September, 2000
Hanover Expo 2000
By George Takei

HANOVER, Germany - What a perfect combination it was! A Star Trek convention and a World Expo, both in the astonishingly engaging city of Hanover, Germany.

Star Trek is a future-oriented show with a philosophy of responsibility for the environment we inhabit. The Hanover World Expo is an international fair with a strategy not only of displaying today's cutting edge technology together with ecological consciousness, but of planning that consciousness into the urban design of the long-term development of Hanover. And the city of Hanover that I visited this month was at once gracious and raucous, urban and sylvan, traditional and boldly moving into the future. It was a fascinating visit and I had a great time.

The Expo Trek convention was a wonderful extended family reunion. I visited with fans who had become friends over the years from the countless conventions and cruises we had shared. But this Star Trek convention was unique. Creative convention organizers par excellence, Dirk Bartholomae and Gerhard Raible, put this one in a huge revival meeting tent on a rustic campground. They included thought-provoking panel discussion topics new to Star Trek conventions on human rights and religious diversity. The topics seemed particularly pertinent in a Germany that is experiencing a disturbing resurgence of neo-Nazi activities. These panels were the sobering issues part of a wholly uplifting convention. The ovation at the conclusion of the closing ceremony, with sunflower presentations, was overwhelming. The fans "transported" me - with no help needed from Scotty at all.

The Expo, too, was transporting in its own extraordinary way - figuratively as well as literally. What first struck me was its size. It was vast. The guides told me it covered 160 hectares, which meant nothing to me. But I could see from the transport pod that carried me high above the expo grounds that 160 hectares was enormous. From this bird's eye view, I saw buildings in the shape of cones, pyramids, cubes, domes and countless other variations on geometric forms. A few even looked like shuttlecrafts and starships. Some were made of glass, others shone metallically and some had shimmering sheets of water cascading down its skin. They were strikingly futuristic. The guide told me that the theme of the Expo was "Humankind - Nature - Technology: A New World Arising."

All of the pavilions, however, were not avant-garde New World. Some, like those representing Bhutan, Thailand and Nepal, were decidedly traditional. They recreated richly ornate, time-honored temple structures of their respective cultures. Yemen even built a replica of a middle-eastern palace surrounded by a swarming market bazaar. They looked strangely anachronistic, and, to me, rather unexciting.

The most successful pavilions, I thought, were the ones that most imaginatively addressed the use of technology in humankind's relationship to nature. The Japan Pavilion was a spectacular example. It was an immense structure, but at the same time, light, graceful and undulating. The soaring vault-like construction was made entirely of recycled paper. The support structure members were made of paper rolled up tight and hard into rods as strong as bamboo poles. These brown bamboo-like tubes were woven in great arches to shape the multi-story structure. A white, translucent, weather resistant skin made of a combination of paper and plastic covered this construction. The brown bamboo-like poles formed an elegantly lacy pattern outlined by the soft white natural light seeping through the luminous skin. The pavilion was altogether fresh, strikingly contemporary and subtly Japanese in its aesthetics.

The pavilion representing the Netherlands also impressed me. The structure covered only 10 percent of the land. The rest was a vast garden landscape representing the varied flora of Holland. This land use illustrated the Dutch talent for making optimum use of their scarce land reclaimed from the sea. The pavilion itself was a wondrous structure stacked onto six levels, each lush with the elements of nature. I took the elevator to the top and gradually worked my way down either ramps or stairways. The roof level was a body of water with a grassy island in the middle with windmills as an alternative form of energy production. I descended to the next level, which was a theater and exhibition area sheltered from the outside by a curtain wall of water representing rainfall. The next level down was a living forest with real trees imported from Holland. The support structure holding up the upper levels were natural tree trunks. Each descending level artfully displayed the diverse flora of the land and the peoples' interrelationship with nature. The Netherlands Pavilion succeeded wonderfully in presenting virtually every facet of the life of the Dutch people and capturing the theme of the Expo in a limited space.

Limited space is a challenge but so is time. I had only scratched the surface of this gigantic exposition. There were many other tantalizing pavilions I wanted to visit but time was my great limitation. What I did experience, however, was dazzling. I will savor the memory for a lifetime.

I wanted to make time for Hanover itself. The city was a delightful discovery. Among Germans, Hanover has the reputation of being a staid, rather boring municipality. I discovered that to be totally false. The people were warm and gracious. The hospitality of Claudia Wolff and her mother Karin, both natives of Hanover and fans who have become friends, and a host of others like Sussanne, Andreas, Jan, and Filip, was terrific. Their love for Hanover was infectious. I came to love the city as well.

Hanover is most certainly not a staid city. I was introduced to how wildly riotous it can be on a Saturday afternoon. From morning on, I kept hearing an unrelenting, rhythmic drumbeat off in the distance. It seemed to be coming closer to my hotel. I asked the clerk at the reception desk about it. He smiled a cryptically insinuating smile and informed me that it was the Reincarnation Parade held annually in Hanover. It sounded like some religious observance to me. When the parade finally arrived, however, wildly thumping dance music and all, I discovered to my wide eyed amazement that what I had thought to be a spiritual pageant was, instead, the most outlandish rave parade I had ever seen. Actually, it was the first one I'd ever seen -- mile after unending mile of writhing, swaying bodies - some with very little on - dancing in sheer ecstasy. In fact, more than a few seemed to be on some chemical ecstasy. There were flat bed trucks overflowing with prancing, jiggling bodies. There were double-decker buses crammed with dancing bodies. And the street was a sea of writhing, surging bacchanalia. I'm from Hollywood but Hanover sure showed me a thing or two. One thing for sure - Hanover ain't staid.

And Hanover is urbane. The centerpiece of the city is it's "new" town hall or rathaus built in 1913. The neo-Renaissance building with its high domed cupola looming over the city was damaged badly during the bombing of the Second World War but has been carefully rebuilt. In the great rotunda are four large models of Hanover at different periods in its history. The model of the ruined city in 1945 was a sobering reminder of the madness of war. Andreas and Sussanne took me up to the very top of the building in a unique incline elevator that traverses the curve of the dome. The view from the top was breathtaking. On another morning, Claudia, who works in the city's urban planning department, took me for a walk around the lovely park and pond behind the town hall. She told me that Hanover is a city that loves its parks and gardens and is considered one of the greenest cities in Germany. I agreed. I told her I loved my hotel overlooking a man made lake, Maschsee, with a forested park around it with running, walking and bicycling paths. I jogged around the lake every morning.

Hanover is, as well, a sophisticated modern city. There is a controversial new bank high rise building looming up over the treetops. Some in Hanover are opposed to the glassy new presence on the skyline and others love it. The debate is healthy evidence of the passion the people feel for their city. I think it is a dazzling building and will be an enhancement of the Hanover skyline as well as its streetscape. I'll stay tuned to the debate.

On a trolley ride through the city, I noticed another eye-catching new building under construction. The medium rise office structure was twisted in place with staggered window placements, like a building caught in the middle of a whirlwind. I recognized it instantly as the signature style of Californian architect, Frank Gehry who designed the much-discussed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

I was visually stopped even by some of the trolley stops. They were contemporary art pieces in themselves. One was a fanciful composition of bright yellow and black blocks. Another looked like a sculptural tortoise shell. We rode past the once controversial, now much loved Nana statues - three colorfully whimsical polyester sculptures of rotund dancing female figures - sort of like sculptural rave dancers in the Reincarnation Parade. Taking the trolley through the streets of Hanover was like a trip through an outdoor contemporary art gallery. Hanover is a bold, culturally venturesome city.

It also seems to be a foresighted planner of its urban development. Claudia showed me a model in the lobby of her office building of a new town called Kronsberg being built in concert with the Expo. The residential units built for the staff of Expo will become housing for the Kronsberg community to come. The new public transportation system built for Expo will also be the transit system to support the new town. The structures built for Expo itself will be reused after the exposition as cinemas, academic institutions, and retail and office buildings that will become a part of the Kronsberg job, shopping, education and service sector. Small community green space is either already built or designed into the future residential districts. Rainwater is planned to be captured and recycled to keep the public parks lush and green. The Expo theme of "Humankind - Nature - Technology: A New World Arising" is not just a trendy slogan. It is indeed the driving philosophy of this fascinating city. I know I'll be coming back to Hanover to see how this New World rises in the future.



George Takei Statement on Proposition 8

Andrew Koenig

Majel Barrett Roddenberry

George Takei Statement on William Shatner

Marriage Equality Comes to California

You Gotta Have Friends

George Takei on Casting of John Cho as Sulu

Second Wind

George's Statement on the Star Trek Feature Daily Variety Story

The Forty-Year Trek

Why Howard Stern?

January, 2006
The Year of Equus

Tribute to Pat Morita

November, 2005
Equality and Justice For All

Tribute to Jimmy

May, 2005
Catfish, Scholars, and a Geisha Party

April, 2005
Two Surprising Gifts

March, 2005
Measuring TV Viewers

February, 2005
Oscars: the Luckiest of the Best

January, 2005
New York, New York

December, 2004
Tsunami of Compassion

November, 2004
An Emperor, Abe Lincoln, and Four Presidents

October, 2004
Fund-raising with fun raising

September, 2004
Life Interrupted

August, 2004
Celebrating Three Legends

July, 2004
Dense Enrichment

June, 2004
Seattle: The Crucible of Imagination

May, 2004
High Times Down Under

April, 2004
Trekkin' in Japan

March, 2004
An Actor's New York

February, 2004
They Call Her Osama

January, 2004
Caribbean Seatrek

December, 2003
My Arkansas Roots

November, 2003
A Month of Glory and Fury

October, 2003
Jet Lag Reminiscences

September, 2003
Supporters and Whoopee!

August, 2003
Beaming Back in Time

July, 2003
Hawaii, Chicago, Tulsa and Kiribati

June, 2003
A Salute to Liberty

May, 2003
Renewal and Nurturing

April, 2003
The Human Spirit

March, 2003
An Anglophile Angeleno

February, 2003
NASA Must Rise Again

January, 2003
A Shiny Double Bow

December, 2002
Holiday Reflections

November, 2002
"Omiyage" Gifts from Japan

October, 2002
Historic Travels

September, 2002
Oscar-Winning Movies

August, 2002
Summer Visitors

July, 2002
Mama's "Pacific Overtures"

June, 2002
Fumiko Emily Takei, 1912 - 2002

May, 2002
Flight of Angels

April, 2002
Surviving a Texas Storm

March, 2002
Hooray for Hollywood; Boo on Secession

February, 2002
Sacramento Roots

January, 2002
Bearing Witness

December, 2001
A Hundred Million Miracles

November, 2001
Serendipitous London

October, 2001
The Aftermath

September 11, 2001
A Special Message

September, 2001
Summertime at the Hollywood Bowl

August, 2001
Voice Transporter

July, 2001
Two American Monuments

June, 2001
Luck Be a Lady

May, 2001
A Global Banquet Table

April, 2001
Joy and Disappointment

March, 2001
Two Guys Named David

February, 2001
Wisdom from a Volcano

January, 2001
Millennial London

December, 2000
Japan - From the Past to the Cutting Edge

November, 2000
Counting My Blessings

October, 2000
The Mother of an Actor

September, 2000
Hanover Expo 2000

August, 2000
Rockin' in the Northwest

July, 2000
Global Interchange

June, 2000
Sky High Challenge

May, 2000
A Month of Theater

April, 2000
Excelsior Passion

March, 2000
Alien World Right Below

February, 2000
Hawaii Connections

January, 2000
A New Beginning

December, 1999
Millennium Musings

November, 1999
Power of Ingenuity

October, 1999
Back to a Diverse Future

September, 1999
Our Human Linkage

August, 1999
Equatorial Launch to the Stars

July, 1999
Celebration of Diversity

The Official Website of George Takei is Copyright Hosato Enterprises, Inc. 1999-2015 All Rights Reserved