Well, our group of Hannover enthusiasts had an action-packed visit from 27th June to 2nd July this year! This weekend had been chosen in order that we could enjoy the world-famous ‘Schützenfest’, initiated in the 14th century, with its parade of Hannover’s different associations, shooting and otherwise, on the Sunday – 12,000 marchers! This was preceded by the uniquely named ‘Bruchmeisterverpflichtung’ at the Rathaus on Friday evening, where the Lord Mayor annually appoints the 4 ‘Bruchmeister’ who have been tasked for several centuries with ensuring the controlled and orderly course of the shooting. This ceremony starts off ten days of celebrations and festivities, with 150,000 visitors from all over Germany coming to the parade on Sunday alone!
The Festival parade
Earlier on that first day of our visit, we visited a modern art gallery which had been adapted from a former indoor swimming pool, and it really was a lovely transformation (ideas for Bristol North Baths??), and later had a guided tour of the Historisches Museum, where there was a special exhibition about the anti-nuclear protest in 2008 near the nuclear waste disposal centre in Gorleben in northern Germany. In the evening, we were very grateful to Gesellschaft committee member, Petra Pilger, for again inviting us all to a barbecue in her garden, which was a lovely social occasion.
The Festival parade
On Saturday we had a very different and wonderful experience of the Wild Life Park in Springe near Hannover, where lots of tree cover protected us from the extremely hot temperatures and we enjoyed seeing a brown bear cooling off in a pond, bison, wolves, wolverine and many more.
Brown bear off for a swim!
Sunday was the big day of the parade, and thanks to Robert Nicholls’ advice, we found a shady spot on Georgstrasse, where we had a great view of the proceedings, and saw our old friend Stephan Weil participating, former Lord Mayor, but now Minister President of Lower Saxony. In the evening – a change of timing, in order to avoid the extreme heat of the day (around 38 degrees!) – we were guided on a fascinating walk in the ‘Leinemasch’ by our Hannover colleague, Carsten Thielhelm. The Leinemasch is a large natural area of fields and the odd farm, which is also a flood plain near the Leine river and leading to the Maschsee, so it does get flooded at certain times of the year. We walked along the river, saw storks, also the former Continental tyre factory, with its controversial past role in the slave labour of women from the nearby Limmer concentration camp. Carsten had gone to the trouble of booking us in for a meal at the ‘Radieschen’ beer garden at the end of the walk, but inexplicably it was closed and so we walked on into the Herrenhäuser Gardens and had a very elegant meal in the Schlossküche in the palace building.
Monday was our last day, and it started well with a tram ride to the world famous Pelikan Fountain Pen factory, where we had a guided tour round the outside of the building, which is now converted for other uses, and entered the small museum and shop at the end of our visit. Lunchtime saw us in the now-familiar context of a reception at the Rathaus, where we assembled in the Council Chamber as usual, but without any mayoral presence this time, due to a number of problems. But the visit was enriched by having a visit up in the crooked lift to the dome, and subsequently the two committees met in the Leipzig Room for our usual combined meeting. The evening saw a splendid farewell dinner at the Loccumer Hof, with a large number of members of both associations, the usual exchange of gifts, and an opportunity to see the Shoes Exhibition, created in Bristol by Ruth Myers and colleagues, together with Fairfield School and IGS Kronsberg! We could also announce that the committees had decided that the return visit to Bristol in 2020 would take place on the weekend of the Harbour Festival from 17-22 July – that will be another great weekend!
Farewell dinner, with Robert Nicholls rear left, and Janika and Frauke from the Cultural Office on the right
And finally, I must thank Robert Nicholls in particular, and his committee, for organising such a varied and interesting programme; thanks are also due to the Hannover City Council Cultural Office for their ever-present help in the background of these visits, but in particular this year for having subsidised our visit, so that we did not have to pay the usual contribution to the costs! Noch einmal: herzlichen Dank von uns allen!