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What you need to know about GermanyFor over 300 years, Germany has been welcoming tourists; drawn to this historic nation by its restorative spas, rich and varied culture, wonderful food and convivial atmosphere.
It’s still a hugely seductive country with a wealth of history and culture and a storybook landscape of tranquil forests, half-timbered houses and ancient castles.
It also has some of the most culturally diverse and exciting cities in Europe – visits to Munich, Berlin and Hamburg are unforgettable experiences, with each city showcasing its unique traditions, cuisines and culture.
But most of all Germany’s appeal lies in its uncompromising drive and spirit – it may be a powerhouse of modern industry and commerce, but it also exhibits plenty of quirky humour and unexpected charm, as well as a wonderfully German devotion to comfort and cosiness.
Food and drink
German cuisine goes far beyond sausages, sauerkraut and foamy beer – it’s a feast of regional foods and local delicacies from white asparagus to Black Forest gateau, with plenty of rich and flavour-filled dishes in between.
Germany is a gastronomic journey that’s well worth exploring, with more Michelin 3-star restaurants than anywhere else in Europe and eateries across the country serving a modern take on traditional German dishes, cream-filled desserts and fine German wines.
If your budget won’t stretch that far, the beer halls and taverns of Munich and Frankfurt happily provide filling foods and plentiful beer, but be prepared to loosen your waistband before you go home!
And of course don’t forget that Germany gave the world the Haribo, so it clearly knows a thing or two about how to excite the tastebuds!
The joy of German shopping is in the quality and variety of shops and boutiques on offer, from designer labels to quirky German fashions and flea markets packed with vintage treasures.
Every big German town and city has a pedestrian shopping zone, lined on both sides with department stores, shops and boutiques, but you’ll also find cafes, restaurants, churches and town squares hosting markets or events. The absence of Sunday shopping options means Saturday is a vibrant community event, where everybody takes to the streets to browse the stores, catch up with friends or stock up at the market.
In November and December, German cities like Cologne and Munich are transformed into a winter wonderland of traditional Christmas markets, where you can browse unique local crafts and gifts, or simply enjoy a mug of Glühwein or the traditional German gingerbread, lebkuchen.
The list of Germans who have left their mark on world history is extraordinary, including Martin Luther, Karl Marx and Albert Einstein – even Pope Benedict is German.
It’s also a culture full of musical riches, from the symphonies of Bach, Wagner and Beethoven to the modern German dance scene and the banging techno of Berlin’s clubs. Innovation and idealism are a fundamental part of Germany’s DNA, and you’ll see the scope of Germany’s vision in the country’s art, theatre, and architecture.
Modern Germans are often perceived by outsiders as cold and humourless, but actually that’s far from true – Germans are generally efficient, hard-working and welcoming, and whilst they may not get the more British style of sarcastic humour, they laugh at themselves easily and have a fierce sense of tradition and community.
It’s no surprise that’s Germany’s transport network is the envy of the world – the trains and buses are modern, fast and comfortable and will whisk you off to every city and major town with typical German efficiency.
Once you’ve arrived, regional trains are seamlessly integrated with local train services and buses, and there are underground services in many major cities like Hamburg and Berlin. Germany’s roads and autobahns are immaculately maintained, and whilst congestion is common in peak times, it’s an easy country to explore by car, and there are good domestic flight schedules between the northern and southern cities too.
Germany hasn’t embraced two wheels with quite the same fervour as the Netherlands, but there are still 200 long-distance cycleways across the country, as well as many dedicated cycle paths in the cities and towns.
Things to watch out for
Here’s a good way to test how relaxed and laid back a country is – watch how the locals behave at a pedestrian crossing. In Germany you wait for the little man to turn green, even if the road is clear for 3 miles in either direction. It’s just the German way, and foreigners who get itchy feet will most likely be berated for their impulsive and dangerous behaviour.