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Germany

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Did You Know…?

  • German cities and towns stage about 2,500 Christmas markets.
  • Although noted as beer lovers, Germans now spend more on wine than beer each year.
  • The Baedeker guidebooks were created in Koblenz in 1827 to end the need for tour guides.
  • Bratwurst, frankfurters, sauerbraten and sauerkraut were created to prevent food spoilage.
  • Friedrich Froebel founded the first kindergarten in Bad Blankenburg (1840).

From Hamburg to Munich

From the harbor town Hamburg and sophisticated Berlin in the north to Munich and the Black Forest in the south, Germany presents many faces to the ambitious sightseer — mountains and forests, small towns and quaint villages, bustling cities and lively night scenes, beer halls and wine festivals, lakes and river ways, ancient castles, churches, concert halls and museums. In addition, many sites bespeak the country’s long and complex history, most recently reunification of a land split by war.

The Germans are welcoming, many speak English and the country is viewed as “clean and well-kept,” and safe. Americans are generally comfortable here.

Visitors can race from town to town on the autobahn or cruise leisurely along the Rhine, with nearly every bend exposing a view of charming villages or medieval castles. In the cultural centers of Munich and Berlin, travelers enjoy the music from German composers, as well as the art and architecture that still are very impressive despite the destruction from two world wars. In fact, cultural treats of the same sort abound in cities across the country.

Having seen Germany heal the post-World War II split in its land makes travel here even more compelling to those interested in military and political history. Tourist travel remains more focused on the west, but there are many worthwhile attractions in the eastern sector.

German food gets a bad rap as being heavy and bland, but German cuisine in its native land is delicious and innovative. The Rhine and Moselle valleys produce white wines that compare favorably with those of any country. And any aficionado will tell you that nothing compares to German draft beer in a biergarten (beer garden), especially during Oktoberfest.

The hotels are good, and — for those not on a packaged tour — an excellent train system makes it easy to get around the country without a car. Also, more than one company organizes bicycle tours with a theme (wine country or historical castles, for example). This is a great way to see the sights from a new perspective. The country offers a great deal of variety for a visitor.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Celebrate Oktoberfest in Bavaria (late September through October). It’s a lot more fun than the pale imitations in the U.S., and you’ll taste your fill of German food and beer.
  • Run a marathon in Germany. Berlin’s may be the best known, but there are others.
  • If supersonic jets interest you, Germany has the only museum with two. The Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim has an Air France Concorde plus a Soviet TU-144. The Soviets built 17 SSTs but operated only 102 scheduled flights.
  • Join a class at the Meissen porcelain factory in Meissen where you can try painting porcelain yourself. Also, dine on Meissen pieces in the Cafe and Restaurant Meissen.
  • Ride in the Erzgebirgs Bike Marathon, held each August in Saxony. Or participate in any of a number of other mountain biking events in the region, or do some biking on your own. There are signposted trails, and for assistance, you can rely on guides available at most hotels.
  • If you like hot cars, drive to Stuttgart to see Mercedes-Benz-World and the Porsche Museum. Munich isn’t that far away; drive on down to see BMW World there.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Plan a driving trip based on a suggested itinerary created by the German National Tourist Board focused on historic half-timbered houses and the villages where they are found. The route, the Half-Timbered House Road, offers a choice of almost 100 medieval towns that show off the architecture.
  • Eat bratwurst, frankfurters, sauerbraten and sauerkraut in the land where they originated.
  • Research your German roots, at home and in Germany. Follow where that and your family records lead, but also consider visiting the German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven, Europe’s largest museum with the emigration  theme.
  • Time your trip right and attend a wine festival.
  • Depending on your inclinations, make a pilgrimage to Trier, home to the Holy Tunic, a garment supposedly worn by Christ. Or make the trip because this is Germany’s oldest city (16 B.C.), once a capital of the Western Roman Empire and loaded with Roman ruins — and festivals that recall the history.
  • Try out the Benedict Biking Trail, created to connect the points in Pope Benedict XVI’s early years in Bavaria. The 139-mile trail extends through Upper Bavaria and on to the Chiemgau region and its Lake Chiem. You can plan other (driving) itineraries, as well, built around Jewish history or the Lutheran church.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Attend a Christmas market in Germany, or visit several. Every town has at least one market, and the big cities have several, all usually operational for the last month before Dec. 25, selling gift items, scads of Christmas decorations — and toys, toys, toys. Also, mulled wine and warm food.
  • Go to Munich for the opera, but allow time for sightseeing and a beer garden.
  • Admire the exquisite art and architecture in Dresden, then arrange to tour Meissen, Europe’s oldest porcelain factory.
  • Rothenburg is a picture-perfect, much-photographed town with cobbled streets, town walls and towers. It is only one of the many sights aptly identified with a route now called the Romantic Road. The route originated as a trade and transport link between fortresses in the Middle Ages.
  • Buy cologne in Cologne.
  • Recapture the past: See Charlemagne’s throne and other artifacts at the cathedral in Aachen.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the German National Tourist Office at www.germany.travel