It has to be said, when one is planning a holiday to Germany, much less thinking of MOVING to Germany, Hannover really isn’t the first city to come to mind as a very exciting or attractive option. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even make it into your top 10 list of possible German cities to visit, ever! I first moved here 4 years ago and, to be honest, I often ask myself how I could have ended up in such a place as this. Hannover is a typical regional German city; it’s pretty low-key and quiet, with not MUCH going on, and for most of the year we wake up to that characteristically dark, grey, northern German sky. Hannover was also completely decimated during the allied bombing of World War II, so a lot of the city is made up of ugly, new infrastructure. All in all, life can get kind of miserable here.
However, Hannover has been a city that I have made my home for the last 4 years, and this has forced me to seek out the great sides of the city that ARE there – they do exist! Even when I am fed up of life here, there are things and aspects of this city that I really do appreciate, even more so when I visit other cities which lack them. I have also found some special corners of Hannover that I know I am going to miss when I move away, so I thought, while I am still here, that I would write about them on my blog. Perhaps this will be a post that I can look back on if I ever feel homesick for this place (doubtful). And if, for whatever reason, you may find yourself with some time to spend in this city, maybe you can take me up on some of these suggestions!
The first thing that I particularly like about Hannover is how convenient it is to get around the city. The main hub of the city is pretty small which means that I can pretty much get around everywhere fairly quickly by foot – for someone like me who doesn’t drive, this is wonderful. It’s also a very bike-friendly city, with proper bike paths on basically every street. The street tram and bus transport system works really well too, if you do need to get to a more remote area, and the lines will even take you way out-of-town to neighbouring villages. Local transport is also very cheap; a day ticket for zone 1 is only about €5.50 and for all 3 zones it still costs under €10. Just knowing that transport is there for me if I need it is very freeing and I am thankful to have been able to make use of it.
Something that I have noticed about Hannover which I think makes it a really unique place, especially in comparison to other German cities, is that the culture and lifestyle of the people here is very normal and pretty low-stress. Wealth is not at all displayed in this city; there are very few expensive or designer shops, there is no ‘super-rich area’, no pretentiousness and no feeling of disparity between the different classes of people. It really doesn’t matter which neighbourhood you say you live in, in Hannover, and I appreciate that people across the whole city have a general feeling of community – everyone is just going about their normal day-to-day business, and that makes it an easy place to live.
The amount of green space that this city holds is wonderful. There is a huge forest called the Eilenriede, or Alder Moor, right in the centre of the city, directly behind the Musik Hochschule actually, and Hannover is full of other smaller parks, trees and nice greenery. The river that flows through Hannover, the Leine, also has lovely green parks running alongside it, which makes for some nice walks and is also a great place to drink a beer or cook up a barbeque on a warm summer evening. One of my favourite spots to go for walks, especially as it is around the corner from where I live, is up around the Deister Berg. You walk up a small hill and instantly feel like you are in the countryside. The best time of year up there is in the spring, when the bluebells come out and are just gorgeous.
I couldn’t write about Hannover without mentioning beer – beer culture here is just as strong as it is anywhere in Germany. There are two particular features of how the Hannoverians treat beer that I especially enjoy. The first conveniently leads on from my previous point about the city’s green spaces and nice walks, and that is the wonderful beer gardens that Hannover boasts. I know they exist elsewhere too, but I do love to spend evenings with friends at the beer gardens here; the atmosphere is always so friendly and jovial and it’s always a fun time! My favourite beer gardens in Hannover are situated in the middle of nice walks around the city, which is why these two things go together no nicely! There’s the one on top of Deister Berg, located in an old water tower called Lindener Turm, there’s one at Waterloo Platz, which is huge and great for watching big football matches, and there’s a smaller and more hippie one called Biergarten Gretchen which is very nice too! The second way I like to enjoy beer in Hannover is by something called KioskKultur. Hannover has the largest number of kiosks (like a newsagent or corner store) of any German city, and a very strong part of life here is to get together with friends, grab a beer from a kiosk and enjoy it outside together while wandering around or sitting somewhere in public. On any normal Friday evening, or Feierabend as we call it, this is what you will see most people doing – the vibes are definitely very chilled and it’s a really nice way to unwind at the end of the week.
Germany is so steeped in history, and although, as I mentioned earlier, Hannover was mostly destroyed during the Second World War, there are small souvenirs of history dotted around the city which are really interesting to see. If you head into the Neues Rathaus, the new town hall – also quite a fine and impressive looking building with nice views from the top, you can look at the four miniature models of Hannover that have been set up. There is one to represent what the city looked like during the Middle Ages, one at the outbreak of the war, another just after the war, and one showing what the city looks like now. It’s remarkable to see all the different stages of development and destruction that Hannover has gone through. Across from the Rathaus are the remains of an old bombed out church called the Aegidienkirche, originally built in the 1300s. These remains have been left by the city as a war memorial and every day, four times per day, the restored bells ring out over the city. There is also a ‘peace bell’ located in the bell tower – a gift to Hannover from its sister city of Hiroshima, Japan. Every year, on 6th August, both cities ring their bells together as a tribute to their sad histories. Another interesting sight to see in Hannover is the Maschsee, although it too has a dark story. During the years of the Third Reich, Hitler ordered for this lake to be built out of slave labour by the persecuted Jews. Today you can still see where the old Nazi monument stood, although the city parliament has done it’s best to deface it and now even holds food and music festivals around this lake!
Speaking of festivals, there are so many going on in Hannover, all year round. The best one though, and the one that I truly will be missing, is the Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas market. Of all the Christmas markets that I have been to all around Germany and Austria, Hannover’s is honestly the best one! There are so many different sections to it, each with their own special delicacy; the cosy pine forest, the Scandinavian log fire-roasted salmon, the medieval street performers, the blacksmiths, the amazing sausages and spicy mustard, the mead, the little market stalls selling handmade decorations and textiles… And the Glühwein!!! Glühwein with rum, Glühwein with amaretto, Glühwein with brandy. Oh, it is so delicious and so perfect for a cold winter night!
Lastly, I thought I would just mention a few other things I like to do in my spare time in Hannover, and the places I like to go. In Hannover’s most famous attraction, the Herrenhausen Palace, is a building called the Orangerie – a large room totally decked out with insanely beautiful (and original!) murals all over the walls. Perhaps I am biased because I have seen only fabulous concerts here, including one by Isabelle Faust that I won’t ever forget, but it is such an amazing space to see a performance in, so I definitely recommend checking out what’s on there.
We don’t get very many movies in their original languages here in Hannover, and most English films are unfortunately dubbed. However, every now and then there are a couple of really cool cinemas that do show original movies and they are really fun to see. The Astor is a bigger cinema, with lots of screens and the full popcorn-movie experience, although it’s not the cinema that the kids choose to go to which makes it a much more pleasant experience! If you pay a few more €’s, you can also be served wine and beer at your comfortable reclining seat! Another tiny independent cinema is called the Hochhaus Lichtspiele – they show only independent or foreign films in their original version, about once per month. There is only one screen here and it’s a very casual atmosphere, with scattered comfy seating and simple cushions on the floor, if that’s what floats your boat.
The Altstadt flea market, which takes place every Saturday along the Leine, come rain or shine, is something in Hannover that is not to be missed. It is Germany’s oldest flea market and it’s huge! You can find lots of treasures here; from unique LP’s to bits of handcrafted furniture, jewellery and old china wares. It’s also where I got my Zassenhaus coffee mill for 20 Euros!