25 January 2011

Where to go in Germany part 6: Lower Saxony & Bremen

Sorry for the delay in this series; a bit of life intervened.

The city of Bremen is actually a city-state. (There are three independent city-states in Germany: Bremen, Hamburg, and Berlin.) It also includes the town of Bremerhaven, which just means "Bremen's harbor," at the mouth of the Weser river at the North Sea, I've been told it's a very typical northwestern German city, with typical German architecture.

Bremen is in the northwestern section of Lower Saxony. In Lower Saxony, the dialect is Plattdeutsch, or flat-lands German. The dialect spoken in the westernmost region is very similar to Dutch, which is unsurprising, as modern Dutch is an outgrowth of the old Low Franconian languages. It's tantalizingly similar to English, but not understandably, unless you also know German. The wikipedia entry is also available in Platt.

Most people have probably heard of Hannover. It's the state capital, home to several universities, and full of culture.

Braunschweig was recommended by an acquaintance who lived there. It's over in eastern Lower Saxony, in the direction of Saxony-Anhalt. Many places called Brunswick are named for this city.

For the folk tale aficionados, Hamelin is a hop from Hannover, and the Pied Piper is enacted weekly in summer.

The third major German automotive company (after Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart and BMW near Munich) is Volkswagen, which is headquartered in Wolfsburg. The city itself was founded to be the home of the VW factory, and it's still the main employer. The main thing to see is the open-air automobile museum.

Next up: Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg.

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