This was the first visit which was organised under the Chairmanship of Councillor Robert Nicholls, and the last visit before we celebrate together the 70th anniversary of the twinning partnership between our two cities!
15 members of Bristol-Hannover Council visited Hannover this summer, the group consisting of long-serving members (the longest being John Veale, who first visited Hannover in 1949) and also a number of new members, who had never visited our partner city before. The programme which the Gesellschaft put on for us was splendid, very varied and of great interest to both ‘old’ and ’new’ members. We all arrived by different means and at different times, but Robert had ensured that everyone who needed it was picked up at the airport (even though KLM did not manage to bring all the luggage and this trickled in over the weekend!).
Our first day was a busy one: in the morning we had a guided tour of the newly expanded Sprengel Museum – actually an art gallery, with a wonderful display of modern art, both German and international. In the afternoon most of the group had a tour of the amazing NordLB Bank building, seemingly composed of glass boxes, all at odd angles – not so good for anyone who gets vertigo! But very exciting.
On Saturday we went by train to beautiful Hameln of Pied Piper fame, and we were indeed serenaded by the Pied Piper as soon as we arrived! We wandered around the lovely town with its iconic half-timbered houses and had lunch in a lovely old Gaststätte.
Sunday was free during the day, and many of us visited the Maschsee Festival at the lake, where there were lots of stalls, music, food outlets etc. And in the evening, the highlight of the visit: tickets for the Kleines Fest im Grossen Garten at Herrenhausen Gardens. These tickets are VERY hard to obtain, usually by lottery, so we were very lucky that Robert managed to obtain them for us. The gardens that evening were absolutely enchanting, although difficult to describe and do justice to. In every corner there were little stages with different acts, puppetry, dancing, fire-eating etc., there were figures walking around the gardens in amazing and colourful costumes, doing all sorts of different things, like juggling, walking on stilts, carrying beautiful multiple ‘tear-drop’ lanterns – an absolute feast for the eyes! The only hiccup was the unseasonable weather: it rained on and off all evening, which caused a number of the activities to be cut short – but we stayed to the end when there was a fabulous final fireworks display!
On Monday morning we were taken on a very different visit: to the Volkswagen commercial vehicle factory, where we were given a comprehensive and well-explained tour of the whole process by an Englishman, now retired, who worked there and now operates as a sort of tour guide. The robotics were amazing! And lunch was good too!
In the afternoon Bürgermeister Thomas Hermann welcomed us in the Rathaus and Chair Ann Kennard was given a beautiful miniature bust of Hannover’s most famous intellectual, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, which should find its way into the twinning cabinet in the central library in Bristol. Subsequently the two committees met in the Rathaus for the usual meeting to discuss future plans, in this case concentrating on the 70th anniversary – Jubilee – celebrations in 2017.
Our stay was rounded off as ever with a very enjoyable meal at the Loccumer Hof with the members of the Gesellschaft. We are very grateful to Robert, Helga and the Gesellschaft committee for all their preparation of a superb programme, and we look forward to visiting each other in both directions in our special Jubilee year!