Put some oom-pah in your holiday

Date Posted: 18/05/2010

Jeannine Williamson explores Germany.

With its exciting and diverse cities, scenic themed driving routes and beautiful rivers meandering through wine growing regions, Germany offers a wide variety of attractions for groups.

Berlin, Germany’s capital, is the top city destination. Nine times bigger than Paris, it caters for all tastes with everything from iconic landmarks and magnificent museums to legendary music halls. Munich may be famous for beer, but its 300 churches have led to it being dubbed the German Rome and it’s high on cultural appeal. Cologne is Germany’s oldest major city, and one of its most picturesque, and Hamburg has a lively maritime tradition. Cologne and Frankfurt are both ideal bases to explore the picturesque Rhine Valley.

Whether you plan to take a walk in the Black Forest or visit the rebuilt Frauenkirche church that has become a symbol of Dresden, Germany’s efficient transport system and road infrastructure makes the country easy to explore. Gute Reise - have a good trip!

Ruhr 2010

Germany is celebrating a first this year with the Ruhr region, once Europe’s biggest industrial area, becoming a groundbreaking European Capital of Culture. Previously the title has always gone to a single city and it is the first time a metropolitan area has earned the distinction.

A fascinating destination for fans of industrial heritage, the sites of former coal mines, steel plants and coke ovens have been transformed into venues embracing art, culture and entertainment. A host of themed events are taking place throughout the rest of the year to raise the profile of the Ruhr as an offbeat destination. Bochum is being showcased for its festivals and theatre, Dortmund as the creative city, Duisburg the port of culture, Essen for arts, and Oberhausen as a spectacular city

New museum at Potsdam

Potsdam, south west of Berlin, is famous for Sanssouci, the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. Surrounded by follies and temples, the Rococo building is part of Germany’s largest World Heritage Site and is often described as the German Versailles.

The city’s latest attraction is a new museum at Villa Schoningen near the Glienicker Bridge. It tells the poignant story of the bridge that became known as ‘Bridge of Spies’ as it was the preferred location for exchanging captured spies and prisoners between 1962 and 1986. With the border between east and west running through its centre, the bridge became an internationally famous symbol of German division and the Cold War.

Approaching the subject through the eyes of victims, perpetrators and local people, the museum houses historical artefacts and interactive displays. There is discounted admission for groups and guided tours are available.

Move up a gear

Situated in the heart of one of Germany’s largest wine growing regions, Stuttgart is capital of Baden-Wurttemberg in south western Germany. Cobbled streets rub shoulders with contemporary architecture, and in addition to its fantastic art museums Stuttgart should certainly be considered as a pit stop for groups interested in cars.

The Mercedes Benz Museum opened in 2006 and since January last year the Porsche Museum has showcased Germany’s sleek sporty export. The Mercedes museum covers more than 120 years of automobile history over three floors and exhibits include early limousines and sports cars and the Blitzen Benz, which broke the world speed record at Daytona Beach in 1911.

Over at the Porsche Museum there are more than 80 cars on display, from the world’s first hybrid automobile built as far back as 1900, to the latest generation of the Porsche 911.

Make a splash

Thrill-seeking groups will want to make a stop at Euro-park, Germany’s largest theme park. Situated in Rust, in the Black Forest, the park is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

With 100 rides themed around European countries (including Merry Old England!), it is home to Silver Star, billed as Europe’s highest and largest rollercoaster. New this year is Whale Adventures, based on an exciting trip through the seas around volcanic Iceland. The park offers group rates and benefits for parties of 20 or more.

Hamburg rocks

Germany’s second largest city combines grand merchants’ houses and magnificent promenades with the lively St Pauli quarter, creating a cosmopolitan feel. Also famous for its classical and contemporary musical heritage, The Beatles spent two of their most formative years playing in Hamburg clubs. When they arrived in 1960 the line-up was John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best.

Half a century after their first gig in Hamburg fans can embark on a new magical mystery tour that traces the group’s German connections. Recently opened Beatlemania is spread over five floors, with many original and unusual exhibits on display for the first time. From their days in Hamburg to the final break-up, the music and history of The Beatles comes to life through 11 themed exhibits. Discounts are available for groups of 15 or more.

Christmas markets

The first ever Christmas market, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt, was recorded as far back as 1434. Today markets are held in virtually every town and city from the last weekend in November to Christmas Eve.

Christmas markets are always a huge hit with groups, and their unique ambience is guaranteed to put everyone in the festive spirit. Colourful stalls are laden with festive decorations, candles, jewellery and toys, while food stands sell typical specialities such as mulled wine, spiced bread, gingerbread, hot chestnuts and roasted almonds.

Some of the best-known markets can be found in Cologne, which hosts six markets including one with 160 wooden pavilions set against the dramatic backdrop of the cathedral, Berlin, Munich, Nuremberg and Leipzig - the latter being home to the world’s largest advent calendar.

German essentials

Eat: Although dedicated diners could track down more than 300 different types of bread and 1,500 types of sausages and cold meats, there’s much more to Germany’s famously filling and hearty fare. Every region has its own local cuisine with typical specialities. Although traditionally meat-based, with a particular leaning towards pork, there are more vegetarian options than a few years ago, plus wonderfully fresh fish from rivers and lakes

Drink: Germany’s 13 wine growing regions produce excellent wines. They’re a far cry from the sweet imports that gave many Brits their first taste of wine, and possibly coloured their perception of German wines for many years afterwards. Whilst three-quarters of German wines are white, red wine is produced between Landau and Mainz, including smooth Portugieser and powerful Dornfelder.

Try: You don’t need to visit Munich’s world famous Oktoberfest to enjoy an atmospheric taste of Germany’s equally renowned beer. Many of the larger towns and cities have beer halls and summer beer gardens, often featuring live ‘oom-pah’ bands. If your group members are thirsty they should order ‘ein Mass’, one litre, otherwise ask for ‘ein halb’ for a half measure.

Buy: Wooden toys, dolls, beer mugs, lacework and gingerbread are popular souvenirs. Bavaria and the Black Forest are famous for cuckoo clocks and beautiful glass items, and groups can watch glassblowers at work. Comfortable Birkenstock shoes have been manufactured in Germany since 1774 and are cheaper than at home.

Go: A year-round destination, temperatures tend to be more extreme than the UK, with hotter summers and colder, snowy winters. The best weather is between May and October.

Top three sites

1. Brandenburg Gate: Formerly a symbol of the division of the city, Berlin’s signature attraction is a potent reminder of German history.

2. Cologne Cathedral: A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the twin spired cathedral is the largest in Germany and one of the world’s finest churches.

3. Neuschwanstein Castle: The fairytale castle built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, perched on a steep cliff against an alpine backdrop, has an equally breathtaking interior filled with gilded objects, huge mirrors and glittering chandeliers.

Factfile

Getting there: Direct flights operate from London and regional airports to all major German cities. Airlines include Air Berlin, BMI, British Airways, easyJet, Germanwings, Lufthansa and Ryanair.

Flight time: Between 1hr and 2hr

Time difference: GMT + 1hr

Currency: Euro.Language: German, with English widely spoken

Red tape: No visas or vaccinations needed.

Useful contact:

German National Tourist Office:
020-7317 0908
www.germany-tourism.co.uk

 

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