Sunday, July 31, 2011

Erlangen and Nuremberg, Germany


My last couple of days in Harste passed too quickly. I spent most of the time blogging and sorting out my photos, baking chocolate speculoos brownies to take to Erlangen and Mainz, heading into Gottingen to pick up the film I left to get developed, packing and cleaning the house. Admittedly, I spent a lot of time Facebooking and painting my nails and was still vacuuming the house at midnight and packing at 2.30am, but we got there in the end! I also got in a few runs after realizing five nights in Italy had seen me gain 3kg!

I was up early on Thursday morning, wanting to leave time for final cleaning tasks, but I ended up running late and did a mad run from Hauke's house to the bus stop with my bags only half done-up and my arms full of stuff I'd grabbed on the way out. I'm sure I've left stuff behind, I just hope I managed to turn all the lights off and shut all of the windows!

Lissa and I
I arrived in Erlangen at noon and met Lissa at the train station. I worked with Lissa in 2009-2010 at Victoria University, like Philippa who I visited in London. She's living over here for awhile while her husband is based here for work. We went back to her apartment to leave my bags there, and sat chatting for a bit, before going out for lunch. We brought asian food nearby, it's kind of funny to go somewhere with someone else who doesn't speak the language either for once! Then we went for a big walk around Erlangen, but I was too busy talking to pay too much attention. The buildings in Erlangen look more like those in Wurzburg.

We had dinner with her husband, and they went off to German lessons while I said I'd go for a run. I'd originally intended to sleep in Nuremberg, but they had the keys to an empty apartment in the building, so I stuck around for the night. Unfortunately, I grabbed the wrong key on my way out and ended up locked out of both apartments, and spent a hour sitting in the stairwell!


I was moving pretty slowly the next morning and only made it to Nuremberg around eleven. My Lonely Planet was buried in my pack, so I just walked into the city to see what I could find. Nuremberg was bombed pretty heavily in the war, but there are still some amazing buildings there, and everything has those beautiful red rooves.

I grabbed some sushi for lunch and sat outside the town hall to eat before continuing with my walk. There were a lot of buskers and little market stalls that gave the place a great atmosphere, and a lot of statues or fountains, some of which were really creepy! The city also still has it's town wall, big parts of which are still intact and look really cool.

Nuremberg, one of the weird statues

After walking past some churches, plazas and town halls, I stumbled upon the Nuremberg Castle and ended up doing a tour of it. It has existed in some form or another since at least 1105, and had three seperate sections, an imperial section for the Kaiser, a section for the Burgraves (the state rulers) of Nuremberg when it was a state of the Holy Roman Empire and a section for the municipality. It's in pretty good nick, they restored it really well after the war, and its the first castle I've been properly inside as opposed to the palaces I visited in France and Spain.

Nuremberg Castle

The tour was in German, so I didn't really get that much, but it enabled me to see through the private wings, a unique chapel that has a lower section for the working class, upper section for the higher class, and a gallery above that for the royalty. We also saw a deep well, which didn't interest me, and I went up the tower to get a view over the whole city. I much prefer going up ancient castle towers than modern sky-tower-type buildings!

View from Nuremberg Castle tower
Then I had to rush back to the train station. I wish I had spent more time in Nuremberg, there is a museum dedicated to the rise of nazism that I would have gone to had I had more time, and I'm sure that if I opened Lonely Planet I'd find more cool stuff to do there too, it seems like an awesome place and really left a good impression on me.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sicily, Italy - days four and five


See Day One here, and Days Two and Three here.

Sunday morning we woke up around noon, and after collecting Roberta, who went on AFS to the USA, we drove off for what was supposed to be a surprise but had been ruined by everyone telling Francesca she had to take me there in front of me. We went out past Avola and up this huge hillside with amazing views and one terrifying moment when we stalled just around a hairpin bend on the slope and I kept imagining a car tearing around the bend and smashing into us while she got the car going again.

From the top, we could see for miles, past all of these hills and valleys out to the sea. At the bottom of a valley in front of us was Cavagrande, some blue lakes where everyone swims, but its a bit of a hike to get there, it took us 30 minutes walking downhill in the sun, and I kept thinking that the walk back up was not going to be fun!

The water was amazing, quite cool but refreshing after the long walk, and I spent a long time working on my tan (I swear I got a tan, I was just really white beforehand so you can't notice it!). We had leftover arancini and pizza for lunch with more fruit, I really love those squashed peaches, for some reason they taste better than unsquashed ones! Roberta was really cool to talk to as well. Finally around 6pm we decided to brave the walk back up. It wasn't as bad as I thought, we made it up in about 40 minutes, but 40 minutes of walking uphill in a place as hot as Sicily isn't really fun!

Me with a tan!
We stopped in at Roberta's place for cake on the way home, her older brother also did AFS in the States and has just returned from living in Spain, so I talked to him a lot. Her mother is the president of the local AFS chapter, which Francesca volunteers for. We went out to a little pub for dinner with Francesca's mum, aunt and uncle, and had paninis, which are actually quite different to the paninis we have in NZ, they are more like round hamburger buns.

Making pesto
Monday was my last day in Siracusa, and we spent most of the morning sorting out my bus and hostel in Palermo and to the airport, and buying last minute souvineers and packaging them up to post to NZ. Francesca's mum taught me how to make fresh pesto, so we had pasta out on the terrace for lunch again, and then we headed off to the post office on the way to the station. Going to the post office was a great example of times when things just don't work in Italy, because you can't post a parcel unless you have an Italian ID number. I left the parcel with Francesca to post, but I'm not sure what anyone who was just a tourist and didn't know anyone would do, we were there for ages and the guy was at a loss as to a solution. It reminded me of Spain, where you needed a national ID number to book an appointment to get said national ID number…It's kinda weird that NZ has no national ID number like all other developed countries, but I'm not complaining!

Last lunch with Francesca and her mum
So then we were running late for me to catch my bus and Francesca pulled some crazy driving maneuvers getting us there. Driving in Italy is crazy, Italian's do not like rules, or being considerate of other road users. Cars don't really go down the road in lanes, so much as a messy pack with scooters weaving in and out, and crossing the road is like playing roulette with the grim reaper, you just gotta run and hope for the best because no cars are going to stop for you! The scooters are scary too, you can start riding one at age 14, and a lot of people don't wear helmets even though they are a legal requirement. I even saw a family of four, the two parents and two kids all squashed together on one scooter!

I got to Palermo around 9pm, and headed off with my hand-drawn map to find the hostel. I stayed in a university student dorm that takes in tourists over summer. I think any NZ students that complain about university accommodation should get sent on exchange here. Spartan describes it accurately, with decor from the 60s and bad lighting, and a corridor that wouldn't be amiss in a horror movie. If you like paying exorbitant prices (although admittedly less exorbitant than all other hostels in Italy) to sleep in a dirty sauna with background noise akin to the sounds produced by a small highway, then this is the hostel for you. If not, then I really wouldn't recommend it!

I headed out to try and find some food, but walking around Palermo at night was the only time in seven months that I've felt a little afraid for my safety, and I've wandered around all sorts of neighborhoods late at night and hung around train stations waiting for buses in the early hours of the morning without being concerned. So, I employed all my 'avoid dodgy looking people and try to blend in' tactics, and went back pretty quickly. I couldn't sleep because of noise on the street, so I wandered down to the bar in the courtyard, which was full of all of the Italian students studying there over summer and a lonely french tourist who I spent a few hours talking to, before I headed to bed at 2am.

I woke to the alarm at 6am, remembered how much traveling I had to do that day, and instantly regretted drinking that last beer the night before! I had been told by everyone I'd asked that the bus to Palermo airport left every half hour, on the hour, but as I've already said, schedules don't really exist in Italy, and after waiting for 45 minutes the bus departed. I'm always a 'better safe than sorry' person that gets there really early and waits ages in the airport, but seeing as this flight was so early I'd planned on getting there a little later than usual. This was a bad experiment to do in a country like Italy, because then with the bus issues and traffic jams I ended up as one of the last people to get through check-in and got really stressed out.

The flight back was ok, I landed at Weeze just after noon, and got a bus and train to Dusseldorf ok. The weather here in Germany is still terrible, all grey and raining and I didn't take a coat with me to Italy so I was freezing! I had an hour and a half to kill there and went to an internet cafe and then for a walk, only just making it back in time to get my next train.

I got back to Gottingen just after 7pm but had missed the bus to Harste by about five minutes and waited nearly an hour for the next one, so I was pretty shattered by the time I got home. Its funny how little it takes for a place to feel like home to me now, but Harste really does, I love it here and am looking forward to a few last days here before I take off again.

All in all, I really enjoyed visiting Italy. It felt like a real holiday, being somewhere so hot and sunny and being near the sea really relaxed me a lot. But, I don't know if I could live there. Far from the chilled out lifestyle that Italy is known for, I actually found being there quite stressful. Not only was it stressful having to do things like take buses and trains and post parcels in a country with poor infrastructure, meaning I was constantly worried that something would go wrong and I'd miss a plane or whatever, but I also got quite worked up just by the way Italian people tend to disobey rules and behave in a manner that seems rude to NZers! So a great place to holiday, but maybe not a good retirement spot!

More photos of Italy are here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sicily, Italy - days two and three

cheese at the market
See Day One here.

I woke up on Friday feeling a lot better, and one of Francesca's friends came over for breakfast. We had granita (like ice-cream without the sugar) with brioche (a kind of sweet, light bread) for breakfast, a typical Italian thing. Bit different to marmite on toast! We walked down to the market to get fresh fruit, you could see huge swordfish cut in half lying on the tables, waiting for people to order fillets of it cut straight off the fish. Some of the fruit and vegetables are a bit different, like a kind of round eggplant and peaches that look squashed, and the cheese here commonly comes in a funny shape. It has a softer taste than French or Swiss cheese, I quite like it.

swordfish at the market
We met Daniella and Val, the two Canadians as we came back to the house, and decided to go to the beach with them. We were trying to find a beach in a nature reserve that they had visited before, but ended up somewhere else but just as nice. Not as clean as NZ, but not as dirty as Palermo either, they gave us a big rubbish bag going in but what really bugs me is people smoking and chucking their butts on the ground. I guess I haven't been to the beach anywhere else in Europe yet, but compared to NZers Italians wear swimsuits that are a little on the skimpy side. Valerie is an olympic-medal winning synchronized swimmer, so she's really interesting to talk to.

It was great to lie in the sun and swim in water that was pretty warm. The whole week in Sicily the temperature was around 35 degrees, and it's really humid, it feels like being back in central america again. We ate a lot of the fruit we had brought for lunch, and headed back to Siracusa around 6pm.

It was just Francesca and I for dinner, so we ate pasta and the cheese and vegetables thing again on the terrace, with humoungous slices of watermelon. I really like the whole terrace thing, the sun goes down late and it stays warm so its just perfect to sit out there. Then we picked up Francesca's friend Antonio, who just returned from an AFS year in China. We went to the bar/cafe her parents run, in the nearby town of Avola, and I had an ice-cream with nutella flavour, 'little nuts' flavour (we weren't sure of the translation) and the most epic, white chocolate-almond-caramel flavor. Only the addition of speculoos could have made it better, I reckon it was the best ice cream I've ever had!

Antonio eating Brioche with icecream, and me
We picked her mum up there and then headed off to Noto a town a little further away from Siracusa that is famous for really elaborate balconies and baroque style architecture. Francesca is a fantastic tour guide, she knows everything about the different towns in Sicily and all about the different buildings and types of architecture, so I learnt a lot!

The main road coming into Noto is cool, because once they built it they lowered it and all of the original doors going into buildings like the church don't work anymore, they had to add another level below and it looks really funny. We walked all around the town, there were a lot of people out and about, whole families, even though it was almost midnight, and then returned home and went to bed.

Old and now defunct church door in Noto
For breakfast on Saturday morning I had a chocolate filled croissant, they actually inject the chocolate in with a giant syringe, its awesome. We spent the morning at 'the rocks'. The waterfront at Siracusa don't have a sand beach, so they have built some scaffolding around some rocks that allow for easy access from the shore and down to the sea, with a big platform. I really liked this, because I love the sea but hate the sand! We could lie on the platform to sunbathe, and get straight into the deep sea to swim without getting sand everywhere or having to wade out really far.

'The rocks' in Siracusa
In the afternoon we headed to Taormina on the train. The trains in Sicily are a few decades behind those in central europe, but I always love sitting there and watching the countryside pass by. I wish I could take photos of everything that passes, it was an amazing trip. It took us a couple of hours to reach the train station in Taormina, and then we had to catch a bus up the hill to the town.

Taomina greek theatre
Taormina is perched on a hillside with amazing views of the sea, little villages scattered around the bays, and an ancient  theatre. The architecture around here was amazing, all of these lovely villas built onto the slopes. We went to the greek theatre first, its special because it was exhibits features of both the greek and roman periods. It's in pretty good condition, they still host performances in there, and on a clear day you can sit there looking at the stage and see the sea, the mountains and Mt Etna volcano in the background.

View from Taormina
Then we walked through Taormina. I think this was my favorite place in Sicily, its really beautiful. There are a couple of plazas outside churches that have phenomenal views of the sea, we passed a couple of weddings taking place. Unfortunately my camera died at this point, and I didn't bring the charger to Italy (normally the battery lasts weeks, not sure what happened there!) so I don't have any photos from this point onwards, the last I managed to take was me standing in the narrowest street, which really was only wide enough for me to fit inside it, and then I only took a few using Francesca's camera the next couple of days.

The narrowest street in Taormina
We brought arancini from a cafe. These are kind of balls of rice and a filling like eggplant, ragout or pistachio, covered in bread crumbs and deep-fried, invented for a nobleman or king or something to take when he went hunting. They are amazing, my favorite out of all the sicilian food I tried. Waiting for them made us late, so we had to run the whole way back through the town, pushing our way through all of the tourists and wedding parties, back to the bus.

We got back to Siracusa around 10pm, and a lot of Francesca's aunts, uncles and grandmother were waiting for us to have a huge family dinner on the terrace. We had pizza and more arancini, and more of the amazing desserts, with german beer and italian wine. It was nice to meet everyone, but hard because most don't speak english, although Francesca's dad jokes away with me a lot.

Later that night we headed out with Daniella, Valerie and another friend who had just arrived that day, Mel. Finding a club to go to was quite tricky, we went to one that is built on platforms over the waters edge, it was really amazing but really empty, so we left and drove to another out of town, but all of the old people milling around to terrible 70s music convinced us that it must be a wedding or other function, so we drove past one more that was totally empty before heading to Fontane Bianche, which is maybe 30 minutes outside of Siracusa.

To me, it seems really weird that three of the four clubs we went to were so far outside of the city, but  Fontane Bianche is so far out because its part of the resort where beachgoers are during the day. This place had people in it, dancing under a kind of pergola. We stayed there for a couple of hours. The DJ was terrible, I actually looked a couple of times to make sure there really was someone there instead of just iTunes with overlap playing, he kept skipping between diverse music genres and couldn't transition the songs properly. There was also a couple of weird things going on, like a girl dressed like a playboy bunny dancing on a little stage when we first arrived, then a man playing a sax along to the dance music, and finally a really old drunk man who cleared the floor to pull out some really weird dance moves. We also got bugged a lot by guys, Italians are really bold and persistent! We were home around 4.30am

Photos of Italy are here.

Sicily, Italy - day one

Lunch in Palermo
I arrived at Palermo airport at 9am on Thursday, and managed to find the bus going into Palermo without too much difficulty. Driving in from the airport you could see piles and piles of garbage littering the side of the highway, like all of the houses in the area were just dumping it there, and stray plastic bags blowing in the wind. In the city itself there a big dumpsters but they are absolutely overflowing with rubbish that hasn't been collected, and stray dogs get into it all and tip them over. I don't think I've ever been in a city that's so dirty, even compared to developing countries in Central America.

I also noticed the hills. Unlike most of Europe that I've travelled through, Sicily is not flat! Its very hilly, and I love being near the sea again, after living in a harbour city for four years it doesn't feel right to me to be inland. The landscape is very yellow and brown, it looks like the drier parts of Costa Rica and was really different after Germany.

shop in Palermo
I also quickly noticed the difference between German and Italian transport systems. In Germany, trains and buses run to a schedule found on one website, and you can usually download maps of the stations that show you where the various buses from. They apologise when a train is a couple of minutes late, and only the day before I got mad about waiting 57 minutes for a bus after missing one...

apartments in Siracusa
Italy is a completely different story. Schedules and websites don't really exist. Francesca had told me how to say 'I need to take the bus to ____" in Italian, and it was armed only with this that I eventually found my way to the bus stop for Siracusa. I asked some guys sitting outside a bar about it, which provoked a stand-up-in-each-others-faces argument between themselves that I quickly backed away from, but eventually I found it, only to learn that there was a strike on (Francesca had given me that work in Italian too!) and there was no bus until 2pm.

Palermo waterfront
So I spent four hours wandering around the city. There is a big waterfront, kinda like in Wellington, except strewn with grafitti and rubbish and a few sunbathers in very tiny swimsuits. Without a map, and lugging my bag around in the 35 degree heat I didn't walk too far, just around the waterfront, through part of the old section of town with cool alleyways and sidestreets, and through the produce market.

myself and Francesca
I spent a lot of time looking for a cafe that didn't look like either an expensive tourist trap or a dive that the locals wouldn't appreciate a local entering, but the one I went into in the end was quite nice, the guy was really friendly and asked where I was from. Italian isn't that hard for me to understand, as it's quite similar to Spanish, but having never experienced the language before I didn't even know how to order a coffee! I kept talking a mix of spanish and english and hoping for the best, but my head is such a mess of different languages now and a lot of german kept popping out!

Siracusa waterfront
After an expresso that I swear was the same size as the dregs I would leave behind in a normal coffee and a tasty ham, tomato and mozzarella roll, I headed back to the train station, the 4am start, long walk and the heat catching up on me. There, I brought an english newspaper from the day before and sat reading until the bus came. It was late, and a lot of buses were all departing at the same time and from the same place, so the street because madness with buses honking at each other and stopping in the middle of the road, holding up all of the traffic and the other buses while everyone boarded. Some english tourists kept laughing and shaking their heads and wondering if anyone could possibly invent a worse system!

Playing canoe polo in the sea between old and new Siracusa
I got to Siracusa just before 6pm. Francesca lives here with her parents, she was an AFS student in Wellington for six months in 2009. She met me at the bus stop and we walked back to her place, she lives on the island of Ortigia, the old city centre, linked to the newer part of Siracusa by bridges. As we walked past, some canoe polo teams were playing in the channel, with goals rigged up on the two bridges - one ball that missed the goal bounced off a car crossing the bridge! Its pretty cool, much cleaner than Palermo with beautiful old architecture. Their apartment is in the old servants quarters of a noble house built in the 1700s. It has a terrace up the top overlooking Siracusa, so we sat out there and I ate cheese and vegetables and bread, and then we walked around Ortigia for awhile.

View through one of the doorways in Siracusa
We visited the main square and looked at the church, town hall and various plazas, but what I like best is the waterfront, its much nicer than the one in Palermo, with a big walkway and a lot of superyachts berthed along it. I also love the huge doorways that open onto a whole other scene, like another street or a plaza full of restaurant tables, and the buildings that were once very elaborate but have now fallen into decay. The sun was just starting to come down, my favorite time of day, and all of the old men were sitting out by their doorsteps chatting. It was completely different from Palermo, and my opinion of Italy soared! Just around the corner was a former bakery, burnt out by the mafia after refusing to pay protection money though, its kind of weird to actually see that sort of thing.

Dinner on the terrace with the canadian neighbours
We had dinner on the terrace again, with Francesca's mum, and her canadian neighbor and friend. They were really nice and it was good to chat away after spending so much time by myself in Harste! We had two types of pasta, bread and cheese, and a whole lot of vegetables, things like eggplant and grilled capsicum, which I loved, and wine and home-made sangria full of fruit. Francesca's parents run a bar/bakery/ice cream shop, so we had an assortment of different desserts to try out, things like chocolate-dipped balls of icecream, and layered icecream cakes.

Sunset in Siracusa
We finished off the day by wandering around Ortigia again to see what it looked like by night with two of Francesca's friends, and then I collapsed into bed absolutely shattered around midnight after a day that started out stressfully and ended really pleasantly!

Photos of Sicily are here.

I got the disposable camera I took to Festival La Semo developed, photos from that are here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I left Harste really early on Wednesday morning and arrived in Dusseldorf around noon. Dusseldorf is on the western side of Germany, close to Cologne and the border with the Netherlands and Belgium. It's the capital of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, has a population of 1.5 million and is supposed to be the city with the highest standard of living in Germany. It's really famous for having a good nightlife and amazing modern architecture.

I wasn't really that fussed on Dusseldorf. To me, it feels a lot like Cologne, which I didn't really like, they both have a kind of grey, dreary feel to them, I think its just the old architectural style of that area, the buildings and their rooves are grey or brown, whereas here around Harste buildings are white or pale colours with red or orange rooves. Dusseldorf also seemed full of drunks, homeless and illegal immigrants, and men who yell out at girls wearing skirts. The people there don't seem particularly friendly either. Once I was photographing a balloon and this guy saw what I was doing and walked over and stomped on it, and a couple of times I had to dodge creepy men who were following me around the city centre.

The city centre was, like I said, really similar to Cologne, although here in Dusseldorf you really notice construction going on everywhere, its a growing city. I wandered around through the old town for a bit, which was pretty unremarkable, and up and down the riverfront. There was a huge fair happening over on the opposite river bank but the weather wasn't great so I didn't head over. I did really like the bridges and part of the waterfront area that has these great iron pillars sticking up out of it, I took a lot of photos there. I went up the Rheinturm, their version of the Skytower and had a look around. The weather wasn't really good for that kind of thing, but you could notice some of the amazing architecture from above, and a lot of smokestacks on the horizon (this state is kind of the industrial backbone of Germany).

I visited the Film Museum but was disappointed. It's really basic, with displays on things like explaining the different type of camera shot, something I learnt back in primary school in NZ, and it isn't as interactive as I expected. Finally, I wandered around the old port area, where a lot of the huge modern buildings have been built recently to turn it into a new business district. This was my favourite part of Dusseldorf, they have some amazing buildings there, especially where they have incorporated old parts of the port into a new building.

So around 5pm I gave up on Dusseldorf and headed back to the train station. I was flying out of Weeze airport, another one of Ryanair's middle-of-no-where locations, at 6.30am the following morning and had to sleep out there. I caught the hourly train to Weeze, where with typical german efficiency an hourly bus departs a few minutes later to the airport. However, about 20 of us that got off the train running 3 minutes late discovered that in typical German rigidity the bus had stuck to its schedule and left without us.

57 minutes later it returned and dropped us out at Weeze, which like Frankfurt Hann is a former military base. Because it's so far away from everything there is a hostel out there, but its a weird one, you get the key from the airport and then walk 15 minutes across the abandoned base to one of the barracks, where you let yourself in. All around the hostel are disused barracks with broken windows and doors swinging in the wind, it would make a good horror movie set! I struggled to get much sleep with other people coming and going all night, and then was up at 4am to go to Italy!

More photos are here.

Hamelin and Hannover, Germany

A Pied Piper statue in Hamelin
Last Monday I headed off to Hamelin, as in the town from the Pied Piper of Hamelin story. As a kid, I acted in the Pied Piper musical, so I am a bit attached to the story, and Lonely Planet recommended it as one of the highlights of Lower Saxony (the region Gottingen is in). It's about 100km away, but it took me a bus and a couple of trains to get there! Unfortunately, it wasn't as good as I thought it would be.

Glassblowing in Hamelin
The town isn't as picturesque as all of the small villages and towns around Harste, and it was grey and raining a lot of the time. The UNESCO museum, the Pied Piper carousel, and the glockenspiel (I am fascinated with glockenspiels, I always visit the Stratford one when I'm in Taranaki!) were closed for renovations, the ferry that takes tours was not running, and even the rat silhouettes that the town paints onto the pavement to lead you around the town were worn off into unrecognizable yellow blobs. It was a bit of a shame, I think there is good potential there, but the town needs to get its' act together a bit better. I did go to the glassblowing factory to watch a glassblowing demonstation, this was really cool as I've been a bit obsessed with glasswork for some time now, but also disappointing as I was all geared up to blow my own glass, but they wouldn't let me as I wasn't around to collect my work the following day.

the 'red thread' in Hannover
So I just wandered around for awhile and then jumped on the train to Hannover. Hannover is about 120km away from Gottingen by car, or around 40 minutes on the train, and is the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony with a population of about 550 000. I'd heard that Hannover wasn't that interesting, but I enjoyed it a lot more than some of the typical tourist cities that I've visited here in Germany, like Cologne or Dusseldorf. They have painted a red line on the pavement that winds around the city, and for 2euro you can get a guidebook that tells you all about each point of interest along it. This was one of the best tourist set-ups I've encountered, it was like doing an official tour but without all of the annoying aspects of an actual official tour! 

Hannover's new Town Hall, with the dome on top that I went up
I wandered past things like the opera and banking district, and an old church that was bombed in WWII and now has only the outer walls and tower that stand as a peace monument, to the new Town Hall. This is a really beautiful building, standing on the edge of the Maschsee lake, an artificial lake built in the 1930s as one of the first Nazi work schemes for the unemployed. There is a statue of an archer in front, with an arrow pointing right into the mayors office, don't ask me why, and there is a curved elevator that takes people up to the top of the huge dome to look out over the city. This elevator was freaky, not only because the curve means that the floor tilts as its moving, causing everyone inside to lose their balance, but because it has a glass roof and floor, and seeing the mechanics of an elevator in such an old building is kinda scary. But the views were amazing!

Hannover, the view from the dome
The red line then wound past some cool monuments, important but boring buildings, and a bus stop that is apparently a work of art by a famous dude, but to me looked pretty ugly, and some even uglier sculptures of voluptuous women. I followed it into the old city centre, full of the wooden-frame buildings that I like (the oldest here is from 1566, way before NZ was discovered by europeans!) but here the red line got a bit faded and I took a few wrong turns and just ended up making my own way around. The old Town Hall is another cool building, parts of it were built as early as the 1400s and the gothic style is really different.

I spent about four hours in Hannover, but I definitely want to go back, there are quite a few museums there that seem really interesting, and a famous zoo, and I would like to spend time exploring the Maschsee.

Tuesday morning I headed into Gottingen again, and spent the morning walking around the city centre. I have to admit, Gottingen in summer time doesn't seem as amazing as it did when I first arrived in Europe seven months ago, when everything was covered in snow and I was staring at everything in shock. I don't think it's as pretty as the centre of Mainz, or Antwerp, or some of the other places I've been in, but it has a good feeling, its quite a student and blue-collar city, which I like. I had lunch with Hauke's cousin Johanne, who has lived in Australia (possum-country, Hauke's mum calls it!) and visited NZ. She was really friendly, afterwards we had icecream and wandered around some shops, I found some more cheap second-hand books in english that I've now got to make room for in my bag. And then I spent the rest of the day sorting things out to head off to Dusseldorf and Italy early the following morning...

More photos are here.