The first thing you might notice in Germany is the local humour. “This bridge is boring, this bridge is boring too. Go here.”, our Frankfurt hotel reception tells us in heavily German-accented English. An incredible trip had just begun for us, with much anticipation.
Landing late on Christmas eve with a single night in Frankfurt, we explored along the river and caught a train to Bamberg early next morning. Picking up a German rail pass on arrival was an excellent decision – we enjoyed 7 days of carefree scenic traveling. Our 12-day trip highlights were:
- Scenic high speed train rides all over Germany
- Antique bier halls in Munich
- Zugspitze, the top of Europe
- Street fireworks in Fuessen
- Playing on the border of Germany and Switzerland
We booked flights, accommodation – everything – just 4 days before leaving. An impressive feat!
Bamberg, the river town
Most people describe Bamberg as a small town, but it’s actually surprisingly large, having a number of attractions to surprise us with. It’s identified by its scenic bridges and easily walkable paths that gave us an opportunity to admire the Regnitzarm river’s many flows. Starting from the Aldstadt (Old Town), we ventured up to the Michelsberg Cathedral. The blue skies opened up for some amazing views – would you agree?
Prost (cheers) to Bavaria!
In the blink of an eye, we were on the way to Munich, Germany’s cultural capital of the Bavarian state. Although most of the retail shops were closed in the post-Christmas period, we sampled a number of impressive bier halls, including the legendary Hofbrauhaus. Each of them served a wide array of beers accompanied by delicious Bratwurst and the local favourite, a vinegar-based potato salad.
Munich is also famous for its English Garden, an expansive green space in the middle of the city. It’s home to some river surfers that we observed incredulously at the entrance, as they navigated the waves generated by the quick river current. Following the river towards the center of the garden, we encountered a lake with the renowned Seehaus beer garden. A fantastic place to spend the afternoon!
Along our travels, our cultural treats continued as we witnessed a street artist playing some modern musical pieces with his classical cello. Street artists are common in Germany, usually an array of string instruments or occasionally the accordion, adding to the European feel.
The breathtaking top of Europe
There are few places in the world where you can see the vastness of a mountain range. As such, we headed south towards the southern German alps. Visiting Zugspitze in particular was a once in a lifetime experience! At the summit, you can witness views of Germany, Switzerland and Germany from one spot. The expanse of the view is difficult to take in. We enjoyed the day tobogganing around the ski slopes and dining with a panoramic view.
Zugspitze is also home to some icy igloo accommodation, which unfortunately was fully booked for the night. Nonetheless, we took some photos for you to enjoy!
Insane fireworks in Fuessen
With the year rapidly coming to a close, we had decided to complete the year in the town of Fuessen, on the border of Germany and Austria. We were surprised by the tenacity of the Germans on Christmas eve; men, women, boys and girls alike were seen carrying boxes upon boxes of fireworks. From 11.30pm until about 2am, the intense sound of firecrackers could be heard all throughout the town. Joining the new years revellers, we watched rockets launch in every direction – sometimes, almost hitting or landing on the wooden Bavarian housing.
As time passed into the night, some extremely excited Germans decided to throw a few firecrackers into the crowd. We grew increasingly concerned about a number of near misses and retreated to safety at around 12.30, very happy with the show. The following day, we awoke early to explore the Neuschwanstein castle, famous for its inspiration as the Disney castle.
Exploring the Black Forest
The town of Konstanz, on the edge of Germany and the black forest region, is a worthwhile stop. It shares a borderline with Switzerland, part of which occurs through the impressive Lake Konstanz itself. We enjoyed a brief stroll into Switzerland, followed by some fun along the visible but uncontrolled borderline. I’m in Switzerland! Now I’m in Germany again! It actually doesn’t get old too fast. We did however, wonder how long the border would remain uncontrolled, given the political unrest in Europe at present. Moving on, we experienced a fantastically scenic train ride through the black forest, sampling some of its famous cake on the way.
Our final stop before flying out through Cologne was Baden-Baden, a touristy spa town with Greek influence. It was here that we experienced the unusual bathing experience in Frederichsbad: twelve stylish and elaborate roman baths, sans clothing. Thankfully, we focused our memories on the comfort of the baths, and not of its elderly patrons.
Overall, we enjoyed a fantastically cultural trip in a very short time. We will certainly return in the near future. My tips for enjoying Germany would be:
- Try every type of food you can! It’s all really unique.
- Check out the smaller alpine Bavarian towns like Garmisch and Mittenwald, they’re breathtaking.
- Cologne’s Chocolate Museum is great if you happen to be in the area. It has a functioning chocolate manufacturing line that you can observe!
- For hiking trips, a car is best. For all other tips, the German trains are brilliant.
- Gluhwein is a perfect hot drink for the winter!
- Enjoy the dry German humour.
- Bring cash. Surprisingly, Germany is still a highly cash-centric country.
What’s your favourite area in Germany? I’d love to know.