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Frommer's EasyGuide to Germany

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Quick to read, light to carry with expert advice in all price ranges, Frommer's EasyGuide to Germany 2014 is the complete up-to-date reference for travelers who want to maximize their stay in the smartest, most efficient way. With Frommer's trademark candid and accessible expertise, this invaluable guide offers reviews in a wide array of choices available including lodging, sightseeing, shopping, dining and entertainment. It includes insider tips on how to tackle vacationing, based on time constraints and interests, complete with practical advice and suggested itineraries. With user-friendly features it offers tips on excellent values, special moments, traveling with kids and overrated experiences and includes thematic tours for every interest, schedule and taste.

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10 Chapters

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1. THE BEST OF GERMANY

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THE BEST OF GERMANY

The word is out and maybe you’ve heard it: Germany is one of Europe’s great travel destinations. Every year, more and more visitors from around the globe are discovering the pleasures to be found in Germany’s cities, towns, and countryside. Tourist numbers have risen steadily in the 25 years since the country’s dramatic reunification in 1989–1990 and show no sign of slowing down.

Germany’s appeal is really no great mystery. Moody forests, jagged Alpine peaks, and miles of neatly tended vineyards are not just scenic but the stuff of legend, places that have inspired fairy tales and where much of Western history has been played out. The Germans more than anyone appreciate the soothing tonic of a hike in the Black Forest or a stroll on North Sea dunes, and just seeing these storied lands from a train window can be good for the soul. The cities are treasure-troves not just of great art and history but of culture, sophisticated lifestyles, and, from ever-changing Berlin to old-world Baden-Baden, cutting-edge architecture. Food—well, don’t write off the cuisine as just a lot of heaping plates of wurst and sauerkraut and schnitzel with noodles. For one thing, these traditional dishes are delicious, and one of the pleasures of traveling in Germany is discovering time-honored regional favorites.

 

2. GERMANY ITINERARIES

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GERMANY ITINERARIES

Wondering where to go in Germany? That, of course, depends on what you want to see and do. But here are some ideas—some show off the highlights, others focus on a few regions, others cater to some special interests, whether that’s tasting wine or showing the kids medieval castles.

GERMAN HIGHLIGHTS IN 1 WEEK

This 7-day tour begins in Munich and ends in Berlin, showing off the best of southern and northern Germany and introducing the country’s two greatest cities, two of King Ludwig II’s castles, and a mighty river, the Rhine, as it flows past the lively city of Cologne. Our preferred mode of transport is train, a comfortable and efficient way to get anywhere you want to go in Germany.

Day 1: Munich

        Spend your first day in marvelous Munich (see chapter 6). Head first for Marienplatz, the city’s main square. You can go up to the top of the Rathaus tower for a bird’s-eye view, watch the Glockenspiel, and visit the nearby Frauenkirche, Munich’s largest church. Then walk over to the adjacent Viktualienmarkt, one of the greatest food markets in Europe. Browse around and find a place for lunch from among the dozens of possibilities in the area. Afterward, make your way to the Asamkirche for a glimpse of the rococo ornamentation for which southern Germany is famous. In the afternoon, choose a museum: If you’re an art lover, you may want to see the priceless collection of old masters at the Alte Pinakothek; if you’re interested in science and technology, make your way to the famous Deutsches Museum. If you’re in the mood for oom-pah-pah, have dinner at the fun-loving Hofbräuhaus am Platzl. Munich is one of Germany’s top cultural capitals, so you may want to end your evening at a concert or the opera.

 

3. GERMANY IN CONTEXT

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GERMANY IN CONTEXT

Every country and every culture offers a unique opportunity—and sometimes a challenge—to enlarge one’s personal experience and understanding of the world. Germany is no exception. The more you know about German life and German culture, the more enjoyable and rewarding your trip to Germany will be. This chapter provides useful background information to help you plan your trip and understand the country. Check out the major festivals and events to find out what’s going on when. A section on German history arranges the country’s long and complicated past into a concise, easy-to-digest chronology. We cross-reference highlights of German art and architecture to specific cities and sites to help you place these works in context, and introduce the best of German food, beer. Finally, we provide suggestions for other books and movies that deal with all aspects of German life.

WHEN TO GO

Peak travel months in Germany are May through October, with another boost in December when the Christmas markets are held and skiers head to the Bavarian Alps.

 

4. BERLIN

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BERLIN

In 2014, Berlin marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s a momentous occasion, full of symbolism and emotion for those who had lived with the gruesome concrete barrier that kept Berlin—and, symbolically, all of Germany—divided for more than 40 years. In the quarter-century since the Wall came tumbling down, Berlin has re-established itself as Germany’s capital and gone through an urban and social transformation that has made it, once again, one of the most exciting cities in Europe (many would say, the most exciting). Superlative museums, grand (and grandiose) monuments, a nightlife that’s both glamorous and gritty, a performing arts scene that has no equal in Germany, fascinating neighborhoods to explore, fabulous parks and green spaces to enjoy, cafes, beer gardens, shopping, elegant restaurants and on-the-go street food—Berlin truly does have something for everyone. And although Berlin is a fast-paced, forward-looking city, it is also a city full of memorials and reminders of its haunted and harrowing Nazi and Communist past. Berlin has seen it all and lived to tell the tale—a tale that makes this city perpetually fascinating and endlessly exciting as it reinvents itself again and again.

 

5. HAMBURG & THE NORTH

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HAMBURG & THE NORTH

Every nation seems to have a north–south divide, and Germany is no exception. Travel up here from even northerly Berlin and you’ll notice a difference—the salt tinged breezes off the Baltic Sea, the distinctive brick gabled houses favored by Hanseatic merchants and seafarers, a preference for herring and other fish, the long winter nights and long summer days, the palpable presence of Scandinavia. Our coverage focuses on two of northern Germany’s standouts, the dynamic port city of Hamburg and medieval Lübeck, an architectural treasure trove.

HAMBURG

285km (177 miles) northwest of Berlin

Hamburg’s is a tale of two cities…or three, or four. Germany’s second largest city, after Berlin, and Europe’s second-largest port, after Rotterdam, has so many facets that visitors stumble into one fascinating cityscape after another. The copper-roofed tower of old baroque Hauptkirche St. Michael’s rises next to glass and steel office buildings. The port, with its wharfs, cranes, dry docks, and a flotilla of ships coming and going day and night rambles along the banks of the Elbe River as far as the eye can see. A maze of canals laces through the old city, lined with sturdy brick warehouses where Hamburg merchants once stashed carpets, tea, and the other lucre of trade. These days boldly designed high-rise corporate headquarters—Hamburg is a media capital and industrial center—are the powerhouses of wealth and influence. Elegant 19th-century facades along the shores of the Alster, the shimmering lake at Hamburg’s center, and Jugenstil (art nouveau) villas scream bourgeois comforts; smart-phone-toting Armani clad execs carry on the legacy of well-fed Middle Age burghers who made fortunes after Frederich Barbarossa declared the city a free port in 1193. Then there’s Hamburg’s underbelly—the infamous Reeperbahn, the sleazy avenue where “Hiya sailor” is the anthem of easy virtue. The stag partiers and other denizens of the night who dip into this slice of lowlife are onto something—Hamburg might be business-minded, even stuffy in places, but it can also be a lot of fun, whatever your notion of a good time is. That might also mean gazing at an Expressionist canvas in the Kunsthalle, or watching Hamburgers haggle over the price of cod at the Fischmarkt, or cruising past architectural stunners in HafenCity, a brand new waterfront quarter. As you get to know Hamburg, you will be surprised at just how easy it is to succumb to this city’s charms and how many there are.

 

6. MUNICH

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MUNICH

Munich (München, pronounced Mewn-shin, in German), the capital of Bavaria, is a town that likes to party. Walk through the Altstadt (Old City) on a sunny day or a balmy evening and you’ll see people sitting outside, in every square, drinking, eating, and enjoying life. And there is a lot of life to enjoy in this attractive city, which seems to epitomize a certain beer-drinking, oom-pah-pah image many people still have of Germany (an image, by the way, that makes most Germans laugh or cringe). The beer and oom-pah-pah is definitely here—you’ll find it at the famous Hofbräuhaus and other beer halls—but suds and songs sung in swaying unison are only one part of Munich. The other part is rich, cultured and sophisticated, with a kind of proud, purring prosperity that supports the arts on a grand scale and appreciates the finer things in life (such as the BMWs that are produced here). In addition to having several world-class museums, it can lay claim to having the richest cultural, gastronomic and retail life in southern Germany. It’s softer and not as gritty as Berlin or Hamburg, at least not in its lovely and lively inner core, where church bells chime and the streets are paved for people, not cars.

 

7. ON & OFF THE ROMANTIC ROAD

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ON & OFF THE ROMANTIC ROAD

For many travelers, Germany hits its high notes along the so-called Romantische Strasse, or Romantic Road, a scenic route that rambles through much of Bavaria. The 350km (220 miles) of specially marked lanes and secondary roads wind from the vineyard-clad hills surrounding Würzburg south through an unfolding panorama of beautiful landscapes interspersed with small medieval cities. To the south, the road rises through foothills covered with verdant pastures, lake-splashed countryside, and groves of evergreens to the dramatic heights of the Alps that divide Germany and western Austria. As if all this scenery weren’t enough, these final stretches of the road lead to Linderhof and Neuschwanstein, two of the fantasy castles built by the legendary King Ludwig II in the second half of the 19th century.

Officially, the scenic route the German government drew up after World War II takes in 28 towns and villages. We take a few liberties and veer off the Romantic Road to also include some fascinating nearby places that are too good to miss—among them Nürnberg, a city that all in one swoop encompasses medieval and Renaissance splendor, the horrors of World War II, and the successes of Germany’s postwar rebuilding. We also detour east to Regensburg, a little city that was untouched by the war and as result comprises one of Europe’s largest swaths of medieval architecture. In the south, we wander off the Romantic Road to take in a section of the Bavarian Alps around Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

 

8. HEIDELBERG & THE BLACK FOREST

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HEIDELBERG & THE BLACK FOREST

Southwestern Germany has long inspired legends, soothed romantic sensibilities, and delighted travelers, and little wonder. Ancient castle ruins in the midst of thick woodlands, lovely and atmospheric towns and cities, valleys carpeted with vineyards, dark forests and shimmering lakes—it’s all here. Aside from an overload of scenery, these landscapes also offer the heavy-on-atmopshere ambiance of an old university town (Heidelberg); soothing thermal baths (in sophisticated Baden-Baden); cozy Black Forest town ambiance (on the cobbled lanes of Freiburg); even shiny vintage cars (in Stuutgart’s Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museums).

HEIDELBERG

89km (55 miles) S of Frankfurt

This ancient university town on the Neckar River enjoys a reputation as an enchanted purveyor of wine and romance, song and student life, fun and frivolity. It drew 19th-century German Romantics, who praised and painted it; Mark Twain, who cavorted in its lively streets and made cynical observations in “A Tramp Abroad”; and fans of the 1924 operetta “Student Prince,” set in Heidelberg (and with a rousing chorus, “Drink, drink, drink” that is still an anthem for many young residents and their visitors). A little less poetically, this attractive city of 135,000 inhabits also housed a U.S. army base for many decades after World War II, helping ensure its popularity with Americans. Heidelberg was ravaged by French invaders during the 30 Years War in the 17th century yet was relatively unscathed in World War II, and the Altstadt (Old Town) looks much as it did a century or two ago, with a lot of architectural landmarks from the later Middle Ages and early Renaissance still standing. Historically, though, Heidelberg is young at heart; the oldest university in Germany is based here, dating to 1386. Some 28,000 students impart a palpable energy to the narrow lanes and lively inns of the Altstadt. While great mouments and museums are thin on the ground in Heidelberg, this youthful aura and romantically historic ambiance will no doubt make your time here memorable.

 

9. FRANKFURT, COLOGNE & THE RHINELAND

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FRANKFURT, COLOGNE & THE RHINELAND

For about 2 centuries now, the mighty Rhine has attracted visitors from around the world, who come to enjoy the romantic scenery of hilltop castles, medieval towns, and vineyard-covered slopes. The Rhineland, the area along the river’s west bank, is a treasure-trove for tourists, with Cologne, the Rhineland’s largest and most important city, sitting right on the river. Possessing the largest cathedral in Germany and filled with a fascinating assortment of museums and cultural venues, Cologne makes a wonderful headquarters for exploring the Rhineland. There are many day trip options from Cologne, including Aachen, one of Germany’s oldest cities, the Mosel Valley, covered with meticulously tended vineyards, and river trips on the Mittelrhein (Middle Rhine), the river’s most scenic stretch, where you can glide by castle-crowned summits, stop at riverside wine towns, and finally see that rock—the Loreley—that you’ve heard so much about.

 

10. PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO GERMANY

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PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO GERMANY

Germans are famously organized, and travelers will be wise to follow their example in doing a little advance planning for a trip to Germany, from how to get there and around to where to stay.

GETTING THERE

By Plane

Lufthansa ( 800/645-3880 in the U.S., 800/563-5954 in Canada, or 01805/805805 in Germany; www.lufthansa.com) operates the most frequent service from North America, with service from almost 20 cities. Given the quality of the fleet and service, as well as timeliness, a flight on Lufthansa is a good kickoff to a trip to Germany.

American Airlines ( 800/443-7300; www.aa.com) flies nonstop from Chicago, Dallas, and other U.S. hubs to Frankfurt daily, and American’s flights connect easily with ongoing flights to many other German cities on Lufthansa or British Airways. Delta Airlines ( 800/241-4141; www.delta.com) offers daily nonstop service to Frankfurt from Atlanta, Cincinnati, and New York’s JFK; nonstop to Munich from Atlanta; nonstop to Berlin from JFK; and connecting service to Hamburg. United Airlines ( 800/538-2929; www.united.com) offers daily nonstops from Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago to Frankfurt and Munich. Air Berlin ( (866/266-5588; www.airberlin.com) flies from Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and other U.S. cities to Berlin.

 

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