Hamburg is the one major city in Germany that I have yet to visit. It is Germany’s second largest city, situated in the north-western portion of the country. Hamburg is over 1,200 years old and is loved for both its contemporary scene as well as its historical offerings. Hamburg is called “the green city on the water” due to its many spacious lawns and parks that are near the waterfront. The green of Hamburg gives its visitors many opportunities to relax, rest and play. Stadtpark (the city park) is the playing field for the whole city of Hamburg and the Planten un Blomen lets visitors enjoy its old Botanical gardens and tropical greenhouses. The central portion of the city is located on the Elbe River and has Europe’s biggest port, offering its visitors the opportunity to partake in various harbor cruises. The harbor also has 20 old-time ships docked in Neumuehlen in which visitors are allowed to tour each ship’s inside.
In addition to its waterfront and parks, the city has an elegant and cosmopolitan side. Hamburg is a city of lavish office buildings, international museums, extravagant promenades, and up-scale shopping malls. Hamburg is considered to be the most important musical city in the world behind New York and London. The city’s theaters offer something for everyone, ranging from ballets and operas to modern musicals and rock concerts. St. Pauli is area known as the melting pot of Hamburg with its diverse influences in trends and styles. The area was formerly known for its sex shops and prostitutes but, has recently been converted into the number pleasure-mile in Hamburg with tons of clubs, discos, pubs, bars, and cafes. Hamburg is a German city where the work boredom is unknown because it has a tremendous amount of offerings for every person's taste and pleasure.
Spa Resorts in Germany
Turn off your cell phone, close your eyes and simply relax. Let yourself fall into a realm where your senses are alive to every smell, sound, and touch. Your room looks out onto the beautiful landscapes that surround you like the Mecklenburg Lakeland or the mountains of the Black Forest. Every glimpse you take of your surroundings is adequate enough to instantly relieve any tensions that may still persist after your massage or hot bath.
Germany is a great country to visit to simply relax. My German relatives frequently go to spas in order to get away from the normal stresses in life and let nature take its course. Germany is a country that is home to over 300 modern health centers to help every vacationer relax and unwind. One can choose from more than 50 climatic health resorts, 48 seaside health resorts, 62 Kniepp hydrotherapy resorts and over 160 mineral spas and mud spas as well as a whole range of hotels offering wellness centers. All of these resorts are sure to cater to every individual’s relaxation, fitness, and well-being.
Germany’s climatic health resorts offer its visitors a breath of fresh air with natural surroundings where the air is pure. These resorts are the ideal place for long walks and cycling tours along the countryside to improve a person’s stamina training. The smell of the sea alone is enough to calm the senses of those who choose to visit a seaside health resort. The seaside climate, sea water, sea mud and seaweed are major therapeutic ingredients that will make ones complexion clearer and hair healthier. The North Sea and the Baltic are the perfect location to rest on the beach. Kneipp hydrotherapy resorts focus on five major principles: hydrotherapy, herbal therapy, healthy nutrition, exercise and discipline. This therapy is a holistic method that believes fresh water at various temperatures is enough to transform an individual’s human health. Germany’s mineral and mud spas provide a place where one is well and truly pampered. These spas offer a variety of sports, dietary and beauty programs for every individuals need. A visit to one of Germany's many spas and resorts is sure to make any vacationers relaxation dreams come true.
Berlin, The Capital
In 1994, I was fortunate enough to visit Berlin with my family. I remember seeing portions of the wall still intact throughout the city, but knew little about the Cold War efforts that brought about the separation of the city into East and West. It’s hard to imagine how a wall can separate a city into two parts for more than 28 years. Only four years prior to my visit, this wall still stood in its place until it was mostly torn down in 1990, as Communism collapsed and the Cold War ended. Berlin was once less than half a city to many and now it has twice the appeal as most other Continental capitals.
Berlin is the largest city in Germany and is situated in northeastern portion of the country. It is known for never standing still and its ability to constantly evolve. Even though the wall is gone, Berlin is still considered to be divided among its inhabitants by the glitz of the West and the shabbiness of the East. Berlin is still thought of as a fascinating city year-round to visit with its richness in culture, atmosphere and history. The capital city has numerous attractions for its visitors to see, such as:
The Brandenburg Gate
-A triumph arch and the symbol of Berlin, Germany
-Built in 1791 as a sign of peace under Friedrich Wilhelm II
-The gate is located on Pariser Platz which led directly to the former royal residence
-The largest prison and death camp in Eastern Germany under the Nazi regime
-Currently houses a museum that documents the tragic history of the two totalitarian regimes
The Potsdamer Platz
-One of the busiest traffic center in Europe, attracting 70,000 people a day
-The area houses Daimler-Benz, Sony’s European headquarters, and various prestigious businesses and law firms
-It has a top shopping area, three movie theaters with more than 40 screens, a film academy and a film museum
The Juedisches (Jewish) Museum
-The largest Jewish museum in Europe
-It celebrates the achievements of German Jews and their contribution to culture, art, science, and other fields
The Reichstag (Parliament) Building
-The building opened in 1894 and housed the Reichstag until 1933; it later became the seat of the German Bundestag (Parliament) in 1999 after its architectural reconstruction
-Most visited attraction in Berlin, gives an impressive view over the city
A New Wall
-A partial wall constructed by the German government as a memorial to those who suffered during the time of the Berlin Wall
-It stretches for 70 meters (230 ft) along Bernauer Strasse (street) and Achkerstrasse
Skiing in the German Alps
Skilaufen (skiing) is a favorite winter hobby of mine and I have always wanted to ski down the powdery slopes of the German Alps. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, the Alps is the name for one of the great mountain ranges in Europe, it stretches from Austria and Slovenia in the east, through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west. The German Alps are situated in the southern portion of Bavaria, near the country’s Austrian border. Garmisch Partenkirsche at the foot of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, and Oberstdorf not far from Lake Constance, are Germany’s two main international ski and snowboarding centers that offer high altitudes, a variety of slopes, and host international downhill, ski jumping and cross country competitions. The Black Forest is another favorite among winter sport enthusiasts. The skiing season in these areas kicks off in late November and ends sometime in April.
Garmisch Partenkirchen lies in the middle of the Bavarian Alps, an hour drive south of Munich. In 1936 it was the site of the Winter Olympic Games. The area is a favorite spot for skiing, snowboarding and hiking, with some of the best skiing areas in Germany. All this and much more are available in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which sits before the wonderful sight of the Zugspitze and its surrounding mountains that rise nearly 3,000 meters high. Whether you are a beginner or a racing expert, you are sure to find your favorite ski slope. There are a total of 118 kms (73 miles) of downhill runs of all difficulty levels, including the world famous "Kandahar", Germany’s only downhill run with a World Cup License.
Oberstdorf is situated in the beautiful Allgau region of southern Germany. The town is conveniently located between Munich, Stuttgart and Lake Constance. The German ski resort of Oberstdorf is one of smaller skiing areas in Germany, but still offers 44km of downhill slopes above 2000 meters high. It is also known for having Germany’s longest downhill slope, at 7.5 km (4.65 miles) long. The area is especially good for intermediate to expert skiers, while beginners are severely cautioned. Oberstdorf consists of two ski areas, the Fellhorn and Kanzelwand, which are located 8 km outside of the town. These skiing areas are known for their “Zweilaender” (two countries) chairlifts because they can lead you to either German or Austrian trails. Oberstdorf is known for being one of the most extensive and challenging ski areas in Germany as well as a rival of Garmisch Partenkirchen.
The Schwarzwald (black forest) is located in the wooded mountain ranges of Baden-Wuerttemberg, in the southwestern portion of Germany. The Black Forest is typically known for its wooded surroundings, Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte (Black Forest cake), and the traditional cuckoo-clocks they sell. However, carefree hiking and stimulating winter scenery are ranked as favorites of those who visit the Black Forest, making it a cradle for skiing. The oldest ski club in Germany dating back to 1895 still exists in the area today. The area offer 100 km of hiking and skiing to its visitors.
A winter spent in Germany offers its visitors plenty of opportunities to take advantage of, especially those who enjoy the outdoors and hitting the slopes.
Germany is definitely a magical country during Christmas time. The country’s first Christmas market dates back to 1434. Today, over 2500 Christmas markets take place in picturesque settings throughout Germany. The Christmas markets usually begin around the last week of November and go until the first week of January. Decorated booths are fully stocked with handcrafted gifts such as wooden nutcrackers and smokers, toys, Nativity scenes, and various other favorites. The aroma of freshly baked goods and traditional German food fills the air. Typical favorites include roasted almonds, Lebkuchen (gingerbread), grilled sausages and gluhwein (mulled wine). A number of German cities are infamous for their Christmas markets, such cities include:
DRESDEN, IN EASTERN GERMANY (Open 11/24-12/24)
• Striezelmarkt, Germany’s oldest Christmas market, founded in 1434
• It’s inimitable appeals comes from its Christmas tree, Pflaumentoffel(prune men) and the tallest Christmas pyramid in the world at 14 meters high
• Offers various treasures such as, carved wooden items, blue printed articles and pottery, intricate handmade lace, hand-blown Christmas tree ornaments,gingerbread, and genuine Dresden Christstollen
NUREMBERG, IN SOUTHERN GERMANY (Open 11/25-12/24)
• The Christmas Angel opens the market on Hauptmarkt square in the old quarter
• Offers a medieval atmosphere with delicious aromas of gingerbread, Nuremberg bratwurst and gluhwein, as well many Christmas decorations and gifts
• Has an additional children’s market with a traditional carousel, a Ferris wheel and a steam train
KOELN, IN WESTERN GERMANY (Open 11/21-12/23)
• Takes place at an impressive backdrop with Koln’s Cathedral in sight
• Stalls with little red roofs sell various gifts and sweets, novelty items include spekulatis (thin sliced biscuits), candles and soaps shaped like the Koln Cathedral, and hot-sliced punch
• Visitors can watch marzipan and “tree cakes” being made or watch the local craftsmen at work
HAMBURG, IN NORTHERN GERMANY (Open 11/21-12/23)
• Offers both a historical and traditional atmosphere in several squares of the city’s center
• See Roncalli’s Circus artists serving hot punch on the town hall square and the five traditional “fantasy boats” anchored along Jungfernstieg with homemade Christmas cookies, magic shows and jugglers
The markets transform Germany into a Christmas wonderland that creates a magical atmosphere for all of its visitors. I would suggest visiting a Christmas market and experiencing the festivities it has to offer you. I was fortunate enough to visit the Nuremberg Christmas market three years ago and experienced a festive event that I will never forget. I went to the Christmas market on the perfect wintery day, with heavy snowflakes filling the air and beautiful Christmas lights and decorations surrounding the area. It was definitely a picturesque and festive sight!
Karneval is the German’s pre-Lenten season or die fünfte Jahreszeit (fifth season) of their year. Depending on the region of Germany, it may be called either Fastnacht (Night of Fasting) or Fasching as well. My relatives are familiar with Fasching based on their somewhat southern location. As a child, I used to think that Fasching was the German version of Halloween, but I have since learned that is has a much greater meaning.
Carnival in Rio Janeiro is possibly the most famous version throughout the world. As Americans, we are familiar with New Orlean’s Mardi Gras, which is the French-influenced version of this celebration. Almost all of the Catholic regions and cities in the German-speaking world (and the rest of Europe) celebrate the event in some way. Germany’s Karneval is quite similar to such events and begins on different dates depending on the day of Easter each year. However, most traditional regions celebrate its start on the 11th day of the 11th month and continue a low key celebration for the next three months before the Tolle Tage (crazy days). This early date gives the organizers 3 to 4 months to prepare for the events that lead up to the big bash on the week before Ash Wednesday, when the Lenten season begins.
Germany’s most recognized Karneval event occurs in the city of Köln, which had its first celebration in 1341. Köln’s version of Karneval climaxes with a parade on Rosenmontag (Rose Montag), the 42nd day before Easter. The city has elaborate Umzüge (parades) where the event is celebrated. The parades have colorful floats made of paper flowers and marchers dressed in handmade customs, such as paper mashea caricature heads and additional masks carved out of wood. The floats are not only beautiful, but also represent satirical, political and traditional topics. As the floats pass by, those aboard pelt sweets at their spectators on the street while they sing the many old Karneval songs. In addition, the celebration includes a royal court with princes and princesses of the event. The royal court is protected by Prinzengarde (bodyguards) to remind the crowd of the city’s tradition of anti-militarism.
Except for Munich’s Oktoberfest, Karnvel is one of the few times of the year when many normally serious German’s loosen up and go a little crazy. Karneval is definitely another event that is something that I would like to get the chance to experience.
Here’s a German drinking song that is typically sang during the Karneval season.
Bier her, Bier her, oder ich fall um, juchhe!
Bier her, Bier her, oder ich fall um!
Soll das Bier im Keller liegen
Und ich hier die Ohnmacht kriegen?
Bier her, Bier her, ode rich fall um!
Wein her, Wein her, oder ich fall um, juchhe!
Wein her, Wein her, oder ich fall um!
Soll der Wein im Keller liegen
Und ich hier die Rheumatismus kriegen?
Wein her, Wein her, ode rich fall um!
Munich is the third largest city in Germany, located in the heart of Bavaria. It is a traditional German city with a lot of historic landmarks and little modernized structures. Last summer, I visited Munich for the first time and was extremely impressed with all the great things it had to offer me. Munich has something for everyone, from traditional museums and churches to beer gardens and a great nightlife. I spent three days in Munich and still have plenty to go back and see for my next trip.
Munich is a cultural metropolis with world-renowned museums, such as Alte Pinakothek and the Deutsche Museum. There are museums for just about every interest, from technology to fine arts. In addition, for those of you who are German car enthusiasts, there is a state of the art BMW museum, which is considered one of the most attractive museums in Munich. The Englischer Garten is another great attraction; it is Munich’s 900 acre park that offers beautiful meadows of flowers and greenery.
Munich also has some great historic churches to visit. The Cathedral Church of Our Lady is a landmark for Munich and can be found on many postcards. It is a late gothic church with two tall domes that can be sighted from many parts of the city. The Rathaus or city hall is located on Marianplatz and is home to the Glockenspiel. Usually tourists wait outside of the city hall at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. to watch the Glockenspiel go off. Tourists can also sign up for Mike’s bike tours by the Rathaus; I would suggest this tour because the guides are really entertaining and informative. Marianplatz is also a popular area for shopping and has various restaurants that offer the city’s traditional cuisine. High-end shopping can be done on Maximilianstrasse, where famous designers like Chanel, Gucci, and Burberry have stores.
Now what would be a city without some great nightlife? Well Munich is a great city with a great nightlife to offer its visitors. Munich has a wide range of beergartens, bars and clubs. The most famous beergarten, Hofbraeuhaus is a definite must. It is centrally located and offers its visitors two choices of beer (light or dark). In addition to beer, its visitors can eat traditional Bravarian food and listen to the Ump pa pa music. For those of you who prefer a more upbeat nightlife, Munich’s club scene is the place to be. P1 is a legendary nightclub on Prinzregentstrasse1 with many famous clientele; it is open 365 days a year and has free admission for those that can pass the bouncers. Other happening clubs are Pacha, Atomic Café, 4 0 0 4, and Nachtwerk. For those of you who prefer a relaxing night with a few drinks, a trip to one of Munich’s bars is the perfect choice for you. Some famous bars include Brasserie Tresznjewski, Café Glockenspiel, Casa de Tapas, Schumann’s, and Cocktailhaus.
Munich is a great German city to visit and has a tremendous amount to offer its visitors. I hope those of you who are fortunate enough to visit Munich, make the most of it and try to see as much as possible. I plan on taking a trip back to finish where I left off.