Friday, 10 December 2010

A Quick Impression of Hanover

After being so surprised at Rostock, I was curious whether other parts of Germany would impress me as much. Sadly this little sojourn through Germany is a very brief one as I head to France. But I do intend to come back and see more of it at some stage. Apart from some fantastic countryside and numerous cities like Hanover and Hamburg, I really can't wait to sink my teeth into Berlin.
So I left Rostock by train heading towards Hanover with a change in Hamburg. So many German cities have names that are so familiar to me, yet I know next to nothing about them.
My very brief glance at Hamburg through a train window was, I have to say, unimpressive. But I don't hold that against it. Sadly one of the downsides of train travel is that railway lines tends to pass through the less attractive parts of town. Graffitti-riddled industrial rail landscapes are the norm everywhere, not just Hamburg.
Intercity Rail is a fantastic way to see the countryside, but not a good way to see cities. I'll leave my first impression of Hamburg for a time when I can have a proper walk around town.

So on to Hanover. I'm spending two nights with my friend Uli and her partner Clemens. Uli is a friend I met through our common interest in Photography, and she also happens to love travel. Both her and Clemens are ridiculously smart when it comes to Bio-science stuff, but sadly the closest I come to understanding Biology is to know how computer viruses are made. Not really the same thing. But none of that matters. What does matter is that they are both wonderful people and I am so grateful for them letting me stay, and for their company.
I really hope we get to catch up again before I head back to Australia, and this time I'll try to time it better with your work.

Hanover itself is fascinating, although I really only had a brief time to explore.
One thing I had noticed through Mongolia, Russia, and Finland was that the kids I saw didn't really play much in the snow. I saw the occasional kid with a sled, but hardly any snowmen and I hadn't seen evidence of a single snow fight at all! Even the parked cars all covered in snow were left unmolested by kids who might otherwise be drawing or writing snow graffiti. I could barely resist the temptation to draw a giant smiley face on every snow-covered windscreen I walked past, how did these mischievous kids hold back their urges? It seemed unnatural. I guess they get so much snow that there's no novelty factor to it.
But things were very different in Hanover. My walk to the lake must have taken me along a busy school route because there were school kids everywhere.. And snow fights everywhere too. The evidence of splattered snowballs littered the pavement, and every convenient flat surface within reach that was once covered by fresh snow had been pillaged for ammo. This went on for a couple of kilometers. It seems these mobile snow fights would last the entire trip to and from school. That's more like it. Kids being kids. Wreaking havoc.
There is a beautiful artificial lake not far from Uli and Clemens' house called Maschsee lake that is completely frozen over at the moment, but looks like it would be a hub of activity during summer. Apparently it was built in 1936 by "unemployed laborers" who weren't really given much choice in the matter by the government, but I don't know the full story.. Just that there *is* a story to it.
I was told to walk along the length of Maschsee lake until I got to the town hall which was apparently worth a look. Pfft.. A town hall? We have them everywhere in Australia. What's so impressive about that?
Well, when I got there I found out exactly what they meant. Calling this building a town hall is like calling the Titanic just another ferry, or The Beatles just another boy band. As impressive as the building was itself, the grounds were equally impressive and looked beautiful with their frozen ponds and snow-covered lawns.
I continued wandering through the city, and soon found Hanover's Christmas markets. I'm so used to seeing Christmas decorations and fake snow in Australia, it somehow seems strange to see real snow on real pine trees in front of real old stone buildings. All my life I kind of grew up thinking a white Christmas like this was about as real as Santa Claus, and here it is right in front of me.

And the architecture! It's so German! I was expecting a few distinctly German buildings, but nowhere near this many. It's fantastic to see the character of cities change so much in such small distances between countries.
And All the people I've met along the way have been very warm and friendly and up for a laugh. Not in the same way as in Finland though. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think I just connected slightly better with the Germans I met. It's as if I "get" how their social interactions work in a way that baffled me a bit in Finland. While the "slightly cold and clinical" German stereotype was well and truly busted for me, their reputation for efficiency was reinforced. The train stations were well laid out and everything ran mostly on time. One of my trains (the first leg of a trip requiring 4 connections and passing through 4 different countries in a single day) was delayed by 20 minutes due to "a fire" (which one of my fellow passengers told me probably meant a suicide).
I also stumbled across a very old church right in the middle of town that had been gutted and left as a ruin. All the exterior walls were left standing, but there was no roof or interior at all. Just a cross and a plaque on the ground in the snow with the words "unseren toten" written on it. It was obviously left this way as some kind of war memorial, and it's effect was really moving. I had to consult Professor Google when I got home to discover it's history and significance. As it turns out, this site called Aegidienkirche is a 10th century church bombed by the allies during WW2 that was left as-is as a memorial for 90% of the city centre that was destroyed by bombing. The plaque on the ground translates simply to "Our Dead".

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1 comment:

  1. Germany is the dog's bollocks, my husband's mum and dad live in Herford which is near Hanover, and his sister lives in Luxembourg, we usually drive their from Manchester.

    It's a beautiful country, and the people are great. The way of life is kinda similar to Oz, I think, they work to live, not live to work, and they still have a sense of using their leisure time wisely, unlike the UK.

    I know exactly what you mean about snow at Christmas. This year I made a gingerbread house, and as I was piping "snow" on it, the snow was falling outside, and it just all made sense!