If you are anywhere in northern Germany and have even the slightest interest in dinosaurs, make an excuse - however feeble and contrived - to detour past the utterly marvellous open air Dinosaur Park at Munchagen.
We first stumbled across the park when we were planning the long drive between Bonn and Hamburg and wanted to find a child-friendly stop en route. The guide book that we were using devoted only a few rather non-committal lines to Munchagen (and provided even more vague directions), but we decided to give it a try anyway.
We have been to a lot of dinosaur-related attractions over the years, but this has to be the absolute best. For a start, it is the biggest open air dinosaur park in the world, boasting over 220 life sized models of dinosaurs, mammal-like reptiles and megafauna. Better still, it is also a national monument since the park's development was inspired by the exposure of a bedding plane featuring dinosaur tracks which revealed the ancient drama of a Diplodocus (sauropod) family being hunted by a group of Allosaurs. This historical standoff has been recreated, and the massive footprints are also preserved undercover.
In terms of dinosaurs, the exhibit features virtually all the 'usual suspects'. In a rather touching display of nationalism, special pride of place is given to the archetypal German fossil, the Archeopteryx, which I found charming. There are also models of relatively recent extinct animals such as the megafauna of the Ice Age (mammoths, sabre tooth tigers and more bizarre critters such as massive wolf ancestors) as well as thunder birds: I found this part of the park particularly interesting as the more recently extinct species are usually not represented in other dinosaur parks. There are also a few models of large marine dinosaurs, which again are usually not included in such exhibits.
The exhibits have been laid out on a path through beautiful mixed woodland, and the design is cunning, with each twist in the path revealing a new set of animals. As you might expect in well organised Germany, the display is chronologically arranged, so it really does feel as though you're following the path of evolution. This is popular science at its absolute best, and the fact that the notices are displayed in English as well as German is just the icing on the cake.
There are also a whole range of things for children to do - these include a variety of art/craft related activities as well as a dinosaur 'dig' where the children expose 'bones' in the floor by sweeping away sand - most ingenious! The area in which these activities take place is adjacent to an open air (but undercover) dining area, so parents can have something to eat and drink whilst still keeping an eye on the kids.
There are a couple of restaurants on site - hardly gourmet fare and a little on the pricey side, but perfectly adequate. However, my personal preference would be to pack a picnic as the woodland is lovely and features several picnic spots. The gorgeous woods also provide welcome protection from more extreme weather - we have visited twice, once in rain and the second time during a heatwave, and it was still hugely enjoyable in both.
There is so much to do here that I would recommend that you allocate at least half a day, although if you have kids, you could easily keep yourselves happily occupied for a whole day. This makes the entry fees (9.50 Euros for adults and 8 Euros for kids between 4 and 12 in 2010) seem pretty reasonable.
The only downside that I can think of is that finding the park can be a little tricky. There are instructions and a map on the website, but these make it sound a bit more straightforward than our experience. The signposting wasn't all that great (although it could have improved since we visited last year) and this is one occasion on which a GPS would really come in handy.
This sculpture by Ulrike Enders (born 1944) is called Gegenseitigkeit, meaning reciprocity or mutual support. It shows two puffy, lethargic men supporting each other simply by leaning on each other.
Of course if they both fall asleep they might both fall over, which I suppose illustrates the limitations of mutual support. But as long as at least one of them stays awake, they’ll be fine.
By no accident this sculpture is on display at the headquarters of an insurance company that calls itself a mutual company, auf Gegenseitigkeit, i.e. a society whose members have agreed to support each other in case of need.
Berckhusenstraße 146 (near Karl-Wiechert-Allee)
A number of other sculptures by Ulrike Enders are on display in various parts of Hannover, including the one on my Hannover intro page.
Next review: It seemed like a good idea at the time
This ornate white house at Emmichplatz 4 with the four columns and two caryatids (statues that also serve as columns to support parts of the building) is one of three remaining villas that were built from 1872 to 1877 by the architect Heinrich Köhler, who later became the Rector of the Technical University of Hannover.
Across the street at Emmichplatz 1 is the main building of the Hannover University of Music, Drama and Media, but their building looks so nondescript from the outside that I didn’t even take a picture of it.
(If you understand German, have a listen to the Music University’s clever prize-winning radio advert that they used when they were trying to find people who have absolute pitch.)
Location of Emmichplatz on Google Maps
Next review: Water tower in Misburg
The abbreviation IGS stands for Integrierte Gesamtschule = Integrated Comprehensive School. The school is open to pupils with "different degrees of ability, from all social strata."
This may or may not sound like a revolutionary idea, depending on where you come from. In many countries it is quite normal for all children to learn in the same school, but in Germany the children have traditionally been sorted quite early, after the fourth grade, into three types of school: Gymnasium, Realschule or Hauptschule, depending supposedly on their academic ability. Children who were sorted into a lower-class school were usually stuck there, even if they later turned out to be quite intelligent.
But an IGS, according to this school’s website, "is a school that keeps personal educational pathways open longer. It aims, in a climate of solidarity and cooperative behavior, to reduce inequality of opportunity."
This particular school had a few brief months of fame in 2010, when one of its pupils won the Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo.
Rotekreuzstraße 23, 30627 Hannover
Next review: Mittellandkanal
This little tower at the edge of the woods is the site of a popular beer garden and also houses a city youth center.
The tower was originally built in the 14th century as part of the city fortifications, but the adjoining building dates from the 1890s. Since the building was not damaged in the Second World War, it was used for a while to house the Hannover University of Music, Drama and Media (but before the word Media was added to the name and before the school even had the status of a university).
Second and third photos: Cycling near the Lister Tower.
Walderseestraße 100, 30177 Hannover
Next review: Lister Meile
This “Lister Mile” connects the main railroad station with Lister Platz, which is in fact exactly one mile (1.6 kilometers) to the north in the most densely populated district of Hannover.
This used to be an extremely car-infested street, but when the subway was built in the 1970s they took the opportunity to rearrange the street, banning cars from over half the length and calming car traffic on the rest.
There was some resistance to this at first, for instance from local merchants who thought their customers came in cars, but it turned out that getting rid of the cars was the key to success. Since then the Lister Mile has become one of the most popular shopping streets in Hannover. Looking at the photo, you might wonder where there used to be any space for cars, since now the entire width of the street is full of pedestrians and bicycles.
Second photo: Walking their bikes at Lister Platz.
Location of the Lister Mile on Google Maps
Next review: Emmichplatz
This is perhaps not the world’s most attractive water tower, but it is, mmm, distinctive, isn’t it?
Originally this structure was built as an air raid shelter in the Second World War, and it was used for that purpose quite often because Misburg, now a district of Hannover, had numerous factories and a canal harbor for delivering oil, so it was often attacked by allied bombers. The factories were destroyed but the shelter served its purpose and withstood all the bombardments, thus saving many lives.
In 1960 the air raid shelter was turned into a water tower. Then in 1990, when water towers were no longer needed, it was sold to a private buyer.
Like many other left-over air raid shelters in Germany, this one in Misburg is now used by local rock bands to rehearse their music. Since the walls are so thick, the bands can play as loud as they wish without disturbing the neighbors.
Location on Google Maps
Next review: Vending machine in Misburg
This canal turns out to be the longest artificial waterway in Germany, with a length of over 325 kilometers. It passes through the northern and eastern districts of Hannover and has a short side canal leading to the harbor at Misburg.
Construction of the Mittellandkanal was begun in 1906.
Location on Google Maps
Next review: Eilenriede
Eilenriede is the city forest of Hannover. It has an area of 640 hectares and is thus the largest forest in the middle of a European city, larger for instance than Hyde Park in London or the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, as the Hannover city administration is fond of pointing out.
There are numerous walking and cycling routes throughout Eilenriede, but also a motorway (fourth photo), the Messe Schnellweg (“Trade-Fair Fast-Way”), which was built in the 1950s despite vigorous protests by the citizens of Hannover.
Since 1956 there has been a standing committee in Hannover called the Eilenriederat, for the purpose of defending the forest and preventing further encroachments.
Location of Eilenriede on Google Maps
Next review: Cycling in Hannover
Marienburg Castle (Schloss Marienburg) makes a good summertime daytrip destination, especially on weekends when public transport connections from central Hanover are available. Although it has all facilities for tourists, including guided tours, a restaurant and audioguides in several languages, it is not well known among foreign tourists. Therefore, you will not find this place mentioned in most non-German guides. Marienburg castle is rather small and quite young for a castle (mid-19th century), but is well preserved. For more details, please have a look at my Schloss Marienburg page.
The Bissendorfer bog has a size of approx. 500 hectares and is put under conservation since 1971.
It is a particularly valuable, old moor in its central areas with a vegetation typical of himself and a characteristic surface shape.
Over the years there were changes in the marginal areas by hand peat stings and cultivation that bog still has possibilities for the regeneration.
For all nature fans recommended outdoor activity, wonderful walk.
Village 30900 Wedemark, Region Hannover, North
In Hannover there is also the Synagoge of the Liberal Jewish Community. I once visited it, when there was a big bazaar. I drank a kosher Beer there. I was quite fascinated, that a Hannover Brewery is able to brew Kosher Beer. Very interesting! The beer tastes the same as other German beer.
Liberale J?dische Gemeinde Hannover e. V.
If you come to Hannover, you'll most probably experience cold grey rainy weather. If that's not the case, consider yourself lucky. Anyway, on one of those days, I can only recommend that you go to the Holländische Kakao-Stube in the city center, an old-fashioned tea-room, where you can taste the best warm chocolate ever and delicious cakes and pies. Don't freak out if it is full of old ladies when you come in, they are a clear sign that all the sweets served are to die for!
Jump on the first free table you see, and do head to the "bar" before you order to see what their cakes and pies of the day are. Then go back to your table, order the Wiener Schokolade (hot chocolate with cream and chunks of delicious chocolate on top) and the cake that made you salivate the most.
If the waitress is not nice, which will probably happen, don't even bother. Your chocolate and pie is worth your presence there. Just don't leave her tip!
Inmidst the town centre or on the way to the Welfenschloss (and to University buildings) you watch some old cemeteries. Anyway, everywhere you find in the centre suddenly some peaceful and green places, like that. Streets wirh noise... and suddenly silence. Because of such green isles or one old church, little park or if you reached the big Town Park, or belong the river Leine.
I like Hannover because that town is really a "green" one, also with many lakes and forests, parks and silent (romantic) corners. And after some miles you are "outside" in the nature.
North of Hannover you find one of the most beautiful landscapes in Germany: the Luneburg Heath or Lüneburger Heide.
The Luneburg Heath is a beautiful countryside landscape between the Rivers Elbe, Weser and Aller, with glacial valleys, moraines, morainic plains, heathland, moors and forrests. There are plenty of marked trails for hiking and bicycles rides.
For more please see my Lüneburger Heide-Page
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