Category Archives: Germany

What to do in Germany; German attractions and the best places to visit in Germany.

A visit to Munich’s Toy Museum

A visit to Munich’s toy museum is a pleasure for children from 8 to 80. Get into the spirit of things by going to the Marienplatz shortly before 11am. Line up in front of the Neue Rathaus and wait for the world famous carillon (Glockenspiel) to begin.

Neues Rathaus at Munich's Marienplatz

The Rathaus was built between 1867 and 1909 in a Flanders Gothic style and is dominated by the tower with its spires. Crane your neck and discover the upper part of the carillon which displays a joust arranged in honor of the marriage of Wilhelm V and Renate von Lothringen.

The fun part is the lower part. At the stroke of the clock, historical figures come out and perform the Schäfflertanz. Round and round they go until they return to their ‘house’ to await their next performance.

Then turn to your right and make you way to another Rathausturm  and enter the world of toys. The museum is located in four levels of the narrow tower, which means you climb up a spiral staircase and look at the exhibits in small rooms just off the stairs. It’s a very cosy museum with wooden floors and showcases which allow a close inspection of the collection.

Toy museum located in this Rathaus Turm

Ivan Steiger, a cartoonist, writer, filmmaker and journalist, born in Prague,  has collected toys mainly from Europe and the USA going back two centuries and made his collection accessible to the public in this beautiful museum.

It’s as much a joy to observe the kids as it is to look at the doll houses, dolls, teddies, toy trains and of course, a superb Barbie collection.

Teddy bears by Margarete Steiff

Dolls from Käthe Kruse

Dollhouse with Biedermaier furniture

Barbie collection

The museum is open from 10.00 to 17.30. If you feel hungry afterwards, make your way back to the Marienplatz and to one of the many cafes and restaurants around the square to enjoy a Bavarian feast. Bear in mind that Weisswurst is best eaten before noon, but everything else is delicious all day.

Bavarian specilities

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Europe’s Longest Wooden Bridge: The Dragon’s Tail, Germany

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned, somewhat in jest, Europe’s need for longest/shortest/highest/lowest features, such as these “longest” streets in Europe.  Today I’d like to suggest one reason to head to Ronneburg in eastern Germany, where you’ll find The Dragon’s Tail, claimed to be Europe’s Longest Wooden Bridge.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

The bridge was opened in 2006 as part of a gardens festival with the two towns nearby the bridge.  They call it the “dragon’s tail” due to its unique look (some say best seen from afar).  It is nearly 750ft long, and it is now part of the German cycling path network.  It’s near Ronneburg, which has a beautiful castle that is also worth a visit. The town on the other side is Gera, a town full of beautiful churches and a few small museums. There’s a good selection of hotels in Gera.

The Dragon’s Tail took the claim from the timber bridge in Wyszogrod, Poland, which I believe was torn down and replaced in 1999.  (I’m not sure who took the longest bridge claim from 99-’06.)

If you Google “longest wooden bridge in Europe,” you’ll find a number of other places that have bridges that lay to the same claim – including a bridge that connects Germany and Switzerland!  Sigh.

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Reliving recent German history in Berchtesgaden

During my two week stay in Munich and the Chiemsee this summer, I decided to visit one of the most important documentation centers about recent German history, the Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden.

Berchtesgadener Land

A trip to Berchtesgaden is feasible as a Munich day trip, the journey takes approx. 3 hours (each way) either by car or train.  Once you arrive in Berchtesgaden take to RVO bus #838 to take you up the mountain to the Obersalzberg. The documentation is a permanent exhibition of the Institute of Contemporary History Muncih-Berlin and to date the only permanent exhibition worldwide to cover all the essential aspects of the Nazi period in Germany.

The halls are arranged around Wachenfeld House which Adolf Hitler purchased in 1933 and then converted into his holiday resort Berghof. And of course, Obersalzberg contains the Führerbunker underneath  the exhibition halls.

Admission to the center is EURO 3 and you can either join a guided tour or walk around on your own, look at photographs, watch old Wochenschaus and videos.

Entrance to the documentation center

Then follow the signs and descend into the bunker. What struck me as chilling in the truest sense of the word was how vast, dark and very cold the many, many rooms are. Having to take refuge in a bunker this deep and big must be haunting, with water dripping off the walls and floors and not much by way of amenities.

Aisles in the bunker

Rooms were marked as office, guest quarters etc. but they resembled prison cells more than temporary living quarters. They are also all totally empty. I expected some sort of furniture or memorabilia of the times, but there is absolutely nothing.

Dripping walls

Another point of interest to visit in Berchtesgaden is the Eagle’s Nest, a big chalet which was a project of Martin Borman and presented to Adolf Hitler as a50th  birthday present . It’s located high up on a mountain and there is an access road which was blasted out of solid rock and completed in only 13 months. Since 1952 the Eagle’s Nest road is closed to public traffic and a bus service takes visitors to a viewpoint. From there a stone lined tunnel leads straight into the mountain and an elevator which takes the visitor up another 406 ff straight through the heart of the mountain and into the building itself. The Eagle’s Nest is open from mid May until the end of October.

Footpath down from Obersalzberg to Berchtesgaden

I didn’t visit the Eagle’s Nest because after my visit to the Obersalzberg, I walked back into Berchtesgaden on a winding footpath which leads through dense forest and affords views of the beautiful Berchtesgadener Land. It was also a means to unwind after the truly moving experience of viewing the documentation.

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Is there any danger of Nazis gaining influence in Germany?

For many years, Germany has put forth legislation and come down hard on anything related to the Nazi regime. Concentration camps, like Dachau, serve as reminders of the horrors of the Nazi regime. Germany has banned neo-Nazi groups. Denying the holocaust is a crime. So while it seems a bit far-fetched and extreme to say Germany could revert back to the days of Nazi influence, it may not be as far off as many think.

Dachau Concentration Camp

Recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that multiculturalism in Germany has been a failure in a recent speech to the Christian Democratic Union Party.  As foreign workers have come to Germany for work, Merkel stated that the integration of these foreigners hasn’t worked and that multiculturalism has indeed failed.  Her comments received a standing ovation as there seems to be a growing attitude in Germany that foreigners may no longer be welcomed.  While some may see these comments as a bit of an exaggeration for political purposes, there has been more information that signals this could be a growing concern in Germany.

A recent survey by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation think tank has revealed some scary attitudes of Germans – enough to raise some eyebrows.  13 percent of Germans would welcome a Fuhrer, the term for leader associated with Hitler for running the country with a firm hand.  While the percentages are low, it signals growing frustration in Germany.  But that’s not all.

Sixty percent of Germans want to restrict the practice of Islam while 17 percent think Jews have too much influence.  This is scary.  When examining the results of this survey, it seems to indicate that many Germans want to restrict foreigners, think the country should be ruled firmly, and that a number of ethnic groups are having too much influence in Germany.  This could lead to an increase in Nazi groups and a bias against foreigners.

Unfortunately, this type of attitude isn’t just contained to Germany.  Other European nations, the US, Africa, and other nations are looking to close their doors to foreigners.  However, attitudes like this in Germany may remind many people of the attitudes and frustrations that existed during Nazi times.

Maybe these attitudes are just a reflection of the economic struggles many countries are going through.  Maybe German resentment is growing towards other nations in the EU for having to hold it up by bailing out countries like Greece.

From the German Chancellor to the people of the country, there seems to be a growing frustration with the way things are in Germany.  Do you believe this is a troubling sign for Germany?  Will reports like these affect your  European travel itinerary planning?

Exploring the Fraueninsel in Bavaria, Germany

The south of Bavaria offers several beautiful lakes like the Tegernsee, Starnberger See or, my favorite, the Chiemsee. All are suitable for a daytrip from Munich, easily reached either by train or car.

I like the Chiemsee, because apart from the beauty of the lake surrounded by mountains, there are two islands to be enjoyed.  Each  is famous for something different. Herreninsel is the location of King Ludwig’s last dream castle and the Fraueninsel ‘s attractions are the Abtei, a very special kind of smoked fish and the works of several artists who have made their home on the island.

Departing with a ferry from the Fessler fleet, Prien is left behind and 20 minutes later the white washed walls of the Benediktiner Kloster rise out of the water, topped by a tower.

Fraueninsel and Abtei

Nuns have been living and working in the Abtei since it was founded by Duke Tassilo II of Bavaria in 782. They continue to do so today and maintain the cloister and themselves by offering spiritual retreats and talks and by running their cloister shop where they sell a well known – and quite strong – Klosterlikör, hand made marzipan often in the shape of Christina symbols, a wide variety of interesting books and their very own votive candles.

Handmade marzapan

In about 1 – 1 ½ hours at a leisurely path, you can walk around the entire island, it’s that small.

Romantic benches invite to a rest

Along the way you can rest on romantic benches overlooking the water and shaded by centuries old oak trees, or recharge batteries by stopping at one of several kiosks where you can sample a speciality which is only made on the island: smoked Renkenfilet. It’s a fish, similar to trout or mackerel, which is only found in the Chiemsee and the fishermen of the Fraueninsel have a secret and special way of smoking the filets. Served in a bun and topped with a mixture of cream and horseradish accompanied maybe by a beer which is also brewed in a tiny brewery on the island, you are fit to continue your stroll.

Smoked Renken filets

Which then leads to the artists and the potteries in particular. Three or four are located in one of the romantic island houses. Klampfleutner makes the most beautiful tiles and an example is even exhibited in the Heimatmuseum in Prien.  My eye was caught by the exceptional colors and subjects of another piece of pottery. A plate or bowl made to look like coral and an entire aquarium are works of art I have never seen elsewhere.

Ceramic bowl made to resemble coral

You can watch the artists at work and they are happy to explain their techniques. An  ideal place for a souvenir or a gift for friends at home. If you prefer paintings, you’ll also find an art gallery.

Returning back to the jetty, I visited the parts of the Abtei which are open to the public and the Klosterkirche where you can admire what’s known as Bayerischer Baroque in it’s most opulent form.

Ferries back to Prien or onwards to Herreninsel or else a roundtrip run every hour and, if needed, even more often.

Flagship of the Fessler fleet

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The Berlin Wall: Famous for its destruction

Amanda has been doing a wonderful job writing about all there is to see in Berlin (Check out here Best of Berlin Travel Tips as well as Berlin’s Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum). And to be perfectly honest, she inspired me to revisit the trip I made there a while back.

I knew very little about the history behind the Berlin wall.  I’m at the age where I don’t really remember the events leading up to the fall of it, and it wasn’t distant enough to necessarily be covered in depth in my history classes, but not close enough that it was covered in my current events classes.  Basically, my education failed me.

I knew the wall fell. I knew it fell in 1989. I knew it was symbolic and historic and plenty of other -ics.  But I didn’t know what to expect when. visiting this Berlin sightseeing attraction.  It’s a strange idea in the first place.  How does one visit something that is historic for its very destruction?  I wanted to see it because it no longer existed.

That’s what made exploring Berlin so much fun though.  Because walking around the city, I suddenly stumbled upon a lone cement panel.  Remnants of the Berlin wall.  I headed to the east side and found a large stretch of wall which out into perspective just how high it was, just how dominating it was.  And of course, I wandered through the East Side Gallery and realized that here was an incredible stretch of the wall still standing.

Some trips stand out.  Berlin stood out.  For what was there, and for what wasn’t.  It’s a strange tip, I know, but go to the city of Berlin and look for what isn’t there as well as what still remains. 

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Stroll Through Koblenz for a Typical German Town Experience

One thing that always strikes me about planning travel in Germany is that there are so many medium-sized towns to explore. Every German city or town is a little different, and visiting some that are not too high on the typical tourist’s agenda can give you a more authentic experience, I think.

Recently we spent a day in Koblenz, a town of around 100,000 people, an ideal Frankfurt day trip, pretty much in the middle of Germany. It’s got a few sightseeing spots like the Deutsches Eck (a park overlooking where the Rhein and Mosel Rivers meet – very pretty), a relatively popular Military Museum, and Koblenz is also full of sculptures and fountains – like this one above, probably my favourite.

But more than ticking the boxes, visiting a European city or town like Koblenz is a way to experience something local. We strolled past the shops – even did a little shopping! – had a great lunch out in the sunshine, complete with some good German beer, and did our fair share of people watching too. I was also desperate to eat a Currywurst – a not particularly healthy German snack consisting of a chopped up sausage, special curry sauce and a piece of bread – and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Considering it was the middle of peak season and other cities we visited were packed full of tourists, Koblenz made a relaxing change.

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Berlin’s Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum

When I wrote up our top Berlin tips recently I discovered I’ve never posted about one of my favourite things to do in Berlin, visiting the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. While I find the actual Checkpoint Charlie site now a little tacky – you can have your photo taken there with actor-guards, for a price – the nearby museum is really worth a visit.

The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie actually started way back in 1962 and was founded as a private museum by Rainer Hildebrandt as a museum of “non violent international protest”. Right from the start they collected items that had been used in escapes or escape attempts over the wall, and today those are the most interesting exhibits for me. It’s hard to imagine that back when they started the museum, they probably thought the Berlin Wall would be there for the rest of their lives – and now it’s gone and the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum is a tourist attraction which people from any country can freely visit.

There are also more general exhibits explaining the history of the Berlin Wall and the shop in the ground floor is one of the most interesting museum shops I know – I love the old posters from Berlin Wall days. The Checkpoint Charlie Musuem is one of those clever Berlin attractions which stays open late (I love sightseeing at night!) – its daily opening hours are 9.00am to 10.00pm.

(Photo of an escape attempt courtesy of Olivier Bruchez)

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Best of Berlin Travel Tips

Berlin, the capital of Germany, is one of the most exciting cities in Europe and it’s featured in our best cities to visit in Europe post. It’s my personal favourite European travel destination Berlin’s got everything: fascinating museums, lots of tasty food, interesting locals and of course, the legacy of a truly up and down history. I’ve collated the best things to do in Berlin, written by members of the Europe a la Carte blogging team to help you plan your trip to the German capital.

Best Museums in Berlin

Museum lovers will be in their element in Berlin. Heather recommends the Pergamon Museum, saying it’s one of the best Berlin museums on the Museuminsel (Museum Island).

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

Part of the Ishtar Gate at the Pergamon Museum by luisvilla

Less well-known but equally inspiring, Lindsay says the Kathe Kollwitz Museum gave her a lot of food for thought.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

Inside the Kathe Kollwitz Museum by Lindsay Sydenham

Heather also suggests visiting the Jewish Museum and the Anne Frank Museum. Personally, I’d say the Jewish Museum is the best museum in Berlin, and well worth at least an afternoon.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

Part of the intriguing Jewish Museum by Goodnight London

Best Street Art in Berlin

What would a visit to Berlin be without finding part of the Berlin Wall? Marcus shared his experience at the East Side Gallery.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

A famous panel of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery by qyphon

Best Views in Berlin

One of my favourite outings in Berlin is a walk up into the spiral dome of the Reichstag. Not only do you get to enjoy its impressive architecture, but you also get great views over the city.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

Inside the dome of the Reichstag by pit-yacker

Best Shopping in Berlin

Berlin’s a great place to shop, and the Ku’damm or Kurfurstendamm is definitely the hotspot – and Heather lists some nearby sights if shopping gets too much.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

The Kurfurstendamm by night by Schrottie

Lindsay recommends a visit to the Art Nouveau style Hackesche Hofe complex consisting of eight interlinked courtyards.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

Jugendstil courtyard at the Hackesche Hofe by paularps

Best Free Attractions in Berlin

It costs nothing to enter the Berlin Cathedral, says Lindsay, who claims it’s one of her favourite spots in Berlin.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

The impressive Berlin Cathedral by ilm19

Best Food in Berlin

Lindsay suggests that a traditional Turkish Doner is a delicious typical Berlin food to try – thanks to the influence of the city’s large Turkish population.

Ready to eat: a Turkish döner by andynahman

Best Transport in Berlin

To get a quick overview of where many of the main Berlin attractions are, Heather recommends a rickshaw ride.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

Rickshaws parked near Brandenburg Gate by swamysk

Best Day Trips from Berlin

If you want to escape the city, head to Sanssouci Palace, enjoyed by Marcus as a relaxing getaway. You can book a taxi in Berlin to get to the palace.Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

World Heritage site Schloss Sanssouci by Gertrud K

Your Berlin Tips

@Welcome Beyond on Twitter: ‘Berlin Underworld’ is also worth visiting: http://bit.ly/adUMeQ

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Munich Museums – The Residenz

The Munich museum the Residenz was the Stadtschloss of the kings of Bavaria. One of the best ways to get there is by bicycle, set off on a sunny afternoon for a ride through the Hofgarten to reach the Residenz.

Hofgarten in Munich

Chain your mount to the many clearly indicated railings and enjoy a walk through the elaborate design, including a labyrinth, of the park and garden. A few steps away is the Residenz.

Munich loves bicycles

It’s open every day from 9am to 6pm, so it’s an ideal Sunday destination. Joint admission for museum and treasury is EURO 9 and,

My favorite is the treasury. When visiting you have to check in bags, backpacks and anything bigger than a small purse. (You can keep your kids though). Duke Albrecht V made a provision in his will that all valuable pieces which the ruler’s passion for collecting had assembled, should forthwith be given a special place and could never, ever be sold. That was the beginning of what today can be admired in the treasury. His successors continued to add and the treasury was first opened to the public in 1897.

An elaborate crown in the treasury

I love the intimate atmosphere of the ten rooms where the secular and  the ecclesiastical pieces are lovingly exhibited. It’s more like visiting the family treasures that a very rich uncle keeps in his mansion as opposed to visiting a museum of the magnitude of say –  Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace. Crowns, necklaces, artifacts and religious objects as well as a few bejeweled weapons are each displayed in their separate glass cases and bathed in dim light which brings out the sparkle.

Part of the royal insignia

The museum shop offers a great selection of books about the history of Bavaria, the kings and queens and the provenance of the treasures. As the Residenz is conveniently located in the center of Munch, the museum trip can easily be ended by a walk or cycle to nearby Odeonsplatz or a coffee in the Hofgarten cafeteria.

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