The Football Connoisseur's Guide Hanging out in Hanover

Hanover, the city known as having the most boring parties and one of Germany's ugliest city centers, also has some attractive venues. From thriving beer gardens to the Herrenhäuser Gardens, the city will be getting its party on throughout the World Cup.

Hanover's World Cup stadium

Hanover's World Cup stadium

The stadium

The venerable old Niedersachsenstadion stood proud on the rubble of World War II. The four floodlights, in classic toothbrush design, could be seen from afar. Little of the original now remains in the ultramodern arena. The west stand still stands on foundations built out of remnants from the bombed Altstadt, the old center of town, but the toothbrushes have given way to a ring of lights under the roof. Sadly, the new ground looks less remarkable than its predecessor, although a giant pylon has been erected to help spectators find their way. The whole stadium may not light up as in Munich, but at least the tower alongside it does. There are four main entrances to the grounds. As the eastern gate is reserved for FIFA dignitaries and sponsors, the hoi polloi will gain admittance at the north, south and west portals. Good places to meet are by the javelin thrower at the southern steps or at the letter box (as the rather challenging work of art is disparagingly referred to by fans) at the western gate.

Where else can I watch the football?

You can watch -- and be a part of -- the action at the official FIFA Fan Fest on Waterlooplatz. 20,000 supporters can get the full World Cup experience right here -- security checks, fences, cordoned-off VIP areas for the local glitterati. But once you get past them, a gigantic screen awaits, plus the usual sizzling refreshments. In the event of the Fan Fest getting too crowded for comfort, the city of Hanover has a few alternatives well hidden up its sleeves.

You might also enjoy the al fresco atmosphere at the Uni Biergarten (Königsworther Platz), the university beer garden with a big screen to present Germany’s World Cup encounters. Due to the predominantly student clientele, the prices are reasonable. For the same reason, however, expect the regulars to fill the intervals with heated debates about student loans and the like. Beer in hand, watch them get confused about whether to stand up when the national anthems are played.

Proper pub talk can be had in the working-class district of Linden, not far from the stadium. Meet real Hanover characters in Wirtschaft Diekborn (Dieckbornstrasse 8) and be sure to try one of the varieties of fantastic fried potatoes served up by the good lady of the house. For league matches, there’s a round of shots (Saurer) on the house every time Hanover 96 score a goal. No doubt this tradition will be respected for Germany’s games as well, so take care to line your stomach beforehand if you intend to watch the matches against Costa Rica, Poland and Ecuador here.

The intriguingly named und der böse Wolf (Heesestrasse 1) -- "and the big, bad wolf" -- has been a force in various amateur football tournaments and, with their Dutch captain at the helm, in the Hanover 96 choir at the stadium. The perfect address to shovel down Asian food as you watch the Koreans on one of the televisions or on the screen in the beer garden. Although spacious, get here early if you want to indulge in a round of post-match Tequila slamming.

Debakel (debacle) might conjure up memories of Cordoba and Euro 2000 but just might be the happy medium between a portable television at base camp and the huge screen on Waterlooplatz. Video beamers will ensure that Debakel (Limmerstrasse 92) is a top World Cup address. Good, affordable food and useful cocktails to keep the ladies interested.

Football sightseeing

Hanover’s club landscape is peppered with eccentricities and veterans. A mere 50 meters from the southern entrance to the Niedersachsenstadion lie the pitch and clubhouse of SC Elite von 1912 (Stadionbrücke 5). The club’s financial survival is inextricably linked to their sausage sales to Hanover 96 fans on match days. In spite of lying within FIFA’s no go zone the club members intend to continue with their guerilla frying during the World Cup. Show some solidarity and stop by for a Würstchen (as the Germans call their sausage). Next up, geographically and figuratively, football purism can also be admired at the Lindener Sportvereins Alexandria von 1903 (Stammestrasse 104). Tuck in to coffee and cake on the club’s terrace, which affords a vista on the good old days of Hanoverian soccer. Those present who remember the days of yore will be happy to discuss. Stadium fetishists can make their way to the Eilenriede Stadium (Theodor-Heuss-Platz 4), now Hanover 96’s youth team center. Two internationals have, in fact, been played out in front of the time-honored stands. The Rudolf Kalweit Stadion (Bischofsholer Damm 119) is also worth a look. Arminia Hanover’s ground has a capacity of 18,000 and is one of the last old school arenas in the area. TSV Saxonia 1912 (Mühlenholzweg 42), meanwhile, can lay claim to being the most picturesque football ground around. Located in the woods, deer have been known to stray onto the hallowed turf.

Hanover has, of course, been working on a program of special events for the World Cup. The crossroads of the town’s pedestrian zone will be transformed into a colorful mile of sporting activities and local specialities. Kick the kids off the penalty shoot-out speedometer and reenact the Rome final. The Altstadt, or historic city center, is the place to meet and eat. On match days, nosh will be served up by the nations involved.

What to do between matches

Hanover has the dubious reputation of being a town of superlatives -- and not those a city is keen to tout. Amongst the honors, Hanover often tops the list when it comes to the ugliest town centers or most boring parties. After the war, the old town (Altstadt) was not rebuilt in Renaissance style. Instead, it was built in the kind of washed-out concrete that, sadly, is becoming hip again.

Keen botanists and lawn experts should make a beeline for the Herrenhäuser Gärten (Herrenhäuser Strasse 4). Be warned, however, that any attempts to test out your studs in Hanover’s Baroque masterpiece will surely result in a red card.

The more typical tourist attractions in town can be easily sought out thanks to the Roter Faden, literally a red line on the pavement pointing the way. At the tourist office – Touristenzentrale -- (Ernst-August-Platz 2) you can obtain the relevant literature.

Need a break from wife and offspring? Or your little brother? Fake a headache and pack them off to Hanover Zoo (Adenauerallee 3) to see the otters and swallowtails. That should give you ample time to watch the afternoon games in peace.

To satisfy your cultural itch, the New Town Hall -- das Neue Rathaus -- (Trammplatz 2) is a good place to start. From here you can take a walk through the Maschpark and along the bank of the artificial lake, the Maschsee, towards the stadium. If you have a little more time to kill, take out a boat or blow your tickets in the neighbouring casino. Art lovers will be more interested in the Sprengel Museum (Kurt-Schwitters-Platz) at the far end of the lake.

Good cooking

Within the walls of the football ground, repeated intake of sausages and beer should do the trick. If you are still hungry when you get back into the outside world, asceticism is a virtue worth remembering. Avoid the half-cooked chicken kebabs and anaemic sausage on offer at the stalls you will undoubtedly come across.

Finding it hard to break the sausage habit? You could always branch out slightly by going for a Currywurst (sausage with spicy sauce, loosely associated with curry flavoring) at OCurry (Georgstrasse 17), the best in town. You can even go wild and try out different sauces.

The World Cup is the perfect hunting ground for rip-off merchants. Welcome relief from the sharks can be found in Pfannkuchenhaus (Calenberger Strasse 27), where the beer is conscientiously poured and the pancakes served in endless incarnations. Not that pancakes are the only items on the menu, far from it. A juicy steak to go with your beer is no problem at all.

Night games

Let us begin with a table football stronghold. Tuesday night is open training night in the Spandau Projekt (Engelbosteler Damm 30). Players of all standards can have a go in the cellar club, as they can in und der böse Wolf. Generally known as kickern in Germany, Hanoverians call table football krökeln. Whatever you call it, no spinning, ladies!

Not one, but two clubs reside in Glocksee (Glockseestrasse 35). Pay for both at the entrance and check out Hanover’s alternative scene. Café Glocksee goes electronic on Fridays, whilst Indiego Glocksee lays it on considerably thicker. Watch out for theme nights as well. At Chez Heinz (Liepmannstraße 7b / Fössebad) you can rub shoulders or otherwise with pretty students from Hanover’s university. The real party goes on in the cellar. Musically similar to Café Glocksee, but with a younger audience. Concerts in the summer months are also part of the program.

At Steintor, prick up your ears for the infamous Astrasound in the Astra-Club (Scholvinstrasse 5) which takes its name from the oh so cool Hamburg beer. A mix of soul, funk and electronica or, as the local radio station puts it: “big slices of funky grooves."

Charts fodder can be consumed in Osho Disko, also known as Baggi (Raschplatz 7L ), Hanover’s biggest superclub with all the trimmings ... blondes, beats, bouncers in snappy jackets and unforgiving haircuts. Schalke and Germany star Gerald Asamoah used to strut his funky stuff here.

Loud music in stuffy clubs not your thang? Worry not, you can take it easy at the water’s edge in Strandleben (Weddigenufer), where the Ihme and Leine meet. Grab a deckchair and wait for sundown. If you can’t get football off your mind, you might want to get sand between your toes earlier in the day and watch the matches on the television as you sip a cool drink.

If the official World Cup program is more up your street, seek out the Marktkirche (Hanns-Lilje-Platz 2), venue for the Global Village Music Festival. On match days, the nations represented will provide the music. Could be some interesting musical duels on stage. The other participating countries will get their chance on other days as well.

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