Glorious Germany

Date Posted: 02/10/2012

Whether you take a walk in the Black Forest, go with the flow down a river or explore a captivating city, Germany gives you plenty to write home about.

Picturesque themed driving routes, chocolate box castles, romantic rivers winding through wine growing regions, medieval towns and diverse cities are all part of Germany’s appeal. The country offers a wide variety of attractions for groups and there are always new things to discover. Gute Reise - have a good trip!

Once upon a time….

There were two brothers who enchanted - and scared - generations of youngsters worldwide with fairy stories such as Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood and the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the deaths of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who both died in 1863. Groups can relive their childhood and create their own adventure with a journey along the 370-mile Fairytale Road that follows in the footsteps of the brothers and the soaring castles, enchanting cobbled towns and beautiful countryside that inspired their tales.

The route starts in their birthplace, Hanau, close to Frankfurt, and finishes in Bremen near Hamburg. Throughout 2013 special events will be held along the route including Kassel, where they lived for more than 30 years. There is already a permanent museum dedicated to their life and work in the town and from April to September a special exhibition will be held in the Documenta Hall. A full programme of events is available.

Musical celebrations

In 2013 music lovers will commemorate the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner’s birth and the 130th anniversary of his death. The composer is best-known for the Ride of the Valkyries from his opera Die Walkure and the Wedding March (Bridal Chorus) from Lohengrin. The Wagner Year celebrations are centred on Leipzig, where he was born, and Bayreuth, which is closely associated with his work through the annual Bayreuth Festival, which he founded.  Special events and performances will be held in both cities.

The large stage at the Margravial Opera House originally attracted Wagner to Bayreuth in Bavaria, the scenic region that’s home to the Black Forest, Germany’s most popular tourist destination. Margravial is considered to be the most beautifully preserved baroque opera house in Europe and this summer it was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list. 

City living

Germany boasts many distinctive cities and Berlin is the obvious choice for groups visiting for the first time. The capital city is packed with sights ranging from historic reminders of the time when it was a divided city to countless museums and fantastic shopping streets. Munich, the Bavarian capital is renowned for Oktoberfest that attracts more than six million people each year, and is high on cultural appeal with nearly 300 churches including the old town’s church with its distinctive onion towers.

The harbour city of Hamburg, with several waterways running through its centre, has a very cosmopolitan feel coupled with maritime charm whilst Cologne, founded by the Romans, is one of Germany’s oldest cities and renowned for its rich architectural history. Frankfurt, Germany’s financial capital on the River Main, is dominated by more skyscrapers than any other German city leading to the nickname ‘Mainhatten’ and it’s hard to believe the beautiful half-timbered buildings around Romer Square were built in the late 20th century. Historic old world charm and cobbled streets can be found in Heidelberg, overlooked by an impressive castle.

Stuttgart, has an excellent performing arts scene and appeals to car enthusiasts with its Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums, and musical Leipzig, the largest city in the state of Saxony, is home to one of Germany’s oldest and most famous boys’ choirs, St Thomas.

Five lesser-known German gems

Erfurt: Thuringia’s medieval regional capital is a city of towers and bridges with 25 parish churches, 15 abbeys and monasteries and ten chapels rising into the sky and 142 bridges spanning the river Gera,
Freiburg: Germany’s southernmost and sunniest major town has a relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere.  
Trier: UNESCO-listed Trier is Germany’s oldest city and an important site for classical monuments and art treasures.
Ulm: Divided by the Danube the historic fortified town of Ulm is overlooked by the landmark Ulm Minster, the ‘finger of God’, which is the highest church tower in the world.
Wiesbaden: The elegant state capital of Hessen is one of Europe’s oldest and finest spa resorts.

Push the boat out

A river cruise is a relaxing way to take in some of Germany’s most beautiful scenery and stop in the heart of towns and cities en route. Added benefits include only having to unpack once and all meals and excursions included in the price of the cruise, plus discounts for group bookings.

The Rhine is Europe’s most popular river for cruising, winding through the lush valleys of Germany’s wine-growing regions with castles perched on the banks. The stretch between Cologne and Mainz, with the legendary Lorelei rock, is particularly scenic. From the Rhine many itineraries join the Main river to travel through beautiful Bavarian countryside with stops at Frankfurt, medieval Bamberg, Nuremberg and pretty Regensburg with its 12th century stone bridge.

The inspiration behind the famous waltz by Johann Strauss, the blue Danube is another enchanting river that runs through Germany and popular stops along the way include Passau where the cathedral is home of Europe’s largest pipe organ. A cruise along the Elbe will typically start or finish in Berlin and cities along the route include Dessau, Wittenberg, Meissen, where groups can visit the famous porcelain factory, and Dresden, known as the ‘Florence of the Elbe ‘and where the Frauenkirche church, one of the most impressive examples of post-war reconstruction, dominates the skyline. 

Architect’s anniversary

The Bauhaus movement was regarded as a ground-breaking example of modern architecture in the early 20th century, with buildings constructed for functionality with clean lines and little ornamentation. Architect Henry van de Velde had a great influence on the movement and in 2013 it will be the 150th anniversary of his birth. Groups will find the best examples of Bauhaus buildings in Weimar in the central state of Thuringia and Dessau in neighbouring Saxony-Anhalt.

Three top sights

1. Cologne Cathedral: One of the world’s finest churches, the twin-spired cathedral is the largest in Germany and a Cologne landmark.
2. Neuschwanstein Castle: The fairytale castle built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, perched on a steep cliff against an alpine backdrop, is said to be the most photographed building in Germany.
3. Brandenburg Gate: This monumental gate was built in the 18th century as a symbol of peace and during the Cold War its position near the border between for the former East and West Germany made it poignant reminder of a divided city.

German essentials

Eat: German food is hearty and meat-based (there are 1,500 types of sausages alone). But there is plenty of variety, with many regional specialities, and excellent fish and game. Typical dishes include kartoffelsuppe, potato, onion and bacon soup served with thick pieces of sausage - a meal in itself - and sauerbraten, a pot roast usually made with beef.

Drink: Germany’s 13 wine growing regions produce excellent wines that are a far cry from the sweet imports that gave many Brits their first taste of wine. More than 1,200 breweries produce 5,000 varieties of beer and fiery schnapps is often ordered with beer and not just drunk as an after-dinner tipple.

Try: White sausages, a Bavarian speciality that taste much nicer than they look and are served with sweet mustard, pretzels and weissbier, or wheat beer.

Buy: Cuckoo clocks, hand-carved wooden toys and crafts, traditional stone beer mugs and Christmas decorations.

Go: Germany is a year-round destination and spring and autumn, when weather is similar to the UK, are ideal times to visit. Winters are colder, creating a lovely atmosphere for Christmas markets, and summers can be hot.  

Fact File

Flight time: Between 1hr 30min and 2hr.

Eurolines coaches operate services from London to 25 German destinations from London Victoria coach station. Eurostar trains run from London St Pancras International to Brussels and Paris with onward connections to to Germany on efficient inter-city express and regional trains. Although there no longer direct sailings to Germany, ferries sail from the UK to France, Belgium and Holland with onward driving distances to Germany as little as two hours.

Time difference: GMT + 1hr.
Currency: Euro.
Language: German, with English widely spoken.

Photo Credit: GNTB Hans Peter Merten

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