It’s difficult to know where to begin when describing a location with so much history. Germany is a country that has had a great deal to contend with throughout the decades. Many of the country’s most precious treasures were destroyed in World War ll and they have had to spend the years since attempting to restore and rebuild both the treasures and the nation itself. They also have to cope with the fact that every time the country’s name is mentioned, people immediately think of Adolph Hitler and the atrocities that he was responsible for. Finally, the residents of this troubled country are still coming to terms with the reunification. It’s little over ten years since the Berlin Wall came down and every single person has had to redefine themselves and the country as a whole since this momentous event occurred.
Despite all of this, the birthplace of the world’s greatest music composers has so much to offer its visitors. While so many building and structures were destroyed, there was so much more that no war could possibly damage the natural attractions. The Black Forest, the Bavarian Alps and the lands in the basins of both the Danube and the Rhine still remain as perfect as they were thousands of years ago and entice millions of tourists every year.
The internationally renowned Oktoberfest takes place annually from the second last week in September until the first Sunday in October. The first festival took place in 1810 at the wedding of Prince Ludwig 1 and his wife Therese. Little did they know that it was to become the biggest public festival in the world. Each year it is attended by about six million visitors who manage to consume over five million liters of beer and four hundred thousand pork sausages. As well as the famous ‘beer tents’, there are also a large number of attractions including live music and dance where traditional brass bands treat you to their talent. Of course, if brass isn’t your thing, there is a variety of more appealing music. The highlight of the festival is the Grand Entry of the Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries.
Love Parade, Berlin
Love Parade is the largest techno gathering in the world. This unique festival takes place in early July each year since its inception in 1989 and attracts almost two million people. You can hear anything from house to rave while wandering around and the atmosphere, to use a well-worn cliché, is truly electric. It’s a moving monster of excitable fun-lovers dressed in anything from, well, practically nothing to alien outfits and furry underwear. The floats go up and down a long street (Unter Den Linden), going through Brandenburger Tor, a gate that used to divide East and West Berlin. Love Parade is a massive celebration of techno, the re-unification of Berlin, and all things wacky, tacky, and wild. Wish you could be there? Well, close your eyes and come with me. Imagine catching a train at 6 am on a Saturday. It’s filled with ravers and as it snakes towards Berlin, each station becomes more densely packed with kids sporting “Run Lola Run” hair and buffalo boots. Imagine arriving in Berlin to find the station screaming with the sound of hundreds of whistles, which were being sold by vendors outside. Unlike American whistlers who go for rhythm (tweet-tweet, tweet-tweet-tweet!), German whistlers go for a long maintained shrill (tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!).
International Film Festival, Berlin
Usually taking place from around February 9th to 20th, this is your chance to spy on the rich and famous. In various theatres directors, stars, those who think they’re stars and those who want to be stars flock ply their ware. The whole city is consumed by the glitz and gala of the festival and is a really fun environment to be a part of. International films, as well as the latest German films, are shown in various movie theatres around the city and tickets can be purchased at any box office. So, as well as chasing those who are popular at the moment, you also get to see who will be in the future. It’s an education.
Now that you are walking the streets that some of the world’s most famous composers once walked Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Wagner it would be unforgivable not to visit at least one German theatre. Even if you despise classical music, you will be swept up in the whole atmosphere and ceremony of this particular form of entertainment. The Germans have even dedicated a whole festival to Mozart, but it does go on for over a month, you've been warned. The majority of the most popular theatres are found in the bigger cities so here are just a few of many the Deutshe Opera Berliner in Berlin (strangely enough), Staatsopera in Hamburg, and the Residensztheater and Volkstheater in Munich. You could also check out the comic opera at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz or the smaller fringe theatres in Nymphenburg.
The German Jazz Scene
As well as music of the classical variety, Germany also has a vibrant jazz scene. You will find several excellent jazz clubs from the bright and cheerful to the dark and smoky in all the bigger cities, and there is usually one or two hidden in the smaller towns too. In fact, a lot of the time the smaller clubs are better as the atmosphere is much more akin to the true jazz scene than it is in the larger clubs. The jazz festivals which take place throughout the year are popular too so if you are in Germany around the time that they are on you could do worse than pay one of them a visit. You will find one in Frankfurt in March, the Stuttgart Jazz Fest is on in April and in Berlin it takes place in November. The events are lively and relatively cheap thanks to the multitude of free out-door concerts, and well worth a look and a listen.
Eating out in Germany
Germany’s cuisine is an adventure in itself. As well as having specific dishes that are unique to the country the aforementioned Schnitzel and Spätzle for example - each region also has its own particular food and drink that are a large part of its defining culture. These differences have come about as a result of both the agriculture of the region and the tastes of new Germans who have settled in the country since its reunification. With all this choice, however, it’s difficult to know what to sample so here’s a quick guide to the favourites among tourists and the locals.
Visitors to Berlin should try the local brew, Berliner Weiße mit Schuß. A mixture of wheat beer and syrup, it provides the perfect accompaniment to the Turkish food which is in abundance throughout the city. If you are in Cologne you cannot leave without trying the highly recommended Rievekoochen, potato cakes which come with Apfelmus (applesauce) on the side and are usually washed down with the local beer, Kölsch. Frankfurters offer you something which sounds a lot less appetising; Handkäse mit Musik which is a cheese curd with raw onions; Grûne Sosse, a green sauce with various herbs and served with boiled eggs and potatoes; and you wash all of this down with Ebbelwei, a sweet apple wine - definitely the most appetising part of the meal. Finally, if you are spending some time in the Bavarian region of the country you should try Brez’n, which is a type of pretzel, with Leberwurst spread on top. And of course you couldn’t leave Munich without sampling at least one of the local beers. Weißbier, a cloudy blond beer and Radler which is a mixture of beer and lemon soda are among the most popular.
Traveling around Germany
The majority of continental and international flight to Germany arrive in either Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich but Hamburg also has an international airport. Lufthansa, the country’s national airline, operate most flights in and out of the country, but American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, KLM, Northwest Airlines, United Airlines, British Airways, British Midland and Aer Lingus also have direct flights into Germany. If you are flying from Australia, Qantas flies from both Melbourne and Sydney to Frankfurt. Lufthansa no longer flies to these destinations but they do offer cheap fares in conjunction with Qantas.
The other alternative when entering Germany is to take the train. This is common among backpackers holding the Eurailpass which allows them to travel to the country from various cities throughout Europe. For example, British Rail runs four trains a day from London and several trains depart Paris daily. Other countries with train connections with Germany include Austria, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
The final and slowest option is by bus with Eurolines from all major European cities. While the buses are equipped with toilets and reclining seats and do stop for regular breaks, the distances they cover are vast and can take days to complete. The service is reasonable, however, and you do get to see lots of countryside but it is a long haul.
The train service in Germany, GermanRail (DER Rail) is renowned for its comfort and punctuality and is easily the best way to get around the country. Twenty thousand intercity trains offer express services every hour between most of the bigger and medium sized cities and they are among the fastest trains on the continent reaching speeds of up to one hundred and sixty five miles per hour.
The other option for travel within the country is by bus. This too is an extensive and efficient service and is operated by Bahnbus who also own the railway. Therefore many of the services are there to complement the rail service so when you have a slow period of rail service, the bus is there to take you to your destination. Both services offer numerous fares and ticket passes so ask about these at the station before purchasing your ticket.
Modern Germany~ - dynamic and innovative
Visitors to Germany find it a modern and open place. Unusual venues, finely tuned technology and professional organisational skills, expertise and service are a guarantee of success.
- Traditional and modern towns and cities Beaches on the North Sea and the Baltic Sea
- Lakes and mountains with plenty of sports activities
- 5,000 castles and palaces
- 10,000 fairs and festivals: Hamburg's Harbor Anniversary, the Rhineland Karneval, the Munich Oktoberfest etc.
- World-famous shopping boulevards: the Ku´damm in Berlin and the Königsallee in Düsseldorf
- Places of cultural interest: the Dresden Semper Oper, the Leipzig Gewandhaus concert hall, Baden-Baden's Neues Festspielhaus opera house, the Munich Staatsoper, etc.
- 4,000 museums: the Museum Island in Berlin, the Pinakothek art galleries in Munich, the Städel art gallery in Frankfurt am Main
- 28 UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites
- 220 adventure parks and theme parks
- 300 modern spa and health resorts
- 300 Michelin stars and regional specialties