At the heart of Europe, fascinating events of contemporary and more historic times shape today’s Germany - from the fall of the Berlin Wall, to the rise of the Beatles in 1960s Hamburg plus wartime history, picture postcard castles such as Neuschwanstein and medieval cities such as Regensburg. Landscapes range from the Bavarian Alps to the Rhine Gorge and plains of the north. The Hanseatic port of Lubeck provides delicious Marzipan sweet treats, produced there for over 200 years. Whether on a journey on the ‘Romantic Road’ or cruising along the Rhine, a stein of German beer or glass of wine from the Rhine vineyards are a worthy compliment to a destination that offers far more than the average traveller anticipates.
The tiny Bavarian village of Oberammergau is straight from the pages of a storybook. You’ll find countless traditional, timbered houses with colorful murals depicting everything from religious scenes to fairytales. Every 10 years, travelers flock from all over the world to see the city’s famous Passion Play. It all began in 1634 when villagers promised to perform a play depicting the life and death of Jesus Christ every ten years if God would spare them from the Bubonic Plague. No one fell victim to the Plague after that. The tradition continues today, and will be performed in 2020, and all the actors are still the local residents. To join the cast, you either must be born there or have lived in the city for 20 years or more. This epic play, though performed in German, has deep emotive depiction that transcends language barriers and is a bucket list item for many travelers.
Before Christmas was ever celebrated, Germany had special winter markets. These markets were only open for a day or two in early winter to stock up on food and supplies to hold them over in the cold months. With time the markets expanded and craftspeople set up stands selling items often given during the holidays. What makes these markets special and unique compared to other holiday shopping is the atmosphere and quality. While walking the German streets you smell the aroma of mulled wine and baked apples with festive lights and historic buildings. You will not find mass-produced items here, but real quality craftwork.
500th anniversary of Reformation in 2017:
500 years ago Martin Luther, the monk, professor, and church reformer nailed his 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. What he had to say changed history forever. Wittenberg and Eisleben will be paying tribute along with the rest of the country. Local buildings all over town are being renovated, children are learning about Luther in school, and tourists are already visiting.
Berlin and the Wall:
Berlin is the capital of Germany. After World War II Germany separated into two separate countries, with the east becoming communist and west being democratic. The country was supposed to be soon reunited but unfortunately that did not happen for a while. People in East Germany soon realized they did not want to live under communism and wanted to move to the West. After so many people left the East, the leaders decided they have had enough and built the Berlin Wall that stayed up for 28 years. The wall was built overnight and the community was shocked when they woke up in the morning. It prevented people from getting to work, plays, soccer games, etc. The fall was something that was celebrated all around the world.
German beer gained its popularity due to the outcome of the strict process it undergoes following the Purity law. Made of water, hops and barley malt, German beer tastes much better than any other. Every year from the middle of September to the beginning of October Munich, Germany hosts the World’s largest folk festival “Oktoberfest” for 16 days. People travel from all over the world to take part in the festivities. There are rides, sideshows, costumes, food, and of course plenty of beer. With 14 big tents and 21 small tents, beer is served from 9am to 10:30pm every day for a reasonable price.
There are so many beautiful castles in Germany it may be hard to pick your favorite one. One of the most famous landmarks and most visited castle in all of Germany and Europe is the Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle was built by King Ludwig the 2nd, known as the “Fairytale King.” It was the fairytale look of the castle that inspired Walt Disney to create the Magic Kingdom. Also located in Germany is Snow White’s castle which will be included in a new 2017 tour called “Romantic Road and Fairy Tale Road.”
This river travels through six countries linking southern and northern Europe. It is the only river in the world with so many old and famous cities on its banks. In the Middle Rhine Valley that is located in Germany you can find vineyards, castles and fortresses. It brings together old myths, fairytales, and romance and truly is a trip back through history.
The birthplace of the cuckoo clock is in the German Black Forest. They have become the symbol of the region. The clocks were made in the winter time when the farms were snowed in, and then sold in the summer time. There are two main types of cuckoo clocks and all clocks are hand carved with some of the most beautiful detailing in the world.
For beverages, nothing beats the hot mulled wine, with or without a shot of brandy, or Eierpunsch” the traditional egg-based, warm alcoholic drink.
The Christmas Markets have their own special fare to sample including candied and toasted almonds, traditional Christmas cookies made of gingerbread, Stollen, an egg bread topped with candied fruit, Bratwurst, and cheeses served on sticks.
Be sure to hit an ATM; many places in Germany do not accept credit cards.