some Greeks and lots of Turks (and plenty of Germans of course). We had wanted to find somewhere to eat traditional German food but the place we had headed for had closed at six (if only we had read the leaflet properly) and so we ate at an Indian restaurant close to our hotel. The following day we ate a late lunch at a small restaurant in the Old Town where the food was delicious and reasonably priced. I was excited to find that the white asparagus so popular in Europe was still being served (I had eaten some in Austria in May and was dying to eat more) and nearly every traditional restaurant was promoting a special asparagus season menu. Overall Hannover has a huge choice of restaurants and you'll find all cuisines represented. Germany is of course 'beer country' and Hannover is no different to the rest of the country. There are several microbreweries to try but most places serve Herrenhäuser Pilsener and to blend in you should ask for a 'Herry'.
You will probably have guessed by now that I am keen to go back to Hannover. I felt that there is still so much to see but it also appears to be a good base to explore the rest of Lower Saxony and there are some historic towns in the region I would like to visit. I found Hannover a visually attractive city against my preconceptions; the public art really does make it an exciting and vibrant place. It makes me cross to hear people grumble about money being spent on such projects and Hannover should be held up as an example of the difference art can make. For a rebuilt city there is so much to do outdoors but we didn't even visit any of the museums and there are several that appeal to me. Finally I found that Hannover wasn't as expensive as I had anticipated and that there were lots of ways to save money. An all day travel card is particularly good value.
For a weekend getaway or as a base for a longer trip I fully recommend Hannover. This is merely the first instalment!
We flew to Hannover from Newcastle Airport with TUI Fly. This airline also flies to Hannover from Manchester. BMI fly from Heathrow to Hannover while Lufthansa operate between Hannover and a number of British cities.
I lived in Hannover for my year abroad during my German couse at university, and found it a great place to live. Since my time there (96-97) the city has been spruced up a great deal as the EXPO has come to town - the Hauptbahnhof has been totally renovated and now boasts modern shops and facilities, and the tram and underground network has been extended to cover most outlying districts. Most importantly, there is now a direct connection to the airport, where there only ever used to be a slow bus link. Essentially, Hannover still offers a surprising amount for the casual traveller to enjoy. There is a large shopping centre, stretching from the Hauptbahnhof, round Kröpcke square and the imposing Opera House, down to the remnants of the old town (Hannover was severely affected in the Allied air raids during WW2 but part of the Altstadt was painstakingly rebuilt), and the old town in particular offers many a bar and restaurant where you can enjoy good food and drink (try Uwe's Hannen Faß or Schateke for good beer and reasonably-priced food). The town hall buildings and the Maschsee, a vast artificial lake that freezes solid in winter are well worth a visit, as are the Herrenhäuser Gardens to the north of the city centre (also easily reached on the tram). The old royal palace there was destroyed in the bombing but the ceremonial gardens and fountains remain and are in good condition, ideal to wander round for a relaxing day in the sun. You can happily spend a day wandering round the shops and the old town in Hannover, and then there are plenty of options when it comes to nightlife - try Finnegans Wake (the obligatory Irish pub, in fact there are 4 of them in Hannover!), Henry J Beans bar/diner, and the Osho (Baggy) nightclub by the station. All in all this is a bustling city with much to offer.
Hanover (German: Hannover), on the river Leine, is the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany. With a population of 548,617 (1 January 2007) the city is a major center of northern Germany, known for hosting annual commercial expositions such as the Hanover Fair and the CeBIT. In 2000, Hanover hosted the world fair Expo 2000. The Hanover fairground, due to numerous extensions especially for the Expo 2000, is the largest in the world. Hanover also has regional importance because of its university and medical school, its international airport and its large zoo (Hanover Zoo).