Despite its militaristic recent history, Germany is actually a very interesting travelling destination, being misunderstood by lots of people and making for a charming place visit any time of the year.
If you’re expecting from Germany to be a homogeneous, uptight, ancient Teutonic society, you’ll be in for a big surprise.
All stereotypes you might have heard about Germany will prove to be just that: stereotypes, because Germany is a truly lovely and open country, boasting its nice and vivid cities, bursting with life and culture served up with relative scarcity in hefty portions, not to mention its rural scenery which makes it a prime target for hundreds of thousands of tourists annually.
Germany represents the heart of Europe, literally in terms of geo-location and figuratively. Basically, Germany’s economy is the engine of the European Union, being the biggest economy on the continent and in the world’s top ten, it has the largest population in the European Union and it’s neighboring nine European countries.
With a land surface of 357,022 square kilometers and a population of 81 million (as per 2014), Germany is a hugely diverse and cosmopolitan place, way more than old stereotypes may suggest, being a very interesting melange of good old nationalism and multiculturalism, together with self confidence and modernism.
If you are in Germany for the first time, you’ll be drawn initially by the nation’s urban highlights, like Berlin, which is the capital and one of the most important cities, the definition of urban development and dynamism.
But Germany is a very decentralized country, and besides Berlin, there are many other cities worth contemplating as a travelling destination. The likes of Hamburg, Munich and Cologne, all are old cities with a rich history and filled with medieval architecture, beautiful museums and art galleries, places that spawned classical music giants like Beethoven and Bach and so on and so forth.
And then, there is the countryside, which trumps all the benefits of Germany’s modern civilization and infrastructure, if you’re into that, obviously, from a tourist’s point of view.
Let me mention just the medieval castles of Rhine, the cloud scraping peaks of the Bavarian Alps, the moors of the Mecklenburg Lake district or the epic cliffs of the Jasmund National Park, all these places are paradise on Earth for cyclists, hikers, motorists, boaters and skiers.
Oh, I forgot to mention Germany’s huge freeway system (Autobahn is what they call it), where there’s no speed limit, check that out, you’re in for a unique experience!
The public transport is also very efficient, in good German tradition, so travelling around Germany, even if you don’t want to rent a car, is very easy and the costs are perfectly manageable.
What to see, what to do in Germany
Go visit Dresden, a city that was rebuilt from its own ashes, just like the Phoenix bird, resurrected beautifully after it was leveled in War World 2, and now making for an arty and spirited travel destination.
Or go cruise the Rhine, one of the Europe most beautiful rivers, filled with tourist resorts a trip in which you can admire pretty villages scattered along its banks, fairy-tale castles and don’t forget to pay homage to the legendary Lorelei Rock, a mythical siren which used to lure the boatmen to their doom, according to local legends.
Frankfurt is the place where you can admire beautiful medieval architecture, together with a sip of apple-wine (the local delicacy), or, if you’re into beer drinking and sausage eating, visit Germany during the Oktoberfest, Munich’s signature marking a sixteen days of celebrations of Bavarian culture.
Heidelberg is Germany’s most romantic city, a place where you’ll fall in love visiting amazing renaissance castles, chic cafes and ancient bookshops. Heidelberg is also Germany’s oldest university town, the place that spawned German Romanticism, being world famous for its picturesque panoramas.
The Bavarian Alps are the place to visit if you’re an outdoor enthusiast seeking for adventure, being a place offering plenty of hiking, skiing and canoeing opportunities, not to mention a plethora of top notch tourist resorts and spas.
Berlin is an old city, bursting with history and a hedonist culture, while Hamburg is the beating heart of Germany, offering rich pickings for intrepid tourists.
If you’re the intellectual type, indulge yourself visiting the 1000 years old Weimar, home to many great musicians, writers, poets and composers,like Luther, Bach, Schiller, Liszt, Goethe and Wagner.
Food and Drink
Germans love to eat good food while drinking lots of bear, hence don’t forget the specialties: bratwurst, pork legs with mashed potatoes, schnapps and bier (there are thousands of local brands).
Germany is a member of the European Union and it signed the Schengen treaty, hence if you’re an EU citizen, you’ll not require a passport, just an ID card for visiting the country. For USA/Canadian tourists, a passport is required (no Visa though).