Travel in Germany may not top many peoples bucket list or be considered a sexy destination . Yet it is one of my favourite destinations. I lived there for several years, mainly in the industrial North but even here there are many pretty villages and lovely countryside like the Harz Mountains. Since moving away I’ve relished every opportunity to return, and have done so a number of times.
Many people would describe Berlin as a great city, which they have either thoroughly enjoyed or are looking forward to visiting. The remainder of Germany however remains relatively ignored and unknown.
Those that doubt the central European country’s credentials as a worthwhile destination are probably unaware of the diversity it offers. Berlin isn’t the only city worth a visit, Munich, Cologne, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Leipzig and Heidelberg have plenty to offer. History, culture, architecture, museums and much more, there’s usually a selection of international restaurants and the nightlife rarely disappoints.
Then there is Koblenz the meeting point of the Rhein and Moselle rivers, two of the great European rivers. The Rhein has its fair share of admirers but the Moselle valley is all about wine! German wines may not be as fashionable as those from other wine producing regions, but for lovers of Riesling it is paradise. This is the place to find the best of the best.
“They can even seem like giant cuckoo clocks”
However the smaller towns such as Herford, Hameln or Celle are even more pleasant. Even in the industrial north these towns can be attractive and due to their smaller size it’s often easier to find the best bars. The same people hang out in them daily, therefore it’s less difficult to find new friends.
Additionally there are hundreds of tiny hamlets spread throughout the countryside. They can appear like picture postcards, impossibly pretty, with churches, bridges, village squares, castles such as Burg Linn, near Krefeld and even the town halls that have medieval charm or gothic splendour.
They can even seem like giant cuckoo clocks or weather stations, automated puppets coming out like clockwork to welcome in each and every hour. Most Sundays, these village squares are filled with visiting families come to enjoy the show. Dad’s lift excited children onto their shoulders so they can get a better view, their ecstatic squeals giving the whole scene a carnival atmosphere.
Almost every major city holds a Christmas market, many are impressive but I also preferred those hosted in the smaller towns. It is really enjoyable to wander down to the market, sit by a stall with a glühwein and within 15 minutes be joined by several friends. The heated wine flows and the banter begins, even in the coldest weather this comradeship provides some warmth and we’re soon all laughing.
The south of the country is considered even more attractive, especially Bavaria, one of Europeans most beautiful regions. It is home to the Black Forest, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Berchtesgaden, the stunning location of Hitler’s Eagles Nest. The highest mountain in Germany, the Zugspitze is also here, and although not the loftiest alpine peak it provides outstanding views of over 400 other summits. From the top Austria, Switzerland and Italy are all visible on a clear day.
Bavaria also offers the best chance of some skiing but it is possible to get a ski fix in the Harz Mountains or Winterberg, Nord Rhein-Westphalia. The 640m AlpinCenter in Bottrop is the longest indoor ski slope in Europe for year round snowsports. Walking and climbing are other popular activities, but the adventurous will not be short of other options.
“this is the country which also brought us bratwurst”
Germanic cuisine may not be the country’s greatest selling point, being more traditional and hearty than exciting. The most famous gastronomic export is possibly sauerkraut, however this is the country which also brought us bratwurst! This we should be thankful for at least, add some hot, spicy tomato ketchup and hey presto we have currywurst.
Goulaschsuppe may strictly speaking be Hungarian but it is another favourite German dish, often especially good in autobahn service stations. Those with a sweet tooth can look forward to apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce, and every coffee shop has a wide selection of tempting cakes and pastries.
I’ve saved the best till last however, Germany is a country of beer lovers, which can possibly even rival Belgium in its enjoyment of the hops derived beverage. Altbier, Berliner Weisse, Bock, Dunkel, Gose, Hefeweizen, Kristallweizen, Kölsch, Märzen (the original Oktoberfest beer) Pils, Sticke, Rauchbier are just a few of the different types and regional beers available. It is a paradise for beer drinkers and of course there’s the Oktoberfest, which is considered one of the great annual parties of the world.
If you haven’t visited yet, I suggest travel in Germany to be worth adding to your bucket list, it will almost certainly surprise you.