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Back from Hannover

I went, I saw, I nearly concussed myself by walking into a signpost (top tip: if trying to compare a map in one hand with an email on your phone in the other, do so while stationary), but I escaped Cebit. And here’s what I learned, in pictoral form.

First, the show. It’s as large as everyone says: around 30 halls, each about so big:

Messe halls

.. so you walk for miles and miles each day back and forth. Inside each hall there are around 200 booths. Finding the one you need is a nightmare – often it pays to get a view from above, if possible:

Inside the hall

.. and work-wise, the show went well. Everyone’s there, and once you get inside the booths and out of public view there’s some fantastic new stuff planned for the next year or so, some of it secret for the time being. Outside it’s a deranged mix of exhibitors (many), businesses (many), press (a few) and the public (amazingly, loads – not entirely sure why). So, the Cebit show scores 8/10. No holiday, but it does what it’s there to do.

And what of Hannover? Well, it’s quite nice: fairly small, but with a nice central district and some beautiful places in the old town. Get away from the “Irish” pubs, for example, and you can find little places like this:

In the old town

Sadly I can’t even vaguely remember what that bar’s called, but you’ll find it a stone’s throw from the old church. Hannover itself picks up 7/10: if going as a tourist them head to Berlin instead, but it’s quite nice.

So, what went wrong? Well, apart from nearly decapitating myself, the one key thing I learned is this: if going to Hannover, first purchase a map. And, preferably, a car to go with it, as the transit system is totally, utterly baffling. We spent hours standing on train platforms, in the cold, waiting for a train with that sinking feeling that comes from being entirely unsure whether it’s even going to take you in the right direction:

Messe station

In fact, during three days in Hannover we managed to get on the wrong train entirely (some stations, we found, had no maps, and the platforms do not list intermediate stops), the right train only to find that it was turned around and sent back the way we’d come (I was shamefully pleased that we weren’t the only people caught out by this), a train that turned out to be a tram and then went underground (WTF?) and trains that, for some reason, were not covered by our tickets (not an ICE train – we knew about those, at least).

And all this on top of at least 2 hours of train travel per day because we had to come in the (reasonably nearby) town of Celle, which was similarly devoid of rail maps. Compare this to Berlin, for example, where the complicated transport system (S-Bahn, U-Bahn, trams and buses all overlapping) is cheap and easy to navigate. Hannover scores 2/10 in the “getting around without a car” category.

So all in all, last week was a mixed bag. Good show, nice city, godawful trains – oh, and really, really bad coffee. Still after four days, it was time to leave:

So long, Cebit

.. and I can’t tell you how good it is to be back in London. I may not complain about SouthEastern Railways ever again.

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