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History and Geography of Hannover
Hannover is the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony, Germany and was once the family seat of the Hannoverian Kings of Great Britain, known as the dukes of Brunswick- Lüneburg. It lies on the river Leine and was founded in mediaeval times as a village of ferrymen and fishermen that grew to become quite a large town in the 13th Century, by virtue of its geography on a natural crossroads. Its position on the river helped increase its value as a trading town.
Map of Hannover
Its crucial position became unfortunate as WWII blew through Europe, making it a prime target for strategic bombing of its railhead and production centre, as well as its important road junction. Residential areas were targeted too: more than 6,000 people were killed in the Allied bombing raids. In the aftermath, more than 90% of the city centre was destroyed by 88 bombing raids. The Aegidienkirche has been left as a ruin and today stands as a war memorial. The Allies marched into Hannover in April 1945, and the US 84th Infantry Division took the city on 10 April 1945. Inmates were released from the Neuengamme concentration camp. Hannover fell under British occupation, and became part of the new state of Lower Saxony in 1946.
Hannover’s landscape is quite flat, with the river Leine snaking through the city. It has large green areas, with big parks and forests. The Maschsee (Masch Lake) is a spectacular man-made lake.
Best time to go to Hannover
Hannover is a great place to be any time of the year, but the summer months are the best time to go. With an average temperature of 23°C (73°F), the whole city is in great spirits, celebrating lots of festivals, and hosting numerous events. Mind the frequent showers though! July is the hottest month; although far from unbearable.
The months between May and October are the most popular tourist-wise. The winter months are cold, and the deepest winter months see the temperatures dropping below freezing.
English translation was just recently introduced to some official tourist points such as the train ticket machines. The German people are generally helpful, but you have to ask for assistance, as they don’t tend to intrude upon others. For general information, it’s best to go to the Tourist Office.
Hannover’s public transportation network is superb. If you plan more than one mode of transport, a day ticket is the best buy, giving you unlimited travel on the bus, the trams and the subways; they are valid until the last connection of the day, which is often sometime after midnight. Be aware that some tickets need to be validated (stamped in the blue box), and some not, depending on the machine. Most of the city falls under Zone 1, so that should be the only one you need. Keep in mind that getting to the airport requires a Zone 2 ticket.
The city can be enjoyed on foot, with pedestrian paths on every street, as well as the area in front of Central Station. Bike paths are also provided on almost every street. You can take a bike on the busses and trams for free, but it’s restricted to 8.30am – 3pm, and after 7pm.
Taxis are also an alternative means of transport; at a higher rate of course. If you’re travelling in a group, you can order a 7 or 9 seat taxi, and so divide the cost effectively.
Major Attractions and Sights
Hannover is not a typical European city. Beautiful centuries-old buildings are here no more. The city was one of the hardest hit during World War II, leaving it with few historical landmarks. Even the Old City (Altstadt) area is ‘new’; all the old houses, about 40, left standing after the war were gathered from throughout the city and collected in one place. Around that area are grey 1950s buildings that are quite dreary. However, there are still a few residential neighborhoods just outside the downtown area, such as Oststadt, List, and Linden consisting of late-19th-century houses with often elaborate facades.
The Old City has points of interest, including the Market Church, the Nolte House, the Beguine Tower, Leibnitz House, and the Old Town Hall. The Kreuz-Church quarter has many little lanes to meander down.
Kröpcke is a large pedestrian area in the heart of Hannover. It is Hannover’s major shopping spot, home to the Opera house, and has lots of places to eat.
Passing through the Marstall Gate you come to the banks of the Leine, and happen upon the renowned Mile of Sculptures of which the Nanas of Niki de Saint-Phalle form a part of. Following the river bank along the Mile, you can cross the Königsworther Square to the entrance of the Georgengarten. From here, you can follow on to the Reformed Church, the Catholic Church of St Clemens, and Lutheran Neustädter Kirche.
Other popular sights to see in the city are: the Wangenheim Palace, the Kröpcke Clock, the Gehry Tower (by American architect Frank Gehry), the Waterloo Column, the Hannover Playhouse, the Lower Saxony State Archives, and the Opera House. The historically important Leibnitz Letters, which are on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, are housed in the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz Library.
The Great Garden of Herrenhausen (Herrenhäuser Gärten) is a world-famous baroque garden created in the 17th Century to copy the Versailles Gardens in France. In the winter its beauty is still evident, but it reaches its best at the end of spring until the end of summer.
Also in the Herrenhausen Gardens you will find the Sea Life Grossaquarium. It has around 30 different displays, including a deep water tank which has a glass tunnel running through the centre, so you can walk through it and get really up close with the sharks and other big fish in the tank. It’s an indoor location, so if the weather is playing up, this beautiful aquarium is the ideal place to while away a rainy day.
Further out is the EXPO-Park, which hosted EXPO 2000. Crossing the Exponale, one of the biggest pedestrian bridges in Europe you’ll find the fairground complex.
The Hannover Zoo is a must-see; being one of the best and most spectacular in Europe. It has multi-themed areas including a farm, a jungle palace, a tropical house, a wooded area for wolves, a gorilla mountain, and many others. Annual visitors number around 2 million.
For general leisure activities, choose from forests and gardens, rivers, a canal and lakes, and 40 parks. In this bustling city there is a myriad of options to choose from, to suit any tastes.