Germany, a country at the very heart of Europe, is a melting pot of culture, charm and beautiful countryside although remarkably it is often overlooked as a destination for a seven night holiday or an adventure. There are however so many reasons to visit whether its for the history, the iconic cities, the countryside, those magical river cruises, the cuisine, the people or its state of the art infrastructure, efficiency and technology or should I say “Vorsprung durch Technik”.
I was therefore delighted to have been contacted by Gabriele Scholes from Hallmark Travel in East Grinstead, Sussex who asked if it would be possible to feature her blog on Germany.
While reading Gabys piece I discovered to my horror that I was one of those stereotypical visitors – I have done a couple of city breaks and I have travelled through Germany en route to Austria, Italy and back in the 70’s to Yugoslavia however I have never had a holiday in Germany.
Don’t you hate it when you are proved to have done the same as everybody else! Well if you don’t want to follow the crowd then here are some ideas of places where you can experience another side to Germany.
Inspired to Write...
The blogs on ‘Just one for the road’ have inspired me to add more and more destinations to my already long bucket list. Alas, at the moment there is no guarantee that the wonderful experience of travel will actually happen at all or, if it does, whether we will be able to enjoy it to its full potential.
So when the time is right….where do we go? If you are itching to have a break from ‘good old England’ , I would like to suggest Germany.
I am sure that many of you will have already visited, perhaps a particular city or driven through on the way to the Alps and beyond. However, the country offers so much more with the added advantage that as well as air access it can also be reached relatively easily by train or car.
Germany – A Country For Everyone…
Germany has got it all, from beaches to mountains, rivers, wine, beer and food trails to explore, medieval towns and modern cities. There are wellness and spa resorts galore, ancient woods and wide open plains, history and culture, lots of traditions and festivals – from quirky to alternative – highly sophisticated shopping and an abundance of hotels, guesthouses, camping and of course restaurants. And no, it’s not just sausages and sauerkraut and dumplings anymore; a vast array of exquisite national and international cuisine awaits you and it’s good value.
There are extensive motorways which you would hopefully not use too much unless you like to experiment and drive as fast as you dare – there is no speed limit on many. On the other side of the scale Germans love bike riding; wherever you are, there are signposted routes and often separate lanes. At an even more leisurely pace there is hiking for all ages and ability with easy to follow well maintained paths.
There is also the added advantage that most Germans speak English and menus are in both languages.
So in such a large country, where should a visitor go? Naturally it depends on the time of the year of course but here are some suggestions:
North Sea & the Baltic Coast…
Bordering the North Sea and the Baltic, the area aptly called ‘Ostsee boasts shorelines which are dotted with seaside resorts on beautiful sandy beaches, many of which have comprehensive spa facilities.
Offshore there are a number of islands, some traffic free with very high standards. Norderney, Sylt, Ruegen to name a few and at Usedom you can literally walk along the beach into Poland. These would all make great summer destinations.
Bavaria & The Alps
To the south on the Austrian border are the Bavarian Alps offering plenty of skiing and hiking with the most stunning scenery. As we are in the winter season, the famous German Christmas Markets spring to mind. There are over 3,000 now and so popular that I would advise, for next season, to seek out the smaller ones to soak up the very best atmosphere.
The German Cities …
And then from spring to autumn the country is your oyster. Enjoy a city break in cosy and beautiful Munich with its many beer gardens, the elegant and fascinating Hamburg, the cosmopolitan, raw and quirky Berlin, the lovely Cologne and Bonn along the Rhine, historic Leipzig and Dresden in the former eastern part are just a few examples.
The Moselle River from Koblenz to Trier
My favourite pastime is walking along the rivers with vineyards growing on either side. It’s steep along the Mosel Valley with one pretty village following another, interspersed with medieval castles and endless wine growers offering wine tasting and local food.
Explore it by foot, bike, train or on one of the many boats which run from Koblenz to Trier.
Then there is the mighty Rhine and its well-known towns and landmarks and many more rivers going south.
The Rhine begins in the south eastern Swiss Alps, forms part of the borders of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, France and then into Germany and the famous Rhineland finishing in the Netherlands and the North Sea.
The most notable towns along the German Rhine are Dusseldorf, Cologne, Bonn, Koblenz, Mannheim or the well known traditional university town of Heidelberg with its part medieval city with a castle .
Of course there are many river cruise companies which cover the Rhine from north to south.
Wuerzburg to Fuessen
A beautiful self-drive trip to consider is the ‘Romantische Strasse’ from Wuerzburg to Fuessen, enticing you through beautiful rolling countryside sprinkled with picture perfect villages, the most famous being Rothenburg ob der Tauber and ending at the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle.
This is beer country too, with individual breweries galore – well before ‘microbreweries’ became so fashionable.
Tubingen, Biberach & Ravensburg
Not as touristy but equally beautiful is the area to the west – Baden-Wurttemberg or the Schwabenland.
The rolling Prealp area boasts an impressive array of lovely towns, churches, cloisters and castles interspersed with nature reserves and agriculture. It’s a prosperous area and it shows in the coffee and restaurant culture, decent shops and well looked after houses and estates.
I often base myself in Ulm – located between Munich and the city of Stuttgart which is a good start for Mercedes enthusiasts and a decent small airport with normally good connections to the UK. Famous for its Munster, a massive cathedral which miraculously wasn’t destroyed in the war and is now surrounded by a mix of old and new quarters interspersed with lots of art, culture and sport facilities.
From there you can easily reach the most picturesque towns and villages like Biberach , The Cloister Roggenburg which makes its own beer served with the traditional Maultaschen. The very old university town Tubingen on the Neckar with the castle overlooking it or a trip on the river entertained by students is a must. The Monastry Bebenhausen modelled like a Tudor village and finally Ravensburg famous for publishing books. All of this is so close to Austria and Switzerland, Lake Constance and the Alps.
Nature At Its Finest…
Then on the border to France (and Alsace for the gourmets here) there is the Black Forest – we all know the gateau and of course the cuckoo clock which originated there. It’s a wooded mountain area with the beautiful city Freiburg and then Titisee nearby.
Another stunning area is the ‘Bodensee’ or Lake Constance bordering Switzerland with fairy tale towns like Meersburg as well as many sport, cultural and wine events plus the flower island ‘Reichenau’ in its middle.
Carnivals German Style…
And for the real party animals amongst you here is a tip – The German Karneval! It takes place in February from ‘Altweiberfastnacht’ – the Thursday to the day before Ash Wednesday – attracts millions of people into the Rhine area between Duesseldorf and Mainz and beyond.
It’s relatively unknown abroad but it honestly is a huge, amazing six-day event of dressing up, singing, drinking and dancing inside and outside from mid morning to late.
The highlight of Germany’s six-day long pre-Lent Carnival is “Rosenmontag” which sees huge processions crossing the streets throwing tons of sweets and toys and it’s all steeped in traditional songs and customs.
Closer Than You Think…
These are just some examples of the Germany that I love but there is so much more. I flew out twice last summer, once with BA from Heathrow to Munich and then with Easyjet from Gatwick to Duesseldorf. Both journeys worked well, the airports were sadly fairly empty but efficient and are well connected with public transport.
While one had to wear a mask when entering a restaurant or a shop and on the trains and public transport, it felt otherwise near normal which hopefully will be the same or better this year once the lockdown restrictions start to lift.
Our grateful thanks to Gabriele Scholes from Hallmark Travel in East Grinstead, Sussex for her lovely blog.
For all your travel enquiries including Germany, call Hallmark Travel, a UK based travel agency serving discerning leisure clients and astute business clients for over 20 years!
T: 01342 312305
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