Hannover was founded in the 12th century as a market town by Hildebold von Rhoden; the name "Hanovere" was mentioned for the first time in 1150. The meaning of the name and its origins are disputed, but it is generally accepted that the name means "high bank." In 1142, Henry the Lion from the Welf dynasty was awarded the Duchy of Saxony. He expanded and fortified Hannover. In 1241, Hannover was granted town privileges; in 1371, it received the "Great Privilege" with extensive rights, including milling and fortification rights and the right to levy taxes. The city subsequently began to experience its first economic boom. Hannover joined the Hanseatic League and the merchants who lived there exported linen, doing business with Flanders, Novgorod, Norway, and southern Sweden. In 1636, Hannover became the seat of royal power for the Welfs. Following the Congress of Vienna in 1815, it became a kingdom.
The growing importance of the city also attracted well-known personalities, including the Leipzig-born philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the man who gave his name to the best-known German cookies. He became privy counselor and head of the city's library in 1676 and lived in Hannover until his death. The state library was named after him in 2005 and one year later the university also bore his name - although the businessman Hermann Bahlsen created a much bigger memorial in honor of the man. Following his commercial training, he worked in London, where he discovered cakes, a real British specialty. Upon returning to Germany, he began to market them.
From 1893 onwards, unlike his competitors, he didn't sell his butter cakes individually, but in bags and promoted his product with a Leibniz quote, which significantly boosted sales within the shortest space of time. Just before the start of World War I, the Bahlsen cookie factory was already employing 1,700 people. In honor of the famous Leibniz cookie, the sculptor Georg Herting created a gilded brass cookie weighing around 20 kilograms, which was stolen in early 2013 by thieves whose identity remains unknown to this day. When Bahlsen offered to donate 52,000 packets of cookies to 52 charitable institutions, the golden cookie turned up again undamaged at the statue of the Saxon Steed outside Leibniz University.
The extent to which Bahlsen has contributed to Hannover's standing as Germany's kiosk capital is unclear - but in addition to this unofficial title the city holds some other remarkable records: The country's oldest flea market - modelled on the Parisian example - has been held on the street known as Am Hohen Ufer since 1967. The state capital is also home to Lower Saxony's biggest urban forest - the 640-hectare Eilenriede municipal forest, complete with forest station and observation tower. The city also sets standards with its Schützenfest, a target shooting festival whose tradition can be traced back to the 15th century. It is considered to be the world's biggest festival of its kind. Hannover's exhibition grounds are also world-leading. With a covered space occupying some 496,000 square meters and a total of 26 exhibition halls, the exhibition grounds are the biggest in the world. Important annual trade fairs are held here, including Agritechnica or - more importantly for us here at Rutronik24 - Hannover Messe.
Talking of fairs, in 2000 Hannover also became the first and (to date) only German city to hold a world fair. Entitled "Humankind, Nature, Technology - a new world arising," 155 nations took part in the fair on an area covering around 160 hectares on Hannover's exhibition grounds between June 1 and October 31. During the fair, a native of Hannover caused a real scandal: Prince Ernst August of Hannover, great-grandson of Wilhelm II, the last German kaiser, relieved himself by the Turkish Pavilion - and the tabloid press naturally had a field day.
Another native of Hannover created much more positive headlines in 2010, when Lena Meyer-Landrut became the second German (after Nicole in 1982) to win the Eurovision Song Contest with her song "Satellite." Other famous sons and daughters of the city include the director Doris Dörrie, cartoonist Uli Stein, FIFA World Cup winner Per Mertesacker, Scorpions front man Klaus Meine, and comedian Oliver Pocher, a contestant in this year's series of the RTL dancing show Let's Dance.
As usual, we have a few special suggestions for those who feel like paying a visit to Hannover:
Restaurant: Taj Mahal (www.tajmahal.de/)
As the name suggests, the Taj Mahal is a restaurant that serves Indian specialties like Madras (diced lamb in a red Madras curry coconut sauce), Navratan curry (various vegetables in a Madras curry sauce with plums, apricots, raisins, cashew nuts, and almonds) and more besides. The atmosphere radiates Indian flair just as much as the cuisine.
Restaurant: AbendMahl (www.abendmahl-hannover.de)
Unlike the Taj Mahal, the name of this restaurant doesn't necessarily reveal the kind of dishes that you can expect here. The AbendMahl serves classic Italian pasta and fish specialties, although the steaks are also highly recommended. An insider tip is the "Vitello Pavarotti" - strips of veal schnitzel on a bed of rocket salad, Parmesan, and fresh tomatoes. The Italian flair of the interior design is further underscored by the Michelangelo painting The Creation of Adam.
Restaurant: Mimi's Thai Kitchen (www.mimis-thaikitchen.de)
Mimi's Thai Kitchen promises modern flair combined with sustainability (100 percent biodegradable packaging for takeout food) and authentic Thai dishes with no flavor enhancers or other additives. With spring rolls and various soups for starters, traditional curry, rice, noodle, and fish dishes as main courses, and sweet rice and banana pancakes for dessert, there is something to suit every taste.
Bar: Falkners (http://falkners-hannover.de)
Falkners is a nice and straightforward bar with plenty of urban charm located between Bonifatiusplatz and Markuskirche. It serves a wide range of cocktails, long drinks, and whiskeys as well as a small yet fine selection of meals. Especially recommended is the Moscow mule, a vodka-based cocktail mixed with lime juice and ginger beer - perfect after a long day at work.
Bar: Oscar's (www.oscarsbar.de)
Oscar's is one of the city's best bars and leaves nothing to be desired when it comes to drinks, with towering shelves stocked with an incredible number of different spirits in a cocktail bar atmosphere that is so classic, it is almost a cliché. Besides being the ideal spot for a nightcap in a stylish atmosphere, tasting sessions also provide a good opportunity to get an overview of the wide range of single malt whiskeys.
Hotel: Kokenhof (www.kokenhof.com)
Tradition meets modernity at the Kokenhof, a hotel with modern interior design housed in a restored half-timber building about 20 kilometers outside the city. The distance from Hannover provides tranquility and seclusion, but at the same time the Kokenhof is easily accessible thanks to its location by the A7 and a nearby S-Bahn station. Incidentally, the four-star hotel is owned by the Kind family, known for the hearing aids bearing the same name.
Hot spot: Lister Meile
The 1.6-kilometer-long Lister Meile was built in the 1970s and offers visitors numerous shopping opportunities as well as the chance to relax and just let their minds wander by one of the many fountains. The Lister Meile starts in the Mitte district on Ernst-August-Platz, extends across Weißekreuzplatz and runs past Welfenplatz before ending at Lister Platz.
Hot spot: Limmerstraße
Visitors can also shop along Limmerstraße, which can look back on a long history. It was built on a historical highway that connected the old village of Linden to the neighboring village of Limmer. The Apollo movie theater is located in a rear courtyard just off Limmerstraße. It opened in 1908, making it the oldest suburban movie theater and one of the last of its kind in Germany. In the evening, the street is transformed into a party mile. Since the start of the 2010s, a trend has developed among young people to drink beer and party on the street - a pastime also known as limmern.