Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony)

Any trip in Niedersachsen would have to start in HANNOVER, the largest city. In old Saxon, Hon Overe supposedly means something like "High Bank", at least that's what the crappy tour guides would have you believe. But in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The town was bombed to smithereens in WWII, and the Brits wanted to remane it Hang over, but they couldn't spell. However, that is more approriate, because given the rich soccer tradition combined with the massive CeBit computer faire, Hannover has something for everybody.

One of the more disgraceful things in German soccer, aside from Essen and Düsseldorf, is Hannover's inability to field a first rate team. Nevertheless, there is a rich tradition of clubs, led by Hannover 96, the traditional club that was once close to bankruptcy. Since then, they've recovered. Another feisty club is Arminia Hannover. The suburb of Ricklingen produces SpFr Ricklingen. One of the great mysteries pondered in the fanzine Elfmeter researches the fate of OSV Hannover, which had a bit role in the old Regionalliga Nord in the 1970s before disappearing from sight.

Aside from soccer, the other important thing about Hannover is that it is host to the huge CeBit computer show, perhaps the largest in the world. If you're reading these pages, you're probably a computer nerd, so you would definitely want to check that out. Another attraction is Hannover's brewing tradition, led by Lindener Gilde, which has brewed the popular Broyhan Alt for over 450 years, and their rivals from Herrenhausen. There are also several brewery pubs worth additional research, such as the famous Hannenfass or Brauhaus Ernst August. Given all the activity, you may have to spend more than a weekend.

Heading north off highway 3 for about 30km, we come to the small town of CELLE. Not much to do here except try and find traces of the mysterious soccer team, TuS Celle FC , which changes it's name every year to confuse the taxman, no doubt. By the time you get there, they will have changed their name again, probably to FC Celle TuS. If you find them, you will get to see a crappy team, but nevertheless, it's worth checking out. While doing your research, stop by the Bier-Akademie on Am Weißen Wall, or the Gastätte Urtrüb-Klause to sample the famed Celler Urtrüb or Cellenser-Bock.

Over 100 km south of Braunschweig, off Autobahn-7, we come to the world famous university town of GÖTTINGEN, and like all world famous university towns, the local soccer club sucks. But on the way, take the turnoff onto highway 3 to the tiny town of EINBECK. This is famous as the orginal home of the Bockbier.In the middle ages there were some 700 (!!) breweries, although today, only one is in operation, Einbecker-Brauerei. After sampling, get back on highway-7 and continue on to the town of NORTHEIM, which is pretty much a "get out-of-town quick" locale. However, history students will be interested that this was the disguised "Thalburg" in William Allen's study The Nazi Seizure of Power. He changed the names and disguised the location to protect the folks he interviewed. In fact, he did such a good job, it took the German press almost 24 hrs to figure out the location. Hopefully he's not in charge of the Witness Protection Program. OK, nice stop, and we're finally back in our world famous university town of Göttingen. There are lots of things to do, so even if you are unable to catch the local soccer club, Göttingen 05 (named 05 because that's the usual score 0-5), you will be glad you stopped by. (2004 update: G05 will be a bit harder to catch, since they went bellyup in 2003...)

About 50km east of Hannover is it's main rival for eastern Niedersachsen supremacy, the city of BRAUNSCHWEIG. It's full of cathedrals, museums and other worthless things, usually concentrated around the Burgplatz in the Altstadt. Actually, it may be worth checking out, since there is a statue of the Burglöwe, the city lion statue, which is one of the oldest in Europe. This also gives the local soccer clubs at least some logic in favoring this as their symbol, such as the local club Eintracht Braunschweig.

About 50 km east of Braunschweig we come to WOLFSBURG, which is basically on the map because this is the headquarters of Volkswagen. Over half the 130,000 inhabitants are said to work for VW. There isn't much to see in this company town, although if you're interested in industrial manufacturing and robotics, daily tours of the plant are available. Of greater interest is of course the local soccer club, VfL Wolfsburg, which proudly carries the "VW" logo smack in the middle of the jersey.

Western Niedersachen is less populated, and therefore is not as rich in soccer potential. The city of OSNABRÜCK is worth a stop, as this is the home of one of the north's perennial lower division powerhouses, VfL Osnabrück . The town itself is actually more closely associated with Westfalen than Niedersachsen. Every tour guide points out that the "Peace of Westphalia" treaty was signed here in 1648. It is also the birthplace of Erich Maria Remarque, whose literary opus, All Quiet on the Western Front (Im Westen Nichts Neues) chronicles VfL Osnabrück's desperate attempt for Aufsteig. Or so they say....

Now I suppose we could have entertained the local fancy and included them in the Westphalia chapter, but no matter which way you slice it, the clubs play in the Oberliga Nord, not Oberliga Westfalen. So until they get their act together and overthrow their lords in Hannover, I'll keep them in the "north section".

Tucked away near the Dutch border, in the middle of nowhere, is the town of MEPPEN. Not much here, but it's worth a stop because of the feisty local soccer club SV Meppen. About 20 miles east, you'll find the village of Haselunne, and continuing on another 3km, the village of HERZLAKE, along the Hase river. The small club VfL Herzlake holds court here. Closer to the Dutch city of Enschede is the small town of NORDHORN. If you're stuck with nothing to do before heading over the border to see Schalke friend FC Twente Enschede, you could do worse than grab a couple of brews and watch Eintracht Nordhorn , the local club.

(c) Abseits Guide to Germany :