Germany has long been a mover and shaker of European history,
creating waves in time for the rest of the continent to ride out.
From Charlemagne and Otto von Bismarck to Nazism and the Cold War,
Germany has become the epicentre of cutting-edge culture and music, and centuries of
tradition and fine arts.
The juxtaposition of medieval towns against ultra-modern
industrialism is a fascinating reality to experience.
Thriving Urban Centres of Germany
The capital city of Berlin is by far the most dynamic and diverse
metropolis for the German traveller. Despite reunification projects since the Wall came
down in 1989, the city is still very much divided between the cosmopolitan chic of the
West and the tattered Communist remains of the East.
The Stasi Museum,
located in East Berlin, is home to the former State Security Service. The intelligence
body spied on and badgered citizens throughout the Communist era from this building.
The Brandenburger Tor is a monumental building built in 1792 as one of
the city's 14 gates. The history of this landmark is tied directly with the enclosing of
West Germany from the East as it was essentially barricaded in by the Berlin Wall.
In addition to the other popular urban destinations of Munich and
Frankfurt, Aachen (also known as Aix-la-Chapelle) should not be missed on a German visit.
It is considered the most international of cities in Germany, situated close to the
Belgian and Netherlands borders.
Many citizens and travellers enjoy regular access to both border
nations. The main draw is the Aachen Dom (Aachen Cathedral), which is the oldest landmark
in Germany. Emperor Charlemagne had the chapel constructed over 1200 years ago and Holy
Roman Emperors were crowned here for nearly 600 years. The cathedral is also alleged to
possess Christ's loincloth, as part of its collection.
Fables and Fairytales
The German landscape is still comparable to your favourite fairytale
or Robin Hood adventure. Castles in the sky preside over the rich green forests where
Hansel and Gretel ventured to meet their witch.
The Black Forest (Schwarzwald) is famous for its intense evergreen
canopy, vast outdoor activities and secluded get-a-ways. It also happens to be where Nobel
Prize winner Hermann Hesse spent much of his life living and writing.
The Maulbronn Monastery,
situated in the forest's north end, is a UNESCO World Heritage site that has been
carefully preserved. The entire wooded expanse is dotted with medieval and farm towns and
is fairly easy to navigate by train.
The notorious 19th century Bavarian king, Ludwig II (Ludwig Friedrich
Wilhelm), left his personal legend all over the German countryside in the form of
extravagantly ornate castles. Schloss
Neuschwanstein is Ludwig's (and Germany's) most famous construction, particularly
because he contracted a stage designer rather than an architect to do the job.
Although the monstrosity was never actually finished, visitors may
enjoy concerts in the castle's centrepiece, Minstrel's Hall, every September.<
Along Germany's south-west border, The Rhine Valley stretches as a
monument to the country's timeless culture and love affair with art, wine, food and beer.
The Middle Rhine Valley (also a World Heritage sight) is the most
popular segment, studded with medieval and gothic towns and wineries that hold their own
festivals annually. Additionally, W.W.II has left its distinct mark throughout the region
despite the incredible restoration efforts undertaken over the years.
Social revolutions, wars and a fair share of domestic turmoil combined
with the legacy of the Holy Roman Empire and the split of the Protestant Church all make
Germany unmistakably unique and internationally modern.
Travel to Germany and discover that it's not all about the Beer
By Frank Johnson.
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