You may think you know Germany, a land of sturdy castles standing sentinel over rolling hills, freshly baked pretzels, bustling beer gardens, stories of Brothers Grimm echoing through the Black Forest, or a hub of precision and perfection. Many see it through a lens of the past – the shadow of two world wars, the stark division of the Berlin Wall, and the reunification.
Yet, imagine with me for a moment, stepping through the looking glass to a Germany less seen. Here, a harmonious blend of tradition and innovation paints a vibrant canvas. The cobblestones of its ancient towns whisper tales of resilience, leading to ultra-modern cities that hum with the rhythm of cutting-edge technology.
Follow the sweet notes of lively folk music, and venture into thriving art districts, where creativity springs forth from every corner, echoing the spirit of Bauhaus and beyond. Witness the nation’s transition to sustainable power in the wind farms dotting its northern coasts and solar fields blooming in the south.
This is my Germany, a country continually reshaping its narrative, defying stereotypes, and embracing the promise of tomorrow. Let me show you this side of my homeland, a journey waiting to unfold.
German history – a short introduction
German history is a saga of resilience, innovation, and transformation. From the Holy Roman Empire’s intricate tapestry of feudal states to the rise of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation, Germany has often been a catalyst for change. The philosophical enlightenment of the 18th century, together with intellects from neighboring countries in Europe, shaped modern Western thought. At the same time, the Industrial Revolution spurred the country’s rapid economic development – with positive as well as negative consequences.
The 20th century brought profound challenges and transformations. The World Wars cast long shadows over the nation, but out of the ruins, Germany was rebuilt. The post-war era saw the country divided during the Cold War, symbolized by the Berlin Wall, a stark physical manifestation of ideological conflict.
Yet, with the Wall’s fall in 1989, Germany embarked on reunification, rebuilding, and redefining its place in the world. Today, it is an economic powerhouse, a leader in scientific innovation, and a hub for many grassroots initiatives which fight for a more sustainable and social future.
As a tourist destination, Germany offers a wide range of nature, architecture and culture.
History of North Germany
North Germany has a rich tapestry of history that interweaves centuries of maritime tradition, strategic geopolitics, and industrial innovation. It began with the ancient Saxons, who dominated the region in the Early Middle Ages.
The Hanseatic League, a confederation of merchant guilds and market towns, emerged in the 12th century, marking a milestone in the region’s history. Cities like Lübeck, Hamburg, and Bremen rose to prominence, playing pivotal roles in Northern Europe’s trade networks. Their enduring legacy is visible today in the grand patrician houses, imposing brick Gothic churches, and bustling ports that still dot the region.
The North’s strategic position also led to a complex history of territorial conflicts and shifting alliances, particularly during the Thirty Years’ War and the Napoleonic era. However, it emerged as a center of industry and innovation during the Industrial Revolution, with the region’s shipyards, factories, and harbors playing a crucial role. Today, North Germany has a lot of renewable energy in place. While still being far too slow in the change of energy resources, progress is made steadily.
History of South Germany
The South-West of Germany is characterized by its borders to France and Switzerland. A hostile relationship between France and Germany made life hard for many generations in the Elsass region. From being forced to speak one of the two languages to not being allowed to use it anymore, rapid changes were more the norm than the exception. Luckily today, the border is easy and quick to cross, and those residing in South Western Germany are just a quick train ride away from beautiful cities like Straßburg, where you will often hear a mix of French and German in the streets.
Connections with Austria and the big legacy of the “Habsburger” also play a pivotal role in this region. The ruling power that played an important role till the 20th century is responsible for the thriving architecture of many of the cities in Bavaria.
Local customs in smaller villages are worth experiencing, particularly by visiting museums and exhibitions. One accessory worth discovering is the extraordinary hat in the Schwarzwald region, another reason to visit besides the beautiful wooden buildings like the Black Forest. It is worth planning several days to travel around to dive deeper into the many different facets and subcultures in South Germany.
Germany is a vibrant tapestry of cultures, each thread reflecting the unique traditions, history, and spirit of its 16 diverse federal states. From the hearty beer festivals all over the country (the most famous, but also most mass touristic example is Wiesn in Munich (commonly known as Oktoberfest)) to the cutting-edge art scene in Berlin, each region offers its unique cultural flavor, painting a fascinating picture of German life.
In the south, the beautiful mountains and the collection of several towns ensure you never get bored, even after several years in this region. A visit to the ruins in Heidelberg is a more touristic excursion. Besides that, enjoying a delicious ice cream in the smaller towns of Ettlingen is worth planning an afternoon. The legal hub of Germany with the Bundesverfassungsgericht (federal constitutional court), the Bundesgerichtshof (federal court), and the beautiful sun castle make Karlsruhe a great place to be. The ZKM (center for Art and Media) offers a variety of interactive exhibitions year-round and attracts international visitors.
In the East, Saxony is known for its artistic heritage, from the stunning architecture of Dresden to the world-renowned craftsmanship of Meissen porcelain. Here, the echoes of Bach and Mendelssohn fill the air, testifying to the region’s profound musical legacy.
Berlin, Germany’s capital, is a city that never sleeps. It’s a melting pot of cultures, known for its dynamic art scene, iconic landmarks, and history that has shaped the world. The spirit of reinvention permeates Berlin, from the transformed industrial buildings now hosting art galleries and tech start-ups to the pieces of the Berlin Wall turned into an open-air gallery.
While Germany is still not on the right path to fulfill its promises and goals regarding sustainability, some improvements have been achieved over the last few years. In several cities, such as Münster, a good network of cycling paths can be found. If you travel to Germany, also look out for farmers’ markets where you can get fresh local products.
Above all, German culture is defined by its people’s resilience, open-mindedness, and their “Gemütlichkeit” – a uniquely German concept that combines coziness, peace of mind, and a sense of belonging and well-being.
Begin your journey in the fairy tale land of half-timbered houses and medieval castles that inspired the Brothers Grimm. Roam the Romantic Road, winding through idyllic towns such as Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Dinkelsbühl, where time seems to stand still amidst cobblestone streets and ancient fortifications.
We recommend you dive into the depths of the Black Forest, where legends whisper through the towering pines. Moreover, you can follow the Rhine as it meanders through lush vineyards and steep gorges punctuated by storybook castles and enjoy the taste of local Riesling when attending wine-tasting events.
History and innovation entwine in the bustling cities of Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg, creating a vibrant urban landscape. Stand in awe at the iconic Brandenburg Gate and the once-divided Berlin now united in resilience. Immerse yourself in Munich’s thriving art scene, where galleries nestle alongside world-renowned museums. Explore Hamburg’s Speicherstadt, the world’s largest warehouse district, now transformed into a UNESCO World Heritage site brimming with culture and creativity.
As you journey north, be captivated by the maritime heritage of the Hanseatic cities, their red-brick Gothic splendor a testament to their storied past. Venture to the island of Rügen, where chalk cliffs rise majestically over the Baltic Sea, and immerse yourself in the rejuvenating power of the North Sea’s coastal resorts.
Throughout your travels, indulge in the culinary delights of Germany’s regional cuisines, from hearty Swabian dishes to the delicate flavors of the north. Revel in the camaraderie of a traditional beer garden, where laughter mingles with the clink of steins and the strains of folk music.
Embrace the adventure and let Germany’s many charms weave their spell around you.
Black Forest (Schwarzwald)
Saxon Switzerland National Park
Harz National Park
Müritz National Park
Jasmund National Park, Rügen Island
The Romantic Rhine Valley
Berchtesgaden National Park
Black Forest (Schwarzwald)
Black Forest (Schwarzwald): Deep in southwestern Germany, the Black Forest unfurls a landscape of dense woodlands, emerald valleys, and serene lakes. This is the land of the Brothers Grimm’s enchanting fairy tales, where you half expect to stumble upon a gingerbread house or meet a wandering woodcutter. Hiking the forest’s extensive trails, you might discover the Mummelsee, a lake steeped in local legend inhabited by mermaids and a king who rests beneath its dark waters. There is also one particular cake that the region is famous for. If you know how to pronounce it, you can call yourself a German native. Its name is Schwarzwälderkirschtorte.
Saxon Switzerland National Park
Not far from Dresden, the Saxon Switzerland National Park’s breathtaking sandstone formations rise like natural sculptures from the earth. The park is crowned by the Bastei Bridge, offering panoramic views of the Elbe River Valley. Local lore speaks of the legendary robber-knight “Kunz von der Bastei,” who supposedly used the area as his fortress and hideaway, giving the stunning landscape an extra mystique.
You love the excitement of loopings and getting seasick on a boat swing. Then this fun park is the right spot for you. When traveling there by public transportation, which drops you off directly at the entrance, you even avoid the long traffic jams caused by families who want to enter the gates first. This place is not only fun but can also educate as long as you are aware of potential stereotypes that can be found within the depiction of European cities, which is the name and the topic throughout the whole park. The owner stems from a family producing roller coasters for the last eight generations. Hence it is a real family-owned traditional business. The vast energy needed is mainly produced via the river „Alte Enz. “ Do not scare away from visiting the park in the colder month. Since it is off-season, the cues and waiting times are shorter, and the park makes up for the closed attractions with many exciting shows. Next door, you will find the attached waterpark Rulantica where you can understand the swimming culture of Germans.
The Romantic Rhine Valley
The Rhine Valley, with its steep vineyards, quaint villages, and towering castles, is a testament to the romance of the German landscape. The legend of the Lorelei, a siren who lured sailors to their doom with her enchanting song, is rooted here. A visit to the rocky outcrop known as the Lorelei Rock, rising vertically from the water, is a must-visit.
Berchtesgaden National Park
Nestled in the Bavarian Alps, the Berchtesgaden National Park is a paradise of alpine beauty. The centerpiece is the Königssee, a lake of crystal-clear water reflecting the surrounding mountains. Local legend tells of the lake’s echo, believed to be the call of a mountain spirit or nymph responding to the trumpets of boatmen.
Harz National Park
The Harz Mountains are home to gnarled forests, rocky peaks, and the mystical Brocken, the highest peak. The area is saturated with tales of witches and devils, partly inspired by Goethe’s “Faust.” Each year, on Walpurgisnacht (April 30), locals celebrate with a festival, warding off evil spirits with bonfires and festivities, a tradition dating back to pagan times.
Germany’s Culinary Journey
For many, German cuisine is synonymous with hearty, soul-warming dishes. Central to these are the internationally famous Bratwurst and Currywurst – the classic German sausages, served in countless variations across the country. There are great vegan options for “Bratwurst” in ever grocery store as well as in many restaurants. The iconic Pretzel, with its characteristic twisted shape and shiny brown crust, is a popular accompaniment to any meal, a great breakfast or a nice snack.
In northern Germany, “Fischbrötchen,” a roll with a cold fish, is loved by tourists and locals alike. But also vegetarian alternatives can be found. One side you find more in the southern parts and is perfect for avoiding waste is “Sauerkraut.” Once cooked, it stays good for months and saves several sailors’ lives due to its rich Vitamin C. Some people in Bavaria like to eat it with “Weisswurst,” but you can also choose “Schupfnudeln,” a particular kind of potato noodles, as a delicious option.
Don’t let the savory dishes distract you from the sweet delights. German bakeries are filled with a plethora of pastries, from the doughnut-like Berliner to the delicious Hefezopf (“yeast-plait”). And for Christmas, nothing quite matches the spicy allure of Lebkuchen, the traditional German gingerbread with lots of nuts and spices.
Germany’s beverage scene is just as diverse. From world-renowned beers birthed in the traditional breweries of Munich, Cologne, and beyond to the delicate Rieslings produced in the picturesque vineyards along the Rhine and Mosel River valleys, there’s a drink for every palate. We recommend you stay local and buy from regional vendors instead of big global enterprises while you are here. That way, you can taste what you see directly, and even your taste buds get an authentic understanding of the region.
So whether you’re indulging in a hearty meal at a centuries-old beer hall, enjoying a picnic with fresh local produce, or dining at a high-end restaurant, Germany offers a culinary journey that is sure to tantalize and satisfy.
Could we sparkle your interest a bit? Excited to learn more about our home country? Feel free to get in touch with us, to get even more personal and individualized hints.