Reaching my hotel in Hannover I did my usual – dumped my bag and went out for a walk. Hannover provided one of those moments I haven’t had since visiting Kaunas in Lithuania.
The hotel room was grim, with a small window and a dated look. Outside the road was being dug up, with most shops nearby closed and very few people hanging around. I was certain that if I walked in a certain direction I would reach the area of the city I was aiming for, around the new city hall. But somewhere I took a wrong turn.
Walking through a gauntlet of interesting characters, people asking for cash, people selling who-knows-what on the streets and around some of the seediest looking “themed” businesses/clubs I’ve seen, first impressions of Hannover were brutal. A busy waffle shop proved a bit of salvation, with free wifi to go with the coffee and lunch. I had walked almost a mile in the wrong direction.
Hannover’s history has meant rebuilding of huge areas of the city. The forty-or-so old buildings which did survive were moved to the same area to create a centre, an old town, which includes the house of Gottfried Leibniz. With a couple of streets, a church and a small area with restaurants, there isn’t a great deal to it. The main shopping parts of the centre could be from almost any western city, with little to shout about.
However, straying away from the city centre uncovers a bit of Hannover’s charm. The park along the south of the river up to the rathaus was filled with people enjoying the weather and the building itself is stunning. Similarly, heading north west into Georgengarten, along a more studenty area towards the excellent Herrenhäuser Gärten shows an entirely different city.
Digging further, and properly scratching the surface, shows the cultural side. The world’s second largest Oktoberfest, Scütschenfest and a wealth of theatres, orchestras and festivals which make it one of the most popular destinations in the country. Hannover doesn’t come across as a city to visit to see the city, but more to time a trip to coincide with a festival or another event to see the best of it. It turned into a nice example of dismal first impressions not being accurate.