Hanover is, blandly, an interesting city and one that, aside from a work project, I would probably never visit. Situated at a critical geographic nexus, near the former large Volkswagen plant and the intersection of critical railroads and automobile highways, Hanover was strategically decimated by bombs during the second World War. After this raze, Hanover was reconstructed with sterile and stereotypical post-war 1960s architecture, looming and gray box-like austere buildings without ornamentation or flair.
As I was working, spending most of my waking hours touring a large medical university hospital, my only real sensory experience of the city was eating and imbibing, mostly fatty meats, pretzels, and beer. Obviously. After my first two days in Germany, it became painfully obvious that vegetables are not included in meals in any notable extent, unless doused in some type of heavy cream, and are certainly not regarded as a diet staple. Despite my strong German heritage, my intestinal tract did not take too terribly kindly to this style of decadent fare.
This fellow, a Hanover local, grilled such an impressive array of sausages and pork pieces and chicken for one of our outdoor evening barbecue events, and was so jolly in the process, that I could not resist stealing a photograph. At this point of my trip, the first of the prevailing German cultural archetypes, the pleasant and plump citizen whose stein is always flowing with succulence and whose plate is always replete with meat was confirmed. Alas, I did not encounter the second archetype, the artist architect donning monochrome black and chain smoking. So, to Berlin I shall be returning, at some point in the future.
Following a few days in Hanover, I went to another meeting in Frankfurt, enjoying a train ride across the countryside to reach my new destination. Like Hanover, Frankfurt was destroyed in the gruesome carnage of the war, allies raiding and Nazi forces refusing to relent. So, compared to all the other cities in Europe that I have traveled to, Frankfurt has a very contemporary aesthetic; like those cities in the United States, it is built from columns of steel, as opposed to stone. Frankfurt is the economic epicenter of Germany and not a traditional tourist trap, but nonetheless, there are a few quaint replica squares for the random visitor to roam. In a way, I preferred the residential and business feel of Frankfurt, the sense of a place lived in, the sense of a strange and dark history whereby this old city was so newly reborn.
Perhaps as a result of its position as an industrial and banking center, Frankfurt was also the most notably diverse city in Europe, of those that I have personally visited. Men and women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and stories strolled along the streets, with intent and lackadaisically. The atmosphere was an intermingling of frenetic and lax, just mimicking the pace of real life, a familiar bundle of kinetic energies.
As I learned during my very brief romp through Lima, when you have only a few precious hours to tour a city, sometimes the best option is an organized and commercial tour; in this case, the river cruise boats afford the opportunity to lap up the views of the city, both typical and more bizarre, while floating along and enjoying a beer. I indulged with one of my colleagues and, much to our dismay, the bar area did not accept any type of credit or debit card, forcing us to ridiculously scrounge in our pockets and the crevices of our handbags for sufficient change to buy two beers. We came up a few cents short, but, thankfully, were able to rely on the kindness of strangers, and our waiter had to reward us for our scavenging effort. One would think that, after my business travel and my thirst for new experiences, libation and otherwise, I would always be prepared. Sometimes, spontaneity works.
My younger brother and I have pushed about the idea of returning to our roots, perhaps Berlin or Munich, sometime in the next year, while he is still in graduate school and has not yet joined me in the ranks of corporate drudgery. I would not want to pass through Frankfurt again as a tourist, but, having this taste, it does seem like it would have an excellent standard of living and would welcome any cynical ex-patriot. Something to keep in mind, as the presidential election dominate.