I am recently returned from Germany, but from parts of Germany that don’t see as much tourism as Berlin and Munich. There are many places to see that are worth your time.
Did you know you can find Roman ruins in Germany? Starting in the west and heading to the east, we first come to Trier. This was a Roman city that eventually became a significant city of the Holy Roman Empire. There are two different palaces in Trier for the Prince-Electors from that time. It may be the oldest city in Germany. Trier is on the banks of the Moselle river and can also be a great jumping-off place for visiting Luxembourg which is close by.
Rhine River Gorge
One of the most beautiful parts of Germany is a specific part of the Rhine which is filled with castles called the Rhine River Gorge. If you are a fan of castles then this is a place to see. The best way to see it is from a boat but easy Rhine River day trips are available from Frankfurt.
Known for its university, the city is watched over by the ruins of what used to be one of the largest fortified castles in Europe. The young prince Frederick V built gardens around the castle for his young bride Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I of England and VI of Scotland. The gardens were considered by some to be the 8th wonder of the world. But Frederick V accepted the role as the king of Bavaria (he only served briefly, he is called the Winter King) and he managed to trigger the 30 years war which left his political future and castle in ruins.
On a rainy day in Heidelberg, Germany there is no one hanging out at the sidewalk cafe in the foreground. But even on a rainy day, Heidelberg is a beautiful city. You can see the old bridge in the distance.
If the castle of “Mad” Ludwig, Neuschwanstein, looks familiar it might be because it has graced travel posters for Germany for many years or because Disney borrowed from its design for the castle in Disneyland. The castle was built long after the age of castles in the 1800s and is a monument for romanticism and conspicuous consumption. Ludwig, a strong swimmer, later drowned during his morning swim under suspicious circumstances.
One of the few walled cities left in Germany, Rothenberg looks like the place where Geppetto would live. It is very touristy, so stay overnight so that you see the town without the crowds from tour buses. Take the night watchman’s tour, walk the old walls, climb the tower of City Hall and try a snowball (sneeballen) pastry.
Often rated as one of the livable cities in the world, Düsseldorf also knows how to party. Not only is one of its streets known as the “longest bar in the world” but it also hosts one of the largest carnival celebrations. It is like a mix of Mardi Gras and Halloween, which culminates with a parade that draws more than a million spectators. Architecture fans should not miss some of the modern buildings by architect Frank Geary near the Düsseldorf’s Rhine Tower (Rheinturm).
The 4th largest city in Germany is located on the Rhine and is best known for its cathedral. Climb to the top of the tower in the cathedral for a breathtaking view of the city. Note that a friend of ours who is claustrophobic found that he had to turn back from the narrow winding staircase.
If you think that it’s cool to have a fountain in your garden then you might enjoy the spectacular display of manmade cascades, foundations, and streams at the Bellevue Palace in Kassel. In the summer the fountain displays happen in the afternoon around 2 pm but check the schedule.
Hainich National Park
If you thought that canopy walks were limited to Costa Rican rainforests then you have not visited Hainich National Park. Get up high in and over a deciduous forest and learn about its ecosystem. The canopy walk has rope ladders and bridges that kids of all ages will love.
Eisenach / Wartburg Castle
Visit the home town of Johan Sebastian Bach and the museum dedicated to him that features concerts of his work several times a day. Luther also did his schooling in Eisenach and translated the New Testament to German in beautiful Wartburg castle that overlooks the town. Visit the Luther House and also a museum dedicated to Wagner. Car buffs should visit the car museum just outside of town where they manufactured cars for 100 years.
Visit the old Market Bridge which is covered with shops just like the old London Bridge (this one is smaller but didn’t fall down). Climb the hill above the town to the battlements of an old star fortress. Visit the monetary where Luther studied to be a monk. Unlike so many medieval towns in Germany, 90% of Erfurt survived WW2, so these are the original buildings and not restorations. It has the oldest university in Germany. You can visit the building that once housed a synagogue in the 1300s including a treasure trove of items left in the area when the Jews were expelled because they were blamed for deaths from the plague.
This is the home of Goethe, Schiller, and List, but also the city where Hitler first came to power. It is a picturesque town with a beautiful pedestrian-only old town, but just north of town you can also find the concentration camp Buchenwald. Ironically this makes it both the center of the German Enlightenment and of one of the darkest chapters in the history of the German people.
Wörlitz / Garden Kingdom
If you had the money and the time to build the best garden in the world, you might end up with something like the gardens between Wörlitz and nearby Dessau. 7 different large gardens fill 55 square miles (142 km2). The palace in Wörlitz is also one of the original neoclassic buildings in Germany. The garden, built on the English garden model in the late 1700s, includes Greek temples, a couple of palaces, summer houses, ferries, and even a fake volcano.
The reformation got its start in this picturesque town when a local pastor, Martin Luther, nailed a list of grievances to the university church door. 2017 will be the 500th anniversary of that event and the city is opening a new museum of the reformation to accompany the museums in the former homes of reformers Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon. Wittenberg holds a wonderful festival in early June which commemorates the wedding of Luther to ex-nun Katherine von Bora. The town goes all medieval for the occasion.
learn more about Germany by listening to:
- Travel to Berlin – Episode 684
- Danube River Cruise – Episode 664
- The Liberation Route Europe (WWII) – Episode 626
- Travel to Baden-Württemberg in Germany – Episode 559
- Road Trip Through Luther Land and the Heart of Germany – Episode 519
- Travel to Munich Germany – Episode 469
- Travel to Düsseldorf, Germany – Episode 413
- Cruising the Rhine River – Episode 254
- Travel to Eastern Germany – Episode 209
- Travel to Bavaria and Southern Germany – Episode 188
- Travel to Rothenburg Germany, Zurich and Interlaken Switzerland – Episode 100
- Travel to Berlin, Germany – Episode 40