Germany is many things to many people. Depending on your age, your nationality and your interests, it might be a place you would avoid like the plague, can’t wait to see, or go to for a specific thing only.
For me, Germany has family connections several generations back when my father’s great grandfather came from Silesia, then part of Germany, to begin a new life in South Australia. Whilst I did not get to Silesia (now a part of Poland) on my travels, I did come to really like and appreciate Germany a great deal.
I spent a month travelling through Germany. What is most notable is the difference between north and south. The northerners don’t count the southerners as Germans! They are Bavarians! You will also discover that things you see in the south are not necessarily to be found in the north. Buy wood carvings in the south; they don’t exist in the north. And where France has a patisserie on every corner, in Germany it is an apothecary – a chemist!
While there are lots of differences, there are many things to recommend a visit to Germany. The precision engineering is to be seen everywhere, on the autobahns, in the railway system, and in the car manufacturing. Even the factory design will amaze you at the BMW headquarters in Munich. That know how has been put to great use reconstructing towns and village destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. You would almost not know it had happened so well recreated have towns been.
History buffs will love the flamboyant castles of Ludwig II in Bavaria. Neuschwanstein Castle ( the one Disney modelled his Fantasyland castle after) is just up the road from his father’s castle Hohenschwangau. And his other castles, Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee are worth a look as well. Near to Neuschwanstein is Oberammergau, the town which hosts the Passion play every ten years in thanks for being spared the plague in the middle ages.
Another kind of history is to be found at Dachau with a visit to the concentration camp there. A truly sobering reminder of what humans are capable of doing to each other. You will also find WWII history in Nuremburg, which is a beautiful medieval town in its own right, and has the added layer of the rallies.
If it is scenery you are after, Germany has it in spades. The Alps will inspire you, the Romantic road charm you – my favourite place is Rothenburg – a walled city frozen in time and just delightful. Check out the Christmas shop, open all year round.
The Rhine is the lifeblood of trade and much of tourism in Germany and the cruise along the river will show you dramatic gorges, castles and vineyards.
And for those of you with a literary bent, see the statue of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, or the Bremen Town musicians in the north and visit Gutenberg’s original printing press in Mainz.
Germans also know how to party. Join the Oktoberfest (held in September!) in Munich, and if you are not travelling at the right time for that, any beerhall will show you strong ladies carrying up to eight steins at a time.
One of the joys of travel is stumbling across something unexpected. I was in Trier for a few hours en route to somewhere else and discovered the city was celebrating 1000 years as a city (it was a while ago!) I stopped and had a glass of wine in its honour, and got to see the Roman Porta Negra or Black Gate also in Trier.
I climbed to the top of the tower of the thirteenth century Cologne Cathedral to see the views and discovered the stone set at the top to mark its completion 632 years later! And the locals in the very upmarket bars are very happy to disport amazing hair styles and colours.
I have barely touched what there is to see and do in Germany. You may be pleasantly surprised at what it has to offer.