Live like a local.
Part II Hanover, Bremen, Hamburg, Braunschweig, Germany - July 29-Aug 2, 2020
If anyone has been to Hanover, then they know about the Nana’s!! I cannot help wanting to sing the song Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye. Sarah and Michele, our niece and her husband, have lived there long enough to show us a Hanover we won’t forget. I think it is a lost city. Yes, it is the capital and the largest city of the German State of Lower Saxony, but with over a million residents it still often gets overlooked. I am glad we had a reason to stop. A super livable city! Easy connections to east/west and north/south transportation, but mostly I think we enjoyed each stopping point as its own point of interest and having a place to regroup. We had time to appreciate what we were seeing. Too often, we rush through cities quickly, you rarely absorb history and then have zero time for a visit. This trip to Germany we really felt connected to our family (Keith and Erica in Berlin and Sarah and Michele in Hanover) AND it was a bonus we were able to see so much of these cities.
Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late. – Benjamin Franklin
My Aha moment was thinking of the Bremen Town Musicians. The Brothers Grimm fairy tale's climax is about the conflict of age and growing less useful. Each animal has become too old to do what was once the core of its identity. I have no unique insight, but it does make me ponder why we limit ourselves and what more could we do if only we saw ourselves through different lenses.
Many people know Bremen for the brewing of BECK’S beer? And maybe I would have expanded my comments to more than a mention if COVID had not closed down brewery tours. Instead, we’ll move onto why one would come to Bremen… its City Hall (UNESCO). It was spared by the bombings of WWII, and still standing nearby is the Statue of Roland from 1404! It is a beautiful city with quirky medieval buildings that allow you to use your imagination as to how it once was. I say this very loosely because the “how it once was” image, must have come with a horrific stench and dirty streets, and today’s reality has you smelling freshly roasted coffee and your eyes pinned on picturesque architecture.
The Marienburg Castle is a gothic revival castle near Hanover. It is exactly the sort of the thing from which fairy tales are made. King George V had it made for his wife as a gift. They had a romance like few kings and queens do. You will need to read all about it to find out why the castle was uninhabited for 80 years. What I found far more interesting was the fact that nobody talks about King George V being blind. And that his father, the king at the time, changed the laws to allow a king to possess a physical handicap and only then could allow his son to be king. The castle was, as you can imagine, stunning. My favorite part were the carved wooden ceilings. As with any family, there are disagreements. Currently, there is a scandal over the ownership of the castle. A juicy read.
Berlin being the largest city, Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany. It is best known for being Europe’s third largest port and maybe despite its disasters and conflicts it still emerged stronger and wealthier after each set back. You can’t miss the modern shiny glass skyscraper resembling the shapes of ships sails - A.K.A. the Opera House. It’s quite impressive and allows for 360 degree view of the city all for only 2 euros. Most people think of Venice as the city of bridges, but they should think of Hamburg. No other city in the world has more bridges. Yes, there were some that were really flippin old, but none were as fun as my favorite, the public face. Supposedly, it’s mood changes based on the facial expressions of the passers-by. We could not tell from where they capture this data, nor did we stick around to see it change, but it did change from the first time we saw it to the next time we saw it.
Can you see the ships sails in the glass?
The damaged landmarks that the cities have left as-is that were bombed out and left as a memorial have really interested me. Seeing the shrapnel damage marks on buildings, seeing the walls and windows blown out, seeing the destruction that comes from war is a constant reminder to the people in these cities. I have not met a European that doesn’t show their outward disdain for our current President and the harm he’s done in terms of increasing global tensions and civil unrest. Would we view current tensions differently if we were reminded daily of what HATE looks like?
“If wars can be started by lies, they can be stopped by truth.” – Julian Assange
There really is no better a way to see a city than to meander by bike. We started our honeymoon – oh, I meant our 28th anniversary – with a chocolate croissant and coffee! Then off to see the city on two wheels. We started by the best Italian guide showing us an Italian shop full of Italian delicacies, but then it went immediately to Gin! Yes, you read that right. It was 10:30 am and we’re at a gin distillery. We asked if they did tastings and the answer was clearly, “No, because of Covid”. We went in and looked around. So many interesting infused gins, but we were not about to buy anything if we couldn’t taste it. The shop keeper says, “Oh, you can taste them”. So, either I did not ask my question clearly, or she meant there were no “tours” being offered. Either way we had fun learning about their experimentation with barrels of gin on an open sea crossings and what the sloshing, sun, and casts did to the flavor profiles. After enough tasting we couldn't really judge the gin anymore, it was time to ride. We saw beautiful huge green spaces welcoming bikers, walkers, and anything in between. We went through interesting eclectic graffiti artists neighborhoods where a self organized space was provided and hosts a youth center for social and cultural work (And of course, there would be cafe's, concerts and clubs if it wasn't for Covid). It gave me goose bumps to see an area that was created by the people for the people. We went over and under bridges, and conveniently ended at a beer garden. It was a perfect way to celebrate 28 years with an amazing man, and lucky me, I get to claim Sarah and Michele as family!
Our last day. I had hoped to see my German relatives while I had fluent speakers to navigate the language barrier, but Covid introduced too great a risk and we must hope for another future opportunity. Instead, we drove to Braunschweig where my niece spent the first 6 years of her years in Germany. These towns all look like they came out of a classic story, this town is no different founded in the 9th century with oodles of interesting history. There is an odd cartoonish building that does not seem to fit in with the cobble-stoned streets that is quite an eye catcher. Now an office building. Close by is the oldest known half-timbered house in Germany 1432! The war left its scar here and they’ve taken great pains to reconstruct the buildings as close to its original. The Braunschweig Palace was reconstructed with a new Quadriga in 2007, they did a great job making it not look a day over 1755. I understand that if you are here in November and/or early December you must come to their Christmas Market. I have it on good report, it’s one of the better ones.
…and there we have it… in the middle of a pandemic you would never realize Germany was going through the same thing the rest of the world was going through. Now back to the UK , slowly things are opening more. People are recognizing the importance of masks, and we all have a pile of masks we wash frequently. I am grateful I was able to see my niece and nephew and spouses before they all move back to the US. Wonderful time was had!
Don't take life so seriously.
I'm Jody. I love to travel. I love to take pictures. I love to meet people and find interesting places. I also love to write about and post pix of what I've found. But, I've been told that I write like I talk - in streams of consciousness. So, if proper grammar and well composed sentences are a must for you - my posts will make you crazy. If you want to follow my journey as I learn about really cool places and offer some great tips about living abroad, read on!