Germany - 5 Risks and 5 Rewards

Posted on February 18, 2016
Filed under Travel travel, germany, europe

Germany is a rich and complex mix of artistic brilliance, stunning architecture, scholarship and history and has been the location of many unforgettable events.

Rewards

History

People the world over are saddened but nonetheless intrigued by the concentration camps in Germany. The train from Munich to the Dachau Concentration Camp takes under an hour. Built in 1933 this was the first camp used by the Nazis to hold political opponents.

It’s worth paying a visit to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, a poignant reminder of these tragic events. Also stop at the Brandenburg gate, once the symbol of all that divided the city and country and now an icon of European unity and peace.

 

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Holocaust Memorial, Berlin

Oktoberfest

Kick up your heels and make some new friends over a beer or two at one of the world’s greatest folk festivals. Held in Munich, the annual beer drinking festival, Oktoberfest, stretches over three weeks ending on the first weekend in October.

There’s little chance of going thirsty with more than 20 massive beer tents to explore and six million visitors to serve. If you’re a style queen, venture into the Hacker Festzelt tent. The size of a football field, this tent was designed by Oscar winner Rolf Zehetbauer and is enclosed under a blue and white ceiling that opens up like the grandest of sporting venues.

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You may be lured by the roar that emanates from the Lion tent every minute, or the wine lovers tent, but to experience the past, step into one of the two historic Oktoberfest tents where beer is served in stone mugs whilst you listen to traditional Bavarian folklore, music and dance. 

So drink a little, eat a lot and dance until you can’t walk.

Architecture

The landscape is dotted with castles straight from a Grimm fairytale; in fact there is one castle or medieval building for every 30 square kilometres of land. You will find them perched on hilltops and in the valleys of picturesque mountains.

Neuschwanstein Castle in the German Alps is like the Sleeping Beauty castle that has come to life, with its cream coloured stone, spiralling blue-capped turrets, iron fretwork, tiny windows and mysterious archways.

 

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Neuschwanstein Castle

The majestic and architecturally stunning Cologne Cathedral, seat of the archbishop, took over 600 years to complete, starting in 1248.  Its intricate stone pinnacles and exquisite stained glass are beautiful by day but magical when lit at night.

Without doubt, castles and cathedrals are enhanced by stories regaled by a knowledgeable tour guide. Many sites will leave you wanting more, but none will disappoint.

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Beer, Pretzels and Pastries

No one wants a bee sting, unless of course it’s custard-filled almond cake. From the streusel cake to the black dough poppy seed cake, your sweet cravings will be satisfied at bakeries throughout Germany. A more savoury alternative enjoyed with a German beer is the Pretzel, which can be sliced horizontally and slathered with butter.

Beer lovers, make your way to Bavaria where almost half of all German breweries are located. With over 5000 brands of beer you are sure to find something to satisfy.

Landscape - the Rhine and Mosel

The Rhine is over 800 miles long, is a hub for freight and tourism, and can be quite treacherous in parts. The Rhine Valley between Rudesheim and Koblenz is a 65-kilometre stretch of riverscape strewn with charming villages and wonderful walking trails.

The Mosel is the Rhine’s peaceful sister, with lots of friendly B&Bs and a sprinkling

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a sprinkling of castles. Cochem on the Mosel is an ideal location to base yourself. From there, the 45-minute hike to the Burg Eltz Castle is a must-do.

Black Forest

Watch out for the wicked witch when travelling through the Black Forest—or so it says in the legend of Hansel and Gretel. The Black Forest gets its name from its dark, slightly sinister canopy of evergreen trees.  Its beauty — the forest is home to the country’s largest waterfall in Triberg and the glacially carved Titsee Lake—far outweighs the dark fairy tale legends.

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Whether you desire a thermal bath or hydrotherapy pool, wellness is a longstanding tradition here and the natural spring waters of Baden-Baden have been frequented by Queen Victoria and other famous nobility, along with actors, musicians and writers such as Mark Twain and Tolstoy.

And then there’s Black Forest Cake…

Risks

Cyclists

The pink paving alongside normal walking paths designates the bike path. Do not walk on the bike path; it’s just for bikes. If you hear a bell ring, do not move and let the bike pass! Many accidents and injuries result from collisions between cyclists and pedestrians. 

Bicycles in some instances even have the right of way over vehicles turning into side streets, so if you’re driving, keep an eye open for them.

Ticks

Ticks are very common in country areas, particularly in Southern Germany, and are most active between April and October. They hide in the long grasses and spread Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis.

Infections can start approximately 12 hours after a bite.

You can help prevent tick bites by wearing light-coloured clothing, insect repellant, long pants and tops tucked in. If you get a tick it’s best to remove it straight away making sure to remove the head of the tick, and then clean the area with disinfectant.  If a rash develops see a doctor.

Smoking

Smoking in most parts of Germany is legal, including high traffic areas such as cafes and bars. So, if you’re a non-smoker, prepare yourself to smell of cigarette smoke. 

If you are a smoker, you will doubtless appreciate the cigarette dispensing machines called Zigarettens that can be found every few hundred meters.

Fast Roads

It's literally life in the fast lane on the Autobahn. And while you might dream of cruising at high speed in a Porsche along the 11,000 km Autobahn roadwork, beware of the frequently changing speed limits.

The Autobahn is no place to make mistakes so here are a few tips for when you get behind the wheel:

  • there’s no passing on the right—that’s actually illegal
  • double check your side-view mirror before moving into the left lane
  • move into the right lane whenever possible after passing vehicles
  • always use your blinkers
  • look for and obey the speed limits
  • make sure you stop every two hours for a rest.

Trains

On many local routes serving smaller towns, trains alternate the stations they stop at. The first train on the line might stop at all stations, while the next one will only stop intermittently. If you're headed to an out-of-the-way location, be sure to double-check that the train you plan to board will actually stop at your intended destination.

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