It’s very appropriate – that since I find myself missing Germany and everything about it – as I spent a lot of time there when I studied in Switzerland and have not been back in a year and a half – that today’s guest is here to talk everything and anything Deutsch! And I could not be happier as it really gave me a chance to take a virtual trip down memory lane.
Today’s guest is Carolin Belcher the West Coast Sales Manager of the German National Tourist Office. Carolin was born and raised in Germany and now resides in the US – but loves talking about her home country! And there is so very much to explore here – Germany has sixteen federal states – that it was a fabulous opportunity to have her do just that – picking some of the country’s highlights to – well – highlight!
Tray tables stowed? Seats in upright positions? Great – make sure that seat belt is fastened too because we are off to Germany!
Getting There and Getting Around: Getting to Germany from the US is easy. For instance – from my neck of the woods Lufthansa has direct flights from Austin. And for my East Coast peeps – there are direct flights from most of the major city’s airports. And may I say I do recommend flying business class as it gives you the opportunity to lay down and totally relax during your flight!
Once you are there it is easy peasy to get around in Germany as all of the major cities are connected by train – a high speed train to be exact – called Intercity Express – or ICE for short.
And there is a train route from Berlin to Munich that comes in at under four hours! This is so cool because you can connect to two major cities – that couldn’t be more different or diverse than each other I may add – in just a few hours! The train transportation is awesome in Germany – all announcements are in English too so that’s always a plus. And Carolin pointed out that she always says “we Germans are OCD” – so the trains are very clean and very safe. And as I pleased to find out they have Wi-Fi!
This is also a very drivable country – unlike a lot of other European countries. It is a very safe place to drive on the highways or through the towns. And there are over 1300 car rental stations offering both automatic and stick shift vehicles so don’t be afraid to drive there – it is so much fun! And speaking of driving – for you car fanatics there is the Autobahn which everyone wants to experience once in their life – so why not rent a Porsche or BMW or Mercedes and drive it! Did you know that almost everywhere on the Autobahn there is no speed limit? And that you need to be very aware that they only pass on the left side – not the right side? Don’t worry we will take car of car insurance prior to your trip!
There are also plenty of of opportunities for travel by boat. There are many different companies that offer boat transportation and there are even private residents who offer boat rides! One of the best to do is the hop on / hop off boat on the Rhine River which affords you the opportunity to get off – visit a city – then get back on and continue to the next place you want to see. And Carolin noted that seeing Germany from the water is a great way to take it in. If you are worried about sea sickness – I can attest that the water there is very calm – it’s not like ocean cruising. It is actually very smooth and the views are beautiful.
Destinations: Below is a great look at that different flavors that abound in the cities throughout Germany and a great opportunity to start planning which you would like to visit based on your personal interests.
Berlin: Carolin describes Berlin as hip and fast moving – but not in a stressful way. She explained that it is constantly changing and each time she visits there is always something new to see. Here you can see a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Berlin’s Museum Island. You will also have the opportunity to see the government district as well as where the Berlin Wall stood – such a powerful piece of history. It is also a culinary mecca and not to worry if you are vegan or vegetarian as they have many such restaurants and even a vegan street festival. The culinary tours here are abundant and can be done as a walking tour or on bikes. The best part? It is the locals that give the tours so they are basically guiding you through their home city and letting you taste food you wouldn’t have found on your own! As per Carolin you could be there for four full days and you still won’t have seen everything there is to see.
Dresden: Dresden has a very classical and medieval feel to it and is a cultural mecca well known across Europe. It is filled with historic sites dating back to World War II and many musical opportunities including the famous Semperoper Opera House.
Hamburg: Located in northern Germany, Hamburg is surrounded by water and actually has more bridges than all of Italy! And if you are a Beatles fan – this is a must see as this is where they got their start – where everything began them. Hamburg is also a magical city during the Christmas season, and you will find great Christmas markets throughout. And – being surrounded by water – the fish is a must eat while you are there. And a great place to explore? The fish market – which is only open on Sunday morning and very early so it doesn’t interfere with church.
Frankfurt: As Carolin observed Frankfurt is like Germany’s Manhattan. There’s a lot going on – including museums and the banking quarter. It’s got a metropolitan side with a towering skyline, but it also has areas that have a classical feel. And the gastronomy is very different here than in other parts of the country with things like Frankfurt’s famous green sauce and although they drink beer like the rest of the country – they love their Apfelwein as well – which is similar to apple cider. Bonus – it sits directly in the middle of Germany so it’s a good starting point with everything just a couple of hours away.
Cologne and Dusseldorf: On a personal note – Carolin has family in both these areas so she spends a lot of time in both of them and they are actually her two favorite cities. She describes Cologne as the most welcoming city ever – with so many great people that it’s hard to leave there without at least one new friend! It is also home to Cologne Cathedral – a true masterpiece that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Dusseldorf you’ll enjoy Rhine River cruises, fabulous architecture, great shopping and culinary experiences that will delight. They are both tremendously amazing cities with a lot of green so you able to do a lot of walking and picnicking in parks.
Stuttgart: Stuttgart is located in the in area of the Black Forest – which is personally one of my favorite parts of the country – where my heart lives. Here you can partake in cooking classes and learn to make maultaschen which are giant raviolis or the infamous Black Forest cake. During the holidays you will find Christmas markets in the castles which are amazing to shop in. And – you are surrounded by wine country when you are in Stuttgart so can get out of the city and into nature where you can participate in wine tastings and tour vineyards.
Munich: When I lived in Switzerland, I made the trip to Munich often and I just loved this city – there wasn’t anything I couldn’t find there! There is an amazing farmers market there – Viktualienmarkt – filled with stands that are all family owned. It is a great place to socialize and taste local cheese and olives and drink fine wine and beer! Munich also houses the Olympic Stadium where you can go up to the roof and zipline from one side of the stadium to the other! And for the less adventurous type there are the English Gardens. Here you can sit, eat pretzels, drink some beer and people watch! (My favorite!) You can also spot people on the river – surfing! This is also great starting point before you travel to Bavaria where you can have one off the beaten path experience after the other.
Sightseeing and Activities: Oh gosh – so many great things to see and do in this country. First off – they have marvelous landscapes which means lots of hiking to be had thanks to the mountainous terrain. And of course, those mountains come with great scenery and a healthy way to social distance. For those of you that aren’t about walking up hill – the northern part of Germany has plenty of flat areas where you can take leisurely strolls. And speaking of mountains – there is also the opportunity to do some skiing – not only within Germany but also in other nearby countries and I can hook you up with a pass that will let you ski at several different spots.
And then there is the culture! Now you may be surprised to hear that Germany is actually a rather small country – about as big as the state of California – but they are home to over six thousand museums! One of the best ones to visit – especially if you have German descendants is the German Emigration Center museum in Bremerhaven. This is where people left from in Germany when going to the US. Even if they were from other parts of Europe, they traveled to this port to leave to go to the US. The museum also works with Ancestry. com so you have the opportunity to not only find your ancestors information there but also when, how and why they left. What a super interesting museum! And might I add is definitely now on my list to visit the next trip to Germany!
There are also many theaters and operas in the country. And the opera houses have so much history – World War II history – as so many were bombed or burned down and then rebuilt. So even if you are not interested in music or attending the opera, they are mind blowingly gorgeous and absolutely worth visiting for the history and architecture alone.
Another thing you will find a lot of in Germany are casinos! Which was a surprise to me. And they are not your Las Vegas Style casinos where you can go in flip flops – these are quite formal, suit and tie venues and are extremely beautiful.
And – something I have done in the past and is a fun and unique experience is taking a Porcelain class. They have great porcelain in Germany – especially the Meissen Porcelain by Dresden.
Another unique thing you can do in Germany? Zeppelin Rides! Yup – they still have Zeppelins, and you can even book a shipyard tour through the Zeppelin hangar! Then afterwards you can take a breathtaking flight over Lake Constance – which is shared by Germany, Austria and Switzerland – allowing you to view all three countries from high above.
Castles and Palaces: Germany lays claim to some of the most magnificent castles you have ever seen – about twenty thousand to be exact. Below are highlights of a few of the most magnificent ones.
Neuschwanstein Castle: This absolutely gorgeous castle sits on a hill – which you can get to by carriage ride or shuttle – from which there are fabulous views. And there is an inn just a short drive from the castle that you can stay at that is home to a Michelin starred restaurant – making for a great cultural and culinary experience!
Heidelberg Castle: This stunning castle is filled with much history and is a great one to explore – and it has that ambience that makes you feel like you are in a fairytale! And the city is beautiful in itself and is filled with a lot of college students – including a lot of American students. And due to the fact that it is more budget friendly than some of the other cities.
Wartburg Castle: Carolin recounted that this was one of the first castles she saw as child – when it was a still separated East and West Germany. She recalls how big and beautiful this medieval German fort situated on the top of the mountain was – hovering over equally beautiful views. Wartburg Castle – another UNESCO World Heritage Site is over a thousand years old and very well preserved. It is very impressive and highly recommended – especially for people interested in traveling on the Path of Luther.
Stuttgart’s Castle of Solitude: Looking at this castle – which sits on a huge parcel of land – it’s amazing to think that it was just a hunting palace and summer residence! But – that it was! While you are here there are a number of wellness opportunities nearby – such as Baden Baden – known for its thermal baths. In fact, there are many hot springs within Germany to enjoy – although some are clothing optional so choose wisely!
Castle of Eltz: This 850-year-old castle is remarkably still owned by same family – the Eltz family – whom original lived there in the 12th century. As per Carolin it is totally Instagram-worthy and it is on her list to see as she has yet to visit.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing travel the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Germany.
Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour of Germany and I am fairly sure you now realize why I am missing it so much! Until I can get there again – I am visiting #discovergermanyfromhome and invite you to do the same!
For more details on things to see and do in Germany, where to stay, it’s price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!