Difference between revisions of "Lower Saxony"
Revision as of 13:56, 19 May 2011
Lower Saxony  (German: Niedersachsen [ˈniːdərˌzaksən]) is a federal state (Bundesland, plural Bundesländer) in northwestern Germany. It is the second largest state by area (47,618 km²) and fourth largest by population (nearly eight million) among the country's sixteen states.
The predominant spoken form of German taught and spoken Lower Saxony is High German or hochdeutsch. Although there are different accents in several regions and some grammatical variations are regionally widespread, the language closely follows written German and is thus easy to understand.
In the north, Low German or plattdeutsch is widespread and even spoken alongside hochdeutsch, but it is not an official language. In some areas there are even different forms of plattdeutsch albeit very locally.
In the north and northeast, variants of the Frisian dialects are still officially recognised and spoken by a few thousands of people.
Whilst English is a compulsory foreign language for schoolchildren, many adults only have a basic knowledge of the language or are not confident enough to speak it. In tourist areas, many of the signs are in two or more languages. The German national railway, Deutsche Bahn, use two languages on all their signs and, in long-distance trains, even the announcements are also made in English.
Each state in Germany can set its own public holidays. For Lower Saxony they are:
The largest station in Lower Saxony is Hanover Central (Hauptbahnhof Hannover), which has hourly connexions to Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich as well as other long-distance destinations. It is on the high speed lines from Hanover to Würzburg and Hanover to Berlin; travel times to Hamburg are also attractive.
Other large regional hubs are Brunswick (regional services to East Germany and the Harz) and Göttingen (regional services to the South Harz).
The two largest transport associations are GVH (Großraumverkehr Hannover) in Hanover and VRB (Verbundtarif Region Braunschweig) in Brunswick. It should be noted that tickets for journeys within those transport association zones must be purchase before travelling as they are not available on the trains.
The largest motorways (autobahnen) are the A2 running from east to west and the A2 running from north to south. The A1 in the north is also an important link. The A2 has three lanes throughout, the A1 and A7 on those sections where traffic levels are highest. In spite of that all three motorways, especially the A2, are very busy, prone to accidents and thus traffic jams.
Large cities like Hanover and Brunswick have their own networks of city motorways.
Important federal roads (Bundesstraßen) are the B1, B3, B4 (Harz) and B6 (Buxtehude - Celle - Hanover). Several have also been upgraded to near-motorway standard, in that they have dual carriageways each with two lanes.
The density of fixed safety cameras varies from region to region, but they are especially common in the Harz even on steep section of road. In wooded areas the risk of accidents involving wildlife is very high; wild boar in particular can cause a lot of damage to vehicles and danger to life if struck. In rural areas, straight roads with avenues of trees are also dangerous and frequently claim lives as a result of speeding or reckless overtaking.
The largest port is Hamburg which, although not part of Lower Saxony, is embedded entirely within it on the Elbe river.
There is a special ticket called the "Niedersachsen Ticket"  which offers unlimited travel by regional trains inside Lower Saxony area, up to Bremen and Hamburg in one day. This ticket is not valid in high speed trains (D, EC, IC, ICE) so make sure you board the right trains (RE, RB, S-Bahn, Metronom) when using this ticket. It is valid from 9am to 3am the following day during weekdays and the whole day on weekends. There are two types of tickets, the group ticket (up to 5 people, €28) and the single ticket (€20). These tickets are also valid inside public transport network in some of the cities (Hanover, Hamburg, Bremen, Brunswick).