Hannover is more than just the capital of Germany’s Lower Saxony state. A UNESCO City of Music, it is where stunning monuments, historical sites and melody come together in one stunning melting pot, says Vijaya Pratap
The aroma of spiced chicken fills the air around me, as does the familiar tune of the popular 1950s Bollywood song “Mudh mudh ke na dekh…” I watch in delight as a swift-fingered chef at a roadside food stall hums the song while rolling a shawarma. As I take a hearty bite of the delicious treat, he is joined by his partner, who politely enquires about the roll and also whether I am enjoying the song. “We realise you are from India, hence the musical treat,” they smile. I am not surprised. After all, I am in Hannover, the heart of Germany’s Lower Saxony – a city that lives and breathes music. This is where the first music cassette was produced, the first CD was pressed and the vinyl record invented. No wonder that it was declared a UNESCO City of Music in 2014! The city is also noted for its diversity in musical genres – from pop and rock via jazz to early music (Medieval, Renaissance and early Baroque), and from classical to contemporary. And I cannot wait for Hannover to unfold its musical side.
My first stop is at the Museum of Energy History, where I see the world’s first gramophone, which still works. Among the museum’s other highlights is the historical collection of Deutsche Gramophone (a record label for German classical music) founded in 1898. Another attraction here is a jukebox named ‘Rock-Ola’, from the early 1960s, which can play over 100 classic songs! Excited, I request for a disco number from the movie Saturday Night Fever. The machine searches, pops out a shiny black vinyl and plays, and I jive to the tunes of “Stayin’ alive”. Five minutes away from the museum stands the New Town Hall, one of Hannover’s most interesting structures as it’s built on a foundation of 6,026 beech-tree piles and crowned with a domed tower, which dominates the city’s skyline. This building serves as the residence of the mayor and is where all meetings and official events are held. The landmark is open to visitors. But what I find most exciting here is the dome’s diagonal lift. It transports me at a 17-degree angle to the top from where I take in breathtaking views of the city and the Harz mountains in
At stone’s throw distance is the 14th-century Gothic church Aegidienkirche. One of the three churches in the city’s Old Town, it is now in ruins. Yet as I walk in the courtyard of this historic place, I am mesmerised by the towering walls and the Peace Bell, which was donated by the city of Hiroshima (Japan). It’s a pleasant afternoon and with a cup of hot chocolate in hand, I head over to the Herrenhausen Gardens, one of the most popular landmarks of the city. I stroll around the park marvelling at the baroque figures, magnificent fountains and the numerous varieties of flowering plants. It is easy to lose track of time here, such is the charm and magnitude of this place. By the time I leave the garden, it’s time for dinner. I settle at Brauhaus Ernst August (a brewery with a restaurant) with a mug of freshly-brewed beer and order my food – grilled salmon with rice timbale (finely-minced meat cooked with other ingredients in a mould of rice), fried vegetables and lemon butter. After the meal, I stop by a small nightclub, which is no bigger than a large living room with a sizeable stage to support local independent musicians. Nothing calms the soul like good music.
A must visit for all music lovers is the city’s Opera House. Built in 1845-52, it is an impressive neoclassical structure. It is now home to the city’s professional opera company, Staatsoper Hannover that offers some of the greatest operatic productions during its season (from September to June). I settle in to watch a ballet titled Nijinsky on my last night here. It narrates the story Vaslav Nijinsky, said to be the most celebrated male ballet dancer and choreographer of the 20th century. As spellbinding the dancers are, I am distracted by the background score. Slowly, I recognise the works of Polish composer Frédéric Chopin and French composer Claude Debussy, and it fills me with happiness. I couldn’t have asked for a better note to end my trip to this beautiful city on.