Hanover Royal Palace: Germany's garden glory

2013-06-03 09:56

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Hanover - Reduced to rubble by British bombs in 1943 during World War II, Hanover's royal palace was rebuilt and opened this year as the crowning glory of one of Europe's most distinguished baroque gardens.

Only the facade of Herrenhausen Palace, the former summer home of the Guelph dynasty, is a perfect replica. The rest of the building is a modern conference centre and museum where visitors can find out about the ancestors of the British royal family.

Hanover and London have been linked since Prince George of Hanover became British king in 1714. Germany no longer has any royal family, but it has fabulous royal palaces and parks that are emerging as some of Europe's finest tourist attractions.

The vast garden at Herrenhausen, a convenient tram ride from Hanover's city centre, is among the best in Germany, but without any palace or a visitor centre, it used to leave the international traveller wondering why there wasn't more.

The museum, opened in May, closes the gap, just in time for next year's tricentennnial celebrations of the union of the two monarchies.

With more than 500 historical objects and paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries, the show tells the story of Herrenhausen, which was built by King George's father, Ernest Augustus I, who died a year after its completion.

Herrenhausen was one of the smaller homes of the Hanoverian kings, who owned a bigger palace in the city centre and had a whole range of castles and mega-palaces to sleep in after taking over the British crown.

The museum also depicts famous people of the day such as the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), who was court librarian in Hanover for a period.

The baroque era unfolds in a series of displays, some of which feature the exotic and expensive possessions of Herrenhausen's wealthy owners, including a colourful, intricately carved sledge once used by lords and ladies to pass the time in the garden.

The exhibition shows many of the items in pairs, symbolizing opposites such as struggle and rest, near and far, or life and death - typical for the Baroque period.

The palace with its neo-classical facade fronts on the vast formal garden, largely designed by Sophia of Hanover with a little help from a French master garden designer.

A fountain, sculptures and a colourful three-roomed grotto by the 20th century artist Niki de Saint Phalle are among the attractions along with a former vegetable garden now transformed into a botanic garden. The Berggarten boasts some of the world's rarest orchids.

There are guided tours of the gardens in the summer, including tours designed for children.

Performers gather at Herrenhausen this month for what the organizers claim is the biggest cabaret and fringe theatre festival in Germany, running June 10-28. Spectacular firework displays on five evenings from May to September are marking the palace restoration.

Read more on:    germany  |  travel international

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