Not many countries have had an impact on Europe and the world as Germany. During its tumultuous past and in its peaceful present, Germany has influenced and continues to shape international political dynamics. In Germany, the past is very much present wherever you go.
But Germany is a whole lot more than the sum of its politics, this complex and forever changing country is a traveler’s kaleidoscope of places to visit, sites to see and things to do. From the picture perfect outdoors of the Bavarian Alps and the Mosel Valley, to lovely old cathedrals and grand palaces that are everywhere; from urban chic lifestyles of cities with its museums, galleries and theaters, to smaller towns and villages, where centuries-old traditions continue unabated, Germany is the place to visit this summer.
Hip, energetic Berlin has grabbed the world’s attention with its exuberant urban life and vibrant arts scene. In this cosmopolitan and affordable capital, neighborhoods like Mitte, Friedrichshain, Prenzlauer Berg, and Kreuzberg bustle with restaurants, cafés, and nightlife. Museums and sights such as the Pergamon on Museum Island, the Brandenburg Gate, and the Jewish Museum provide a window into Berlin’s rich history.
Home of the cuckoo clock, the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) gets its name from its dark, slightly sinister canopy of evergreens. The vast expanse of hills, valleys, rivers and forests of the Black Forest stretches from the spa town of Baden-Baden to the Swiss border and from the Rhine almost to Lake Constance.Some of the Black Forest's most impressive sights are in the triangle delimited by the lively university city of Freiburg, 15km east of the Rhine in the southwest; Triberg, cuckoo clock capital in the north; and the charming river-valley city of St Blasien in the southeast.
This lovely Bavarian lake is one of the great beauty spots of the region known as Berchtesgadener Land. One of the most popular routes is the attractive footpath along the east side of the Königssee to the Malerwinkel, or Painters' Corner, with its superb views of the lake and the mountains. Another equally attractive sightseeing option is a boat trip to the 17th-century Pilgrimage Chapel of St. Bartholomew at the south end of the lake, and to walk from there to the Obersee. Berchtesgaden, at the end of the Deutsche Alpenstrasse, is perhaps the best-known tourist town and one of the most popular mountain resorts in the Bavarian Alps.
In the heart of the historic Hamburg, the magnificent Miniatur Wunderland, the world's largest model railway, is an attraction that appeals equally to young and old alike. Boasting more than 12,000 meters of track, this massive scale model includes sections dedicated to the USA and Scandinavia, as well as to Hamburg, and incorporates 890 trains, more than 300,000 lights and in excess of 200,000 human figures. It is not unheard of for guests to spend many hours exploring this fascinating world with its remarkably detailed miniature airports, crowded cities, quaint rural scenes, and bustling harbors.
This palace is one of the few sites in Berlin that still reflects the one-time grandeur of the Hohenzollern clan that ruled the region from 1415 to 1918. Originally a petite summer retreat, it grew into an exquisite baroque pile with opulent private apartments, richly festooned festival halls, collections of precious porcelain and paintings by French 18th-century masters.
The vast UNESCO-listed Residenz, built by 18th-century architect Balthasar Neumann as the home of the local prince-bishops, is one of Germany’s most important and beautiful baroque palaces. Top billing goes to the brilliant zigzagging Treppenhaus (Staircase) lidded by what still is the world’s largest fresco, a masterpiece by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo depicting allegories of the four then-known continents — Europe, Africa, America and Asia. The complex also houses collections of antiques, paintings and drawings in the Martin-von-Wagner Museum
Appearing through the mountaintops like a mirage, this castle was the model for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. King Ludwig II planned this fairy-tale pile himself, with the help of a stage designer rather than an architect. He envisioned it as a giant stage on which to recreate the world of Germanic mythology, inspired by the operatic works of his friend Richard Wagner. The most impressive room is the Sängersaal (Minstrels’ Hall), whose frescos depict scenes from the opera Tannhäuser.
Opening a fascinating window onto the ancient world, this palatial three-wing complex unites a rich feast of classical sculpture and monumental architecture from Greece, Rome, Babylon and the Middle East, including the radiant-blue Ishtar Gate from Babylon, the Roman Market Gate of Miletus and the Caliph's Palace of Mshatta.
The towering Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Mary, Kölner Dom, on the banks of the Rhine is Cologne's most impressive landmark. This masterpiece of High Gothic architecture, one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, was begun in 1248 and was the most ambitious building project of the Middle-Ages. As imposing as its façade, its magnificent interior covers an area of 6,166 square meters and boasts 56 huge pillars.
This dish is a pot roast that is regarded as one of the country’s national dishes. It can be made from many different meats, which are marinated in vinegar, spices, herbs and seasoning for up to 10 days.