Travelling to Lower Saxony

This week we are goint to take readers to the north-western corner of Germany, to Lower Saxony, to the land of former Hanseatic cities, timber-framed houses, and wind farms. Its old towns, castles and forests that saw many battles almost take us back to medieval times.

Lower Saxony is the second largest federal state in Germany. Most of its terrain is plain, with outstanding agriculture. In the south-eastern corner, the Harz Mountains rise, which is the highest point in northern Germany with a peak of 1141 meters. The massif extends to the provinces of Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Territorially, Bremen is located within Lower Saxony, but forms a separate city-state, similarly to Hamburg that borders the province.


The seat of the province is Hannover. The former Hanseatic city has been an important commercial centre for centuries. A red line painted on the asphalt of the streets leads through the historical sights of the city. Its main attraction is the building of the new town hall, which offers a stately sight reflected in the lake in front of it. It is a liveable, green city with many parks and water surfaces; among other things, here is the baroque garden of Herrenhausen Palace, one of the most beautiful parks in Europe. One of the main attractions in the area, 30 km south of the city, is the Marienburg Castle. The castle is open to the public and is the residence of the Duchy of Hanover.

Unfortunately, a very small number of timber-framed houses (Fachwerkhaus) in Hannover survived after the destruction of World War II. In contrast, in other towns in Lower Saxony, such as Braunschweig, Wolfenbüttel or the surrounding villages, we can admire these seemingly shaky but extremely massive buildings. In the not-too-distant Quedlinburg you can visit the Fachwerkmuseum; the collection describes the technical details of the construction of timber-framed houses and other interesting things.


The second most populous city is Braunschweig. Its name comes from the name of Prince Bruno, who was the founder of the town's first castle Dankwarderode. Henry the Lion expanded the castle in the 12th century and flourished the city. Henrik's coat of arms, the lion has since become a symbol of the city. The lion statue he erected still stands on the square in front of the castle, on the Burgplatz - of course not in its original state - and Braunschweig is called Die Löwenstadt (the Lion City). The cathedral is also located next to the castle. The castle building is a special fusion of the old and the new, which has preserved the castle in its exterior and facade, but upon entering it, a shopping centre unfolds before our eyes.

The city also has a Hungarian dimension. Teréz Brunszvik, the founder of kindergartens in Hungary, derived her family’s history from here. She even considered the uncle of Henry the Lion, Prince Otto, to be the ancestor of her family. Prince Otto who went to a crusade was forced to rest in Hungary by an illness and he started a family here. However, this could probably have been a desired past on her part, there is no evidence of it. The surname, by the way, is really the Old German equivalent of Braunschweig (Brunswick).


A famous native of Braunschweig was Carl Friedrich Gauss, the "prince of mathematics", a naturalist and astronomer. Unfortunately, his birthplace is no longer standing, but there is a monument in the city in honour of the famous scientist. Gauss's good friend was Farkas Bolyai, whom he met in Göttingen as a student. Göttingen is a famous university town in the southern corner of Lower Saxony. Already in the 18th century, its university was the most important higher education institution in Europe, within which the faculties of law and natural sciences excelled. Arthur Schopenhauer, Heinrich Heine, Otto von Bismarck, Gerhard Schröder, among others, studied here, as well as many Hungarian scholars, such as János Neumann and Ede Teller. There are currently 44 Nobel Prize winners associated with the university.

In terms of population, Wolfsburg is similar in size. The city is a stronghold of the automotive industry; in 1938, the foundation stone of the Volkswagen factory was laid here. Volkswagen Plc. established a tourist attraction in Wolfsburg in 2000, the Autostadt (Car City). Here is the factory, where customers can pick up Volkswagen cars rolling off from the factory through a glass bridge. The mini-city is the realm of VW brands, an automotive amusement park and a showroom. Its glass towers and four factory chimneys define the cityscape.

Salzgitter is also an industrial city, with a significant iron ore mining and a huge steel plant. The neighbouring, much smaller Lengede has a similarly significant iron ore mining. The landscape-shaping feature of the forests next to these cities is the numerous quarry ponds on the site of the now depleted mines. Lengede came to the public consciousness due to a mining disaster in 1963; 129 people were working deep down in the mine, when water flooded the pit. Most of them were evacuated within a short time, and 11 miners were brought to the surface miraculously after 14 days. The success of the rescue went down in history as the “miracle of Lengede”. Twenty-nine miners did not survive the tragic accident.

wolfenbuttel_25182.jpgWolfenbüttel is located close to Salzgitter and Braunschweig. The city has a thousand-year history, as it is located on an important trade route. Two great figures of the German Enlightenment, the mathematician and polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz and the poet and playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing lived here and worked for some time at the library of Wolfenbüttel. The most famous German drink, Jägermeister, is produced and bottled in Wolfenbüttel. The history of the bitter drink dates back to 1934; the hunting passion of the creator of the recipe and the myth of St. Hubertus inspired the appearance of the bottle. Naturally, the recipe with 56 herbal ingredients has been a mystery ever since.


Translated by Zita Aknai


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