‘Hannofah’, as Germans pronounce it, is a medieval city which was at different times throughout its history a Principality within the Holy Roman Empire, a Province within the Kingdom of Prussia, an independent Kingdom and home to a three hundred year old monarchy that ruled its own territory, as well as that of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Yet, it is a city that now flies under the radar in Germany due in part to its post-war architecture and haphazard city zoning codes (or lack thereof), but also a city that doesn’t get enough praise for its remarkable attributes. Despite the city’s physical destruction during the War, its gilded atmosphere remains along with a rich history, alluring traditions, ancient legends and fantastic tales that span across two thousand years.
From 1714, the House of Hannover ruled over the entire British Empire and though their main family castle in the center of Hannover was destroyed in WWII, there are six more enchanting royal castles dotted over Hannover’s countryside that are still fully intact and sights to be seen.
World War II was atrocious for many reasons and from an architectural and city planning standpoint, it was utterly crushing. In West Germany alone, four hundred million cubic meters of rubble were piled up after the war, and in it, 30% of the country’s historic buildings. Hannover was no exception and in 1945 after eighty allied bombings, it quickly curtailed from a city of architectural regality and splendor to a city of architectural demise.
Unlike Munich, and its conservative resistance to modern architecture, Hannover adopted a modernist approach to its reconstruction. Many felt that even the most faithful attempt to reproduce that which was destroyed would evoke for the viewer a feeling of falsified history. Many German architects such as Friedrich Krauss called for “respecting the reality of history” and this is exactly what Hannover did. As a result, 90% of the current city was built after 1945.
Though Hannover’s architecture is modern, you can quickly find yourself in the picturesque old world backdrop that surrounds it. Many of the region’s historic half-timbered house towns are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Hameln where the Brothers Grimm Pied Piper comes from. The area is bursting with folk tales and in fact, the Brothers Grimm lived in, what was called at that time, the Kingdom of Hannover where they gathered local folklore and turned them into stories we know now such as Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Hansel and Gretel, to name a few.
Hannover is rich with folklore to this day and it still practices old Pagan traditions such as the Fire Festivals at Easter. This is an enchanting spectacle to witness as the towns and villages set up enormous bonfires in every neighborhood to burn throughout the night. It is believed that the fires chase the darkness and winter away and as far as their light reaches, the fields will be fruitful and the houses reached by the light will be safe from sickness. As the flames die down, young and old leap over them, and the cattle driven through the smouldering embers to give them health for the coming year.
Hannover’s prominence doesn’t stop with the Monarchs of England or Brothers Grimm, but it is also the place where the most prestigious German is spoken. It is here that ‘Hoch Deutsch’ (high German) is spoken as it is written and it is hailed all over the German speaking lands as the home of premier German prose.
There are many reasons that Hannover is worth a visit, but for me what matters more than sites in a city is the culture and people you find yourself amongst while you are there. That will either make or break any vacation. Hannover tops the charts in culture and kindness and makes Münchners look like an angry swarm of bees in comparison. Hannover’s reputation as a warm-hearted host has even earned it international recognition and it is now host to Europe’s biggest trade fair every year.
When you come to Hannover, you will be spoiled with swathes of green, shady places to relax, a big variety of leisure and recreation activities, open-air concerts and major festivals, all of which can be found here in my list of Attractions.
My recommendations on…
Germany, 1871-1945: A Concise History, by Raffael Scheck
German History, 1933-1945: An Assessment by German Historians, by Hermann Mau and Helmut Krausnick
Journey Through Lower Saxony, by Georg Schwikart