Sunday, September 20, 2015

Right on time in Hannover

When you live in Hannover, there are only two places to meet up with people: under the horse tail or at the clock. You could choose somewhere else to meet, but that would be unusual. The idea that everyone in town uses just two meeting spots is one of the reasons that Hannover, despite its big city aspirations, is really a small town.

Unterm Schwanz is the way to say under the tail, which only makes sense if you know you are at the train station looking at this statue:

I wrote about the horse and his rider Ernst August a couple of years ago. Go ahead and read about them if you want, but now I'm going to tell you about the clock.

The Kröpcke clock is on the busiest pedestrian corner in town. It's between the opera house, the train station and the main shopping streets in the city center. The spot is named after a guy named Kröpcke and his cafe, which is still a perfect place to sit outside and watch all the commotion. Mr. Kröpcke opened his cafe in the 1870s, and the city built the clock about ten years later.

Notice the Nazi flags waving on either side of the clock

During the war

While most of Hannover was leveled during World War II and half of its residents lost their homes, the clock survived. It ticked away among the rubble until the 1950s happened. The city planners wanted a modern, progressive city and there was no place for  19th century clock. So they built this one:

It stood until 1977, when Hannover realized that mid-century design wasn't cool anymore. A replica of the original clock was built in its place and is still standing today.

Public clocks are everywhere in Germany. If I had been a watch-wearer before, I would have stopped by now. There are clocks on church steeples, above banks, sometimes just on the street corner as a public service. There's no excuse to be late. In case you are not looking up, somewhere nearby a church bell rings every fifteen minutes. Germans are punctual, and almost everything here runs on time.

People complain about the DeutscheBahn arriving ten minutes behind schedule. Apparently they have never tried Amtrak in the U.S., or the Hershey train in Cuba. I wanted to ride the Hershey train through the sugar cane fields of the old Hershey plantation, but there's no way to know when it will arrive and some days it doesn't show up at all). This is why, as I may have mentioned before, living in Germany doesn't prepare you to live anywhere else in the world. In most places people, and trains and buses, are sometimes late (but hopefully show up on the same day).

I most recently waited at the Kröpcke clock for two people who come from the polar opposite - culturally and almost geographically - of German punctuality. Olga from Colombia and Surama from Cuba are hard-wired for la hora Latina. Latin time runs anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes later than German time. If my Latina friends call at the time we are supposed to meet and say, "I'm on the way," that means they are about to leave the house. Since I'm chronically 5 minutes late (sometimes a little more), they make me look good.

I wonder about the people hanging around the Kröpcke clock. If everyone arrives on time, then nobody in Hannover would stand by the clock for more than 43 seconds. Are they showing up early? Are the friends they plan to meet not German? What's going on?

The friends I was meeting, despite not being German, showed up within the hour. We all laughed about it as the clock ticked away behind us.

From the left: Olga, me and Surama

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About Me

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Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.