Introducing Hanover & the East
Confusingly, Lower Saxony lies in the north and evinces the sort of character opinion pollsters would describe as ‘Middle Germany’. Yes, Niedersachsen, as it’s called in German, lacks the big set-piece or bold image of some fellow states, but that doesn’t make it uninteresting. Instead, it presents a mosaic, a panoply, a potpourri. With an array of wildly different attractions, visitors can certainly mix it up in Germany’s second biggest state: steer a Volkswagen over an obstacle course in Wolfsburg’s Autostadt theme park, smell the roses in Hanover’s Herrenhäuser Gardens, or even pay a sobering visit to Bergen-Belsen.
The capital, Hanover, has a workaholic reputation as a host of trade fairs, especially the enormous communications show, CeBit. But cute medieval towns, cutting-edge science centre Phaeno, and a park of life-size dinosaur models make it a perfect state for relaxation and families. Cycling the Fairy-Tale Road to Hamelin’s engaging Renaissance museum or visiting the archaeological site of a Roman defeat at Osnabrück’s ‘Varusschlacht’ will appeal to young and old.
Culture vultures will be kept happy, with an early example of Daniel Libeskind’s striking architecture in Osnabrück’s Felix-Nussbaum-Haus. Plus, beautiful Celle is so keen about its art it’s launched the ‘world’s first 24-hour museum’ (of sorts).
With a varied landscape of coast, river plains, moor and heath, there’s also plenty of stuff for nature lovers. In how many places can you say that you’ve walked to an island? Head north to where Deutschland meets the North Sea, and Lower Saxony offers that opportunity too.
Hanover gets a bad rap. Local comedians dismiss it as ‘the Autobahn exit between Göttingen and Walsrode’. News magazine Der Spiegel has written it off as having ‘the most boring parties’, and the rest of the world knows it as the host of the not particularly sexy CeBit communications trade show.
However, things aren’t really so grim up north in Lower Saxony’s state capital. The city also boasts acres of greenery. Its baroque Herrenhäuser Gärten (gardens) are a mini-Versailles, featuring a sparkly Niki de Saint Phalle Grotto. The compact centre, only partially reconstructed in a medieval style after WWII bombing, is adjoined to the east by the Eilenreide forest, and you can enjoy a few museums en route to the southern Maschsee (lake).