Red Thread Redemption It's a Rathaus, or so they say

All good things come to an end. On Monday, what came to an end was our streak of avoiding Hannover itself in lieu of more interesting places. But perhaps the reputation I'd come to believe, that here was a dreadfully boring city, was wholly unfounded? After checking out from our hotel - and paying for stuff from the minibar which they seemed almost loathe to charge us for - we resolved to walk the 4.2km "red thread", a self-guided walk around all the local big hitters.

But first, breakfast. The Colosseum eiscafe outside the station seemed like a good place, serving as it does a variety of toased sandwiches and even more choice of ludicrous fruity ice cream knickerbocker glory style stuff. Helen's "ice coffee" was actually a large coffee flavoured ice cream, and our sandwiches were exactly what was needed. Plus, since it was after midday, I figured I'd have a pint.

A salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, apple and kiwi fruit accompanied the sandwich, a somewhat derisory attempt at health amongst all the nice stuff.

And so, onwards to the thread. Well, sort of. We had a map which mentioned it, and had a bunch of numbered attractions, as well as a line navigating the city centre, but in fact this was not the red thread. That said, it was so ridiculously hot that we weren't really in the mood for 4.2km of walking. Rather, we set off just to the things which looked interesting.

First off, the "old town". Beyond a musical drain, huge tube station, and boring shopping street, was an ugly church and uglier other old building. This is certainly not Bremen. The church is Lutheran and outside it is a statue of Martin Luther, in full "check out my giant church!" pose.

Around here are a few streets with "half timber" buildings. They look alright. We've seen better.

Going somewhat off-piste, beyond the moccasin and dagger vendor, there's a church not marked on our map so we assume despite being prettier than the big one, it's insignificant.

Also, ball house square. A square with balls, and a ball house. Honestly. Ballhofplatz and Ballhof and balls.

I can't remember the story behind all the balls to be honest. I'm sure the internet would enlighten you if you're interested.

Nearby there was meant to be a castle. According to the map, it was the building just up the way, with pillars out front and otherwise covered in scaffolding. Didn't look much like a castle to us. In fact, I declined to believe it was and instead suggested we go down schlossstrasse, because of schloss and that. Lo and behold, a poor excuse for a moat and some other non-castle-looking building frontage.

Hannover is really starting to feel quite poor, and deserving of its reputation. But wait, what's that on the floor? It's the red thread! We had no idea it was an actual adornment on the pavement. Perhaps things would start to look up!

First, things would start to look left and right and north and south and east and west and everywhere, as we struggled our way across an enormously confusing 6 way junction of both roads and cycle lanes.

Past a beer garden whose location I committed to memory, we approached what sounded like an interesting museum - also, hopefully, a source of air conditioning. Why the fuck is Germany hotter than Mexico or Costa Rica?

The museum, of course, was shut. It doesn't open on Mondays. This reminds us of the fail we had when visiting Moscow for Helen's birthday and every museum we wanted to visit was shut. Sometimes we're good at this tourism lark, but sometimes we really fucking suck.

Thankfully, next door was the rathaus. A bona fide attraction, or is it? Apparently it's a "top 80" attraction in Germany. Surely no-one claims to be "top 80" unless you're 80th? Whatever. In we go: it's a working town hall and also decent piece of architecture and that. Plus, there's a bistro cafe with lovely views looking out over the garden and lake behind, except of course the entire rear is covered in scaffold and there's no view at all. DAMN YOU HANNOVER.

Anyway, the rathaus itself is cool, in two meanings of the word. In the main atrium there are 4 scale models of Hannover in different years. The difference between 1939 and 1945 is sobering.

Clockwise from top left: 1600s, 1939, now, 1945.

We wandered around the hall a bit, up and down the stairs, taking photos. Frankly we were just glad to be out of the sun. The room full of crap art off to the side was a bit, well, crap though. Nothing in English to let us know why we should appreciate it either.

Eventually we decided to get some cash out and pay for tickets to go up to the viewing platform on the 3rd floor. €6 got us two tickets, and into the lift we go. Expecting a balcony looking out over the park, it was a little surprising to be in a queue to go up a moderately steep metal stair case, only 5 people at a time, once a member of staff turns up and kicks out the previous 5.

At the top of these stairs is a lift. A very cramped lift. 6 of us squeeze in - 5 punters and the staff member - and we go up. And at an angle. It's like a funicular lift, or something. Bits of the walls are glass, as are two bits of the floor. Ooer. But we're still inside and I'm not too mortified. Helen, however, is on the verge of a panic attack. Oops.

Out at the top she almost refuses to move away from the lift. I've gone up some stairs into a small enclosed dome and tell her she'll be OK just hanging out there, while I climb the new spiral metal staircase to the actual viewing platform.

I hate spiral staircases and am not very good with heights. It's quite a surprise to me that I'm coping so well. The stairs require me to drag myself up, but I manage it, and then actually it's not that bothersome. There's a double balcony made of stone, and no requirement to actually go outside if you don't want to. So I do what you're meant to do when you're at a viewing platform, and take some photos.

Turns out Hannover's not that pretty from above either.

I think I might be standing within the prettiest thing there is.

Oh, actually the park and machsee look alright.

But, otherwise, ...

There's actually another level further up. I grasp the metal bannister, fully intent to go downstairs and check on Helen and head back to the ground when a fit of bravery overcomes me, and up I go. It's more of a struggle than the first set, and I almost instantly regret it. My watch, which records my heart rate 24/7, probably thinks I've just started a workout. The knees wobble like crazy, I'm having to consciously take very deep breaths, and I'm thinking: this totally wasn't worth it. I'm not going to use the telescopes, no matter how tempting it is to look at things beyond Hannover city limits that might be pretty. No, I'm going to take one photo that betrays how far away I was from where you're meant to stand, and then I'm going back down those fucking stairs.

Helen's glad I'm back. I've recovered already, telling her my tale of top-floor woe but at the same time convincing her that, thanks to the stone double wall, she should actually give the first floor a go. And indeed I accompany her, and she has a quick look, and then heads straight back down. But she did it, and I'm both glad for and proud of her.

Then, we wait for the lift back. Inside, the attendant offers to "close the windows" but nah, you're alright. Anyway I want a photo of the shaft below us.

Back on the ground, someone needs a pint (and someone else wouldn't mind one either). So, past what seems to be a nazi police station, through a lovely small park, and into the Waterloo Biergarten. It's a typically excellent beer garden serving typically excellent beer, only to ruin it with cherry concentrate if you make the mistake of ordering the hefeweissen kirch.

Heart rate back to normal, we're constantly checking the BA app for news of delay to our flight home. It's fluctuating between on time and 25 minutes late. Meh. We've still got a while to kill and the seats here aren't comfortable, so let's set off back to Ballhof because there were deckchairs there.

Again with the arguments about directions, as powered by 2 beers I'm now entirely able to direct us correctly even via underpasses and streets we've never seen before, while Helen wants us to go an altogether separate way. I win, and just past what actually looks like it might really be an actual real bit of a castle, we're on the deck chairs.

There's nothing to do here but sit and chill. The waiting staff are very friendly, and again we talk solely in German. More ham sandwiches, a cheese cake that isn't really a cheese cake, and two beers. In fact, make that three: later, having to revert to English due to a sentence I can't understand at all, I'm offered a free beer because "I poured it by mistake, so you can have it". Sadly, it's alcohol free and tastes it, but hey a freebie's a freebie.

As we eat, I bemoan the fact that I forgot to write in yesterday's piece about the meal on offer at our hotel's restaurant: a pound of asparagus (and some other stuff). Who the fuck wants a meal with a pound of asparagus in it!?

Once we paid, it was time to head back to the hotel and pick up our bags then pop to the station and get the 1805 S-bahn S5 service to Hannover flughafen. It's about 1740 when we get there and in fact the 1735 hasn't left yet. Excellent, we'll be early.

The 1735 never turns up. They keep announcing extra 5 minute delays, until they cancel it at about 1810. By this time the 1805 has also been given a 25 minute delay. In fact, trains on pretty much every platform are being announced as late, then later, then even later. People seem confused, probably because no-one expects Deutsche Bahn to have a meltdown of Southern Railway proportions.

Being rush hour, as well as the platform for the airport train, it's pretty rammed. It gets worse when a train gets in and kicks everyone off and they're shouting DO NOT GET ON THIS TRAIN. Damn it. So after 40 or so minutes of failing to get an 18 minute service to the airport we give up and go get a cab.

So long, Ernst.

The driver doesn't speak English so the only communication is when he asks if I want him to drive us through the town, or the schnell highway. I opt for the latter, which is probably quicker but also much longer and the journey ends up costing us an eye watering €50 on the nose. Ouch. But at least we're at the airport now, 90 minutes or so before the flight. Time to get to the lounge.

It's a weird one. It's landside, and when we first enter there's no-one manning the desks, but very soon a woman appears. It's not a huge room, but there's plenty of space for more seats than there are. The provisions are pretty dreadful: a fridge full of 200ml bottles of ropey lager, some plastic shrinkwrap cheese slices, a few spirits, some 1.5l bottles of soft drinks, 6 slices of bread and a few hot dogs.

I spend most of the time here eating sausage, drinking an accidentally huge glass of Jim Beam, and tracking the inbound plane on Flightradar24 like the fucking nerd I am.

A loud American arrives and speaks a very loud story about how his wife and kids are elsewhere and he's here to check eligibility and etc. It goes on for a full minute or two after he's already been told yes, he and everyone else can come in, it's fine.

We know this is a compact airport, but don't really know when to leave the lounge. In the end I'm the one who panics most, so we set off with about 40 minutes to spare - still landside, that is.

Boarding pass and passport check is fast but security is needlessly crowded. But it's not very slow, presumably because they're not hugely thorough because I discovered 3 hours later that I had a big tube of sun cream in my bag that I'd forgotten about, and no-one found or saw it on the x-rays. Um, yay?

Helen goes off to buy some duty free, and while she's there our flight announces boarding. She's taking way longer than she should so I go to find her, still second in a queue. Apparently one till had crashed, some rowdy locals had barged in, and it was just generally an unpleasant shop. Bleurgh.

Anyway, into the fast track queue and then our seats in row 4, the curtain envy seats again. It's busier - we have someone next to us - but all delays disappear and we push back on time, which makes the apologies given by the cabin crew over the tannoy for our late departure very confusing.

I've got the window seat, so take a bunch of same-y photos that I do every flight. Helen continues to make BA think charging for booze is a good thing to do, by being a customer. But she needs gin, and I'll always have a beer eh?

It's cloudy the whole way, with such low cloud over the UK that we don't see anything on the ground until we're over Feltham or thereabouts. Turns out Heathrow weather is shit, though we're pleased it'll be much cooler.

The plane kicks us out at the damn satellite terminal again, sigh. But once we're at A the queues through the automated border gates are very quick. Mind you, they take around 30 seconds longer to let Helen back into the country than they do me.

Uber want £74 to get home, and therefore Uber can fuck off. In the end a tube and two bus journey is remarkably quick and hey presto, we're in Surbiton. Hannover and out.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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