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At first glance, Hanover seems easy to grasp. However, there are quite a few corners worth a second look: the old buildings from the time when Hanover was reigned by a king, the idyllic green areas where you can relax and enjoy nature and the culturally diverse districts which are interesting to explore.

In Hanover, people meet “under the tail” of the Ernst-August statue’s horse in front of the Main Station. Another meeting point is the Kröpcke-clock, a few minutes straight ahead. There you are in the middle of Hanover’s shopping district, with the usual range of department stores. Opposite, there is more to see on Georgstrasse, above all the Opera House. Further on you will find the memorial for the Jewish victims of National Socialism.

Just opposite, you will find Hanover’s most expensive shopping boulevard where jewellers, perfurmeries and expensive boutiques await potential customers. In the evening the GOP and the New Theatre offer entertainment.

On Sunday mornings during summer, people meet in the Georgstraße for the “Schorsenbummel”, with music and open-air bars. This traditional “stroll” dates back to King Georg II, “Schorse” is Hanover’s nickname for George.

Of all the original narrow streets and picturesque buildings, only about fifteen per cent survived the Second World War. But the mix of designer boutiques, restaurants and historical architecture form a lively part of town. The old half-timbered houses around the Holzmarkt (Wood Market), the reconstructed renaissance facade of Leibniz’s house, the Market Church and the recently refurbished Old Town Hall give evidence of Hanover’s former beauty.

The 350 year-old Leineschloss, originally a castle, houses Lower Saxony’s state government.

The so called “Hanover’s stomach”, the Market Hall, is a nice place to buy fresh food or have a cappucchino. The old town offers a culinary variety ranging from sophisticated dinners to a simple stew.

Small breweries like the Brauhaus Ernst August continue Hanover’s beer tradition.

On Saturday mornings, a large flea market is set up along the banks of the river Leine, between the antique Beginen tower and the colourful Nanas.

By the way, Hanover’s sights are best explored along ‘the line’: painted in red on the pavements, it connects all major places of interest.

Traditionally, Hanover’s districts are identified with social groups. According to this, the southern part of the town is inhabited by clerks and civil servants. But on its outskirts, all of Hanover likes to practise running, rollerblading, or cycling around the Maschsee lake; ice skating nights are organized in winter.

The vast green area starts behind the New Town Hall with the Maschpark and the “Maschteich” pond. To the south, Hanover’s largest lake expands to 2.4 kilometre length, there is a boat’s service between the two banks.

At the southern end, small children splash in the shallow water. In August, the idyll is interrupted for a few days: The Maschseefest, a festival with open-air stages and bars is celebrated all around the lake.

And if it is raining, visit the Sprengel Museum with its excellent exhibition of Modern Art.

South of the Maschsee, the green area continues with the Döhrener Masch and the Ricklinger ponds. Situated close to the town centre these bathing ponds are very popular in summer. People cook on barbeques, fly kites and have parties. One of the ponds is nudist, at the others bathing clothes are advisable.

This traditional working class district was one of North Germany’s first industrial centres.

Today, a multicultural society prevails peacefully. Impossible to imagine Linden without Spanish restaurants and Turkish groceries.
But the old natives there still speak a special Linden dialect.

The district displays the self-confident image of an independant town. The redevelopment has rendered a friendlier face to the blocks; only the shopping centre, Ihme-Zentrum, is an ugly relict of the concrete prevolence.

A positive example of today’s culture in Linden is the listed building of the former bed spring factory Faust, now used as a concert hall and place for meetings and events. On Hanover’s only natural hill, the Lindener Hill, the Jazz Club stages outstanding concerts, and there is a very popular beer garden at the top, around the Lindner tower.

Many of the beautifully ornamented Art Deco houses are inhabited by media people, artists, actors or musicians, possibly the reason why this district shows quite a concentration of restaurants and pubs! At the North-eastern end of the Passarelle, the subterranean arcades under the main station, the so-called Bermuda-triangle starts, an accumulation of clubs, bars and cafés where you can easily get lost.

During the day, strollers exchange greetings and glances on the Lister Meile, a shopping street leading through the district. Bordering on the East Town and extending to Kleefeld and to the Maschsee, there is Hanover’s municipal forest, the Eilenriede.

If you love old patrician houses, you will find some interesting examples here. Hanover Zoo is an interesting place to visit for everyone. On occasion of the Expo 2000, it has been expanded with areas inspired by Africa and India. In the municipal park behind the Kuppelsaal of Hanover’s congress-centre, flower lovers will enjoy the remnants of the first German gardening exhibition in 1951.

Formerly, the North Town was a worker’s district but for decades Hanover’s students have occupied it. The University itself is a pompous building designed as a Welfen castle in 1857. But in the streets behind it, the houses are narrow and show traces of the times. A colourful mix of people congregate in student’s pubs, public meeting places and squats, but the times when punks scared the older inhabitants with “chaos days” seem to be over for good.

Hanover’s famous gardens start opposite the university. In the Georgengarten people play ball and boules or rest around the Leibniz temple. In the middle of the green meadows, the Wilhelm-Busch-Museum is a special attraction.

The Große Garten (large garden) with its garden theatre, waterfalls and fountains, is one of the most beautiful baroque gardens in Europe. In summer, international fire works competitions, theatre and comedy festivals called Das Kleine Fest im Großen Garten (small festival in a large garden) use the neatly trimmed hedges and regimented flower-beds as a romantic background.

Opposite the Große Garten, the Berggarten (hill garden) presents a collection of orchids and cacti in tropical hothouses.

History of Hanover

In 1156 the town of Hanover belonged to a Count of Lauenrode and was an unimportant place. The name ‘Hanovere’ was given to a group of farms on the banks of the Leine and was later passed on to the market-settlement founded by Count Hildebold between 1124 and 1141.

‘EGO HANOVERENSIS SUM’ were the words Henry The Lion had stamped on the Hanover silver coin in 1180 ‘ ‘I am a Hanoverian’. This reminds one of John F. Kennedy’s now world-famous declaration 780 years later: ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’, and shows that the great 12th century Welfe must have been an early fan of this town. Indeed it was The Lion who ordered that the (until that time fairly unimportant and only part of the ‘Welfe’ since about 1168) settlement be enlarged and reinforced. A decision that showed foresight and proved very important for the town.

The small fishing settlement developed into a town under the protection of the Dukes of Roden and was then sold to the Welfen. In 1241 Duke Otto granted the town the rights of a borough. This certificate is the oldest document of Hanover’s history. By that time, Hanover was already a thriving community of established traders and craftsmen.

In the 14th century the city was fortified with a solid surrounding wall. There were three gates in the wall: the Leintor, Aegidientor and Steintor. Three gothic churches were built in the same century, Aegidienkirche, Marktkirche and Kreuzkirche. A hundred years later the old town hall was built next to the Marktkirche, all in the common brickwork style of northern Germany.

At that time Hanover became bigger and bigger. Its citizens were confident enough to profess their belief in the teachings of Luther by swearing an oath in the market square in 1533. In the Thirty Year War, in 1636, after the division of the inheritance of the rulers in the principality Calenberg, Prince George of Braunschweig and Lüneburg moved his residence to Hanover, which was relatively safe. A turning point in the history of the town. The citizens did not realise their luck and fought against the lord who would undermine their privileges.

Important trade routes from East to West, at the point where the north German lowland turns into the mountain range Mittelgebirge, were used again. The increasing importance of the North sea harbours strengthened the traffic on the North-South axis and added to Hanover’s development. After the Seven Year War the embankments were pulled down and the city started growing again. Two boulevards were built in place of the large embankments, Georgstraße and Friedrichstraße (today Friedrichswall).

In the 19th century, after the Napoleonic wars, Hanover became a kingdom, and when the union with England was over, it got its own king – Ernst August, whose monument now stands in front of the Central Station. At that time G.F. Laves, a well-known architect, worked in Hanover by appointment of the king.

A lot of important buildings in Hanover are based on his plans, like the Leineschloß, the Castle of Herrenhausen (destroyed in the war), the Opera House, Waterloo Square and the Central Station. Between the station and the Old Town, the Ernst-August Stadt was built, new trades and companies were established there so, as things developed, the city centre moved from the old town to Ernst-August Stadt.

In the 19th century the city started growing. Villages on the fringe were incorporated, but industralisation did not get going before 1866, when the Kingdom of Hanover was annexed by the Prussians.

Before that the King did not want any smelly, dirty and noisy industry in his city so Hanover’s industrial development started in the village of Linden, which was incorporated into Hanover in 1920.

As the population grew, the new urban districts on the List, Linden, the East and North of the town began to grow. The villas, private residences and apartments from this period still characterise Hanover. This ring of residential areas was not as radically damaged by the bombs of the Second World War as the old part of town or the business areas.

After 1945 the British forces supported rebuilding Hanover. With the ‘Wirtschaftswunder’ Hanover once again became the largest site for trade fairs in West Germany. Thanks to its trade fairs, Hanover opened its doors to the international public. That the Expo 2000 will be held here has led to new excitement ‘The third millennium will begin in Hanover’, in the words of one self-confident advertising slogan.