Explore Lower Saxony and Bremen
“Is Hannover the most boring city in Germany?” news weekly magazine Der Spiegel once asked. In a word, no, although the capital of Lower Saxony can appear every bit a faceless modern metropolis. When five of the world’s ten largest trade fairs roll into town, up to 800,000 businesspeople wheel, deal, then disappear, the majority probably unaware that they had been in a state capital which, from 1815 to 1866, ruled a kingdom in its own right. Eighty-eight air raids reduced the city from elegant aristocrat to war-torn widow and, with ninety percent of the centre reduced to rubble, the city patched up where possible, but largely wiped clean the slate.
It was some past to write off, too. The seventeenth-century dukes of Calenburg revitalized the former Hanseatic League member, and Ernst August ushered in a golden age for his royal capital in the late 1600s. Court academic Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz wowed Europe with his mathematical and philosophical theories and the arts blossomed, as did a Baroque garden seeded by the regent’s wife, Sophia; Hannover’s prize, it ranks among the finest in Europe. More significantly for British history, Sophia’s parentage as granddaughter of James I of England saw her son, plain old Georg Ludwig, metamorphose into George I of Great Britain in 1714 to begin the House of Hannover’s 120-year stint on the British throne.
Even if the city’s EXPO2000 exhibition turned out to be something of a damp squib – it attracted less than half the forty million people hoped for – that it happened at all sums up a vigorous, ambitious city. It’s a place with the bottle to reinvent itself through street art, from the Nanas at Hohen Ufer to the wacky bus- and tramstops commissioned to cheer up drab streets before EXPO. Similarly, there are some vibrant art museums and a bar and nightlife scene that is anything but boring. What it lacks is a landmark. Wartime destruction, then postwar planning, conspired to erase the coherence of Hannover’s core. Instead, the city may be at its best outside the centre: around the Maschsee lake for its art galleries or in the celebrated gardens, to the northwest. And it’s at its most fun in outlying neighbourhoods: in gentrifying restaurant and residential quarter List, seedy bar strip, Steintor, or in multicultural hipsters’ quarter, Linden-Nord. It’s a fair bet Der Spiegel didn’t visit.Read More
Hannover and the British connection
Hannover and the British connection
It was 1700 and the English were in a bind: Queen Anne was old and her last child sickly. Parliament had scoffed previously at talk of a link between the Crown and the House of Hannover. But the legitimate claim of exiled Catholic James Edward Stuart, “the Old Pretender”, had concentrated Protestant minds. In 1701 the Act of Settlement declared the crown to “the most excellent princess Sophia, electress and duchess-dowager of Hannover” on the grounds that Electress Sophia von der Pfalz was a granddaughter of King James I, adding a caveat that “the heirs of her body being Protestant”. No matter that her son spoke no English, nor that his slow pedantic manner was spectacularly unsuited to the rough-and-tumble of the contemporary English court. Georg Ludwig, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, elector of Hannover, became George I in 1714 to begin 120 years of joint rule by the House of Hannover.
Of the four Georgian kings of Great Britain, George III was the first to take any interest in his new territory. George I and II were content to appoint a “prime minister” to rule as their representative, accidentally taking the first step towards the modern British political system. Indeed it was only with English-speaking George III that the Hanoverian dynasty got hands-on, but by then it was too late. A now-powerful parliament and fate – social unrest, the loss of the American colonies, not to mention the king’s mental illness – got in the way. Those woes conspired to make him the most abused monarch in British history. Shelley wrote about “an old, mad, blind, despised and dying king”, and liberal historians of the next century competed in their condemnation of him. Yet it was not bad press that did for joint rule. Salic law forbade the accession of women to head the kingdom of Hannover, newly declared at the Congress of Vienna in 1814. So when William IV died in 1837, Ernst August took up the crown in Hannover while his niece, Victoria, settled on to the throne in London.
The highlight of the festival year is the largest Schützenfest (Marksmen’s Festival; hannover.de/schuetzenfest) in Germany, held over ten days over the end of June and into July. Similar but more restrained is the Maschsee festival over nineteen days from the last Wednesday in July. Late May to early June brings world-music beano, the Masala Festival (masala-festival.de).