Wednesday, July 27, 2011

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.

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