The heart of Europe, is very much the heart of Europe. Despite, or perhaps because of its dark recent history, Germany has developed into a tolerant nation seeking compromise rather than confrontation. These days it is a place people run to, rather than run from.
Germany is one part traditional, and one part hip. It is old medieval villages versus modern architecture. It is punk with lederhosen. It is bratwurst and kebab.
‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ Kennedy famously said, and it seems he was prescient as everybody wants to be one at the moment. Berlin is the place to be for the young and happening. It is, once again, the avant-garde capital of the world with a vibrant artist and underground scene. But there is more. Germany is a nation of forests and rolling hills with quaint villages hidden in its folds. Down south the Alps form the perfect backdrop for fairy-tale castles. For the thirsty it might be comforting to know there is an endless variety of beer to be had, culminating in the bacchanalian party known as the Octoberfest in Munich. You can whisk around on the autobahn, or take a slow boat down the Rhine, admiring a scenery of vineyards, fortresses and traditional hamlets, perhaps stopping to try one of the many white wines that are produced. In the north Hamburg has exciting nightlife, and a big music scene. For a look at what made Germany great, head towards the Ruhr area with its heritage of heavy industries and mines. More sobering sights are the notorious labour and concentration camps, as well as remnants of the Cold War in the east. And if you are feeling a bit peckish after all that sightseeing, German food is hearty and filling and there is plenty to choose from.
Eat bratwurst and sauerkraut like the locals, get yourself a maß (one litre glass) of beer and strap on those lederhosen, it is time to go German!
Highlights from Germany
- Berlin, capital of the unified Germany and bohemian capital of Europe, find the underground scenes, from artists to punk bands to dance parties in old ware-houses. Stroll under Brandenburger Tor and Unter der Linden, find the remnants of the Berlin Wall, and contemplate the horrors of the holocaust at the Holocaust Memorial
- Head down to Bavaria (aka Bayern) for the Octoberfest in Munich (aka München) and don’t forget your lederhosen!
- Visit Neushwanstein Castle, a fairy-tale concoction with a sublime location
- Take a cruise down the Rhine (aka Rhein)or a ride through the Mosel Valley (aka Moseltal) full of vineyards, quaint German villages and castles
- See the Reeperbahn where the Beatles began their career in Hamburg
- Stroll through Dresden, the Venice of the east
- Understand Germany’s terrible past at Dachau Concentration Camp
- Climb the Kölner Dom in Cologne (aka Köln)
- Visit Bamberg a World Heritage Site and as medieval as you can find it, or alternatively try Rothenburg ob der Tauber which is equally impressive
- Breathe in some fresh sea-air on the German island of Rügen
Hints and Tips for Germany
- The German autobahns are famous for having no speed-limits, however this is only partially the fact, nowadays most sections have a speed-limit, so keep your eye on the signs unless you want a fine!
- Germany has a great selection of food, wines and beers, try them! Supermarkets are inexpensive and a great way to eat good with a tight budget.
- Public transport is superb in Germany, with fast trains, buses, metros, boats and much more to choose from. Make use of it and peruse the internet for good deals.
- While English isn’t as widely understood and spoken as in some of the smaller European countries, Germans, and the youth especially, are becoming better and better at it. Compared to France, Spain or Italy, Germans are miles ahead and you should get by just fine in most places.
- There is a good selection of hostels all over the country, another option to keep costs down is camping, there are plenty of places where you can do so.