6 May 2013

Around Hannover

My first day in Hannover was spent wandering through gardens and on the second I went exploring the town.

I slight mistake, which turned out not to be that bad, meant that I was in a hotel a little out of town just beyond a major ring-road in Zone 2. That proved not to be a problem as two of the main tram lines, 4 and 5, stopped nearby and got me in to the centre in under fifteen minutes.again.

A one-day travelcard for the two zones was only 5.90 euro and that meant that I could hop on and off trams at will. I like being able to do this and it is not exactly unknown for me to take a tram one stop, get off and take the same tram back again.

I'd like to see more towns and cities adopt the London Underground approach of telling you which direction each train is travelling in, rather than assuming that you know where the destinations are.

The tram took me to Kropcke. This is a large station with platforms on several levels and stairs all over the place. There are a few escalators too but not that many and not all were working.

The station is wonderfully decorated with science fiction themes, something I'd like to see London Underground emulate.

Above ground Hannover is full of communal spaces that give you space to breathe, time to relax, a place to sit and something to look at. These four simple fountains are just one example of many and are by no means the largest of the grandest.

The streets between the spaces are (mostly) nothing special, thanks to the damage done by Allied bombing during the War, but the spaces between them make the exploration a delight.

Less delightful was the list up to the top of the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall), which was new in 1913.

Some of it was my fault, I thought that the observation platform that we were heading for was somewhere else, somewhere much lower. And so I found myself unexpectedly in a lift. I like my lifts to have flat floors that are not made of glass and to head up in a straight line. This one broke all three rules and so I was a little shaken when I arrived at the top.

Luckily the views were worth it.While a lot of Hannover is bland post-war rebuild there are also scenic parks and the Old Town.

The Neues Rathaus is an interesting building in its own right, made the more so for being a working building that lets tourists trample through parts of it.

Admittedly not all of them trample in to the restricted areas like I did but the chap who showed me the correct way out was very civil and understanding.

This is the back of the building and the wide steps lead down to the lake in the park. The precarious window at the very top in the centre is where I risked all to take pictures like the one above.

The sun shades in the foreground, necessary on that day, are for the up market cafe where I had a beer and something with bread and cheese to calm my nerves. It is a lovely spot.

From there I followed the boundary of the Old Town, still marked with walls and water in some places, and then went in to the part of the Old Town that looks old.

Very little of it is old because of the bombing but Hannover has made a good job of recapturing some of the feel of the previous Old Town by rebuilding in the old style and by relocating some old buildings from elsewhere. Critics could say it is fake but I think that it works well.

The street pattern is as important to an Old Town as the buildings and here Hannover also scores well. The lanes are narrow and bend mischievously. The popularity of the area is shown by the large number of bars, cafes and posh shops in the area. I was spoilt for choice when looking for somewhere to have my next beer and eventually chose a bar with seats on the street and a convivial atmosphere

It is impossible to ignore the artist Niki de Saint Phalle in Hannover and I came across some of her work every day. There is a colourful grotto by her in the Great Garden, her works feature prominently in the Museum of Modern Art and when exploring the town I found three large athletic statues by the moat. They are so joyful it is impossible not to smile.

There is a lot of other art across the city and these metal trees in a courtyard demanded my attention. I like the art and I like the space that it is in.

There was more to the day that did not make this cut, including a squat tower with a twist (literally) by Frank Gehry, some colourful Gothic brick buildings,  a yellow and green office block, chairs stuck on the side of a building, a church organ that looked as though it wanted to be in a Gothic film, a copy of Banksy's girl with red balloon that I also saw on a woman's t-shirt, a classic tea room (I went back), and an enticing comic shop.

Hannover made discovering most of these easy by linking the main sites with a red line painted on the pavement.

Hannover impressed me. Yes, a lot of it is ugly but that is true of many towns that suffered the twin blights of war damage and post-war functional design. But move away from the main shopping street and there are many communal spaces, fountains and other street art, and interesting buildings to discover.

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