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1:00pm on Wednesday, 14th February, 2007:



If this is a non-smoking room, I dread to think what the smoking rooms must smell like.

So here I am in Hannover. This is the view from my hotel window:

It's the town hall. Sadly, it's used as a town hall rather than as a museum or something, so I couldn't get to the top and take in the views.

So, what did I know about Hannover before I came here? A large city in Germany, the same kind of latitude as Holland and the same kind of longitude as Denmark. It has an historic name, and if Queen Victoria had been male she'd have been king of it.

On the drive in, I learned that its population is around half a million, and it's regarded by the rest of Germany as being somewhat boring. Given what the British think of Germany in general, this might ring alarm bells; however, I've long-since learned that many German cities are considered by the people who live there to have a reputation of being boring in comparison to other German cities, so I wasn't too concerned.

Mind you, up until about noon it is indeed boring. Here's a photo I took at about 20 past 11:

That doesn't look like the kind of square that ought to be deserted at 20 past 11 in the morning. The shops were shut — I was beginning to wonder if I'd arrived on some kind of late-opening day, the equivalent of the old early-closing days we had in the UK.

I finally found a department store that was open, and had a look around. This being a spare day, I have to spend it buying things for my family or they won't let me come next time. Unfortunately, I couldn't make sense of the clothes sizes. Besides, although there was plenty that my children would like, I couldn't be sure whether what I bought would be among them. If they'd been here, they could have spent a couple of hours looking. Bizarrely, the best things I saw were some really good schoolbags. They're not the sort of thing that children appreciate being brought home as a present, though...

Hannover seems to have a complete lack of gift shops. I looked all over for somewhere selling present-type goods with "Hannover" — or at least "Germany" written on them. There was nothing. I checked the railway station, which is huge and has a shopping precinct underneath it with maybe 100 shops in it. None of them sold anything remotely touristy. This is striking compared to England, where even places like Hull sell tat with Hull written on it. Unless I can find something at the airport, I'm going to be in trouble...

The worst thing about visiting Germany for me is that the Germans and the English look the same, so there's nothing to tip off the people in shops that I'm not going to speak German to them. I have in the past been mistaken for a local in Spain, France, Italy and Denmark, and my wife even managed it in Egypt. However, Germany is by far the worst for it. My almost total lack of knowledge of the German language makes it even more embarrassing — I can't even say in German that I don't speak German, although I can say the equivalent in French, Spanish and Mandarin. It's not so bad in a touristy town where they get a lot of foreign visitors, but Hannover is not such a town.

OK, well I guess I ought to see if this Internet connection works. It's going to cost me 15 Euros for a day's use, so it had better...

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).