As Basil Fawlty once eloquently stated , don’t mention the war!
Modern Germany is still a little ill at ease with its recent history, but is truly one of the highlights of any visit to Europe. Apart from a more open, comfortable stance on those wishing to study sites related to WWII, Germany has a rich, proud culture and history that few people take the time to get to know, and its musical, artistic and cultural heritage is still evident in its ultra modern and eclectic cities and traditional towns and villages and wonderful, open countryside.
Perhaps the real jewel in Germany’s crown is the people. Despite their often aloof, efficient, officious reputations, visitors to Germany will discover a warm, friendly and welcoming nation.
Germany is a modern, western society with a diverse range of ethnic cultures within its borders. The traditional stereotype of humourless, dry, efficient people does have a little basis in fact but you will find that German humour is very much alive and well, it is just far drier and more sardonic than most people can fathom.
Most visitors will get by in Germany with very few cultural problems. Learning a little of the language will help immeasurable but English is also widely spoken as well as a few other European languages to a much lesser extent, especially amongst the younger generations.
Citizens of the EU, including the UK, require no visa to enter, stay or work in Germany. Many other countries including the USA, Australia , New Zealand, Canada and others can visit for up to 3 months. Check with your own embassy if your country is on this list.
Citizens of most other countries will have to apply for a Schengen visa which allows you to visit any of the countries in the Schengen zone, including Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden for up to 90 days.
There are no vaccinations necessary for any visit to Germany, and the country has an excellent health care system that is easily accessible. Health insurance is absolutely essential, and members of the EU should carry an EHIC card for access to any reciprocal healthcare.
Crime and Safety.
Germany is generally very safe with relatively low crime rates. This does not mean that crime does not occur at all, but reasonable common sense precautions for your personal health and safety are enough to keep you safe.
Costs and money.
The unit of currency in Germany is the Euro. Germany is not the most expensive country in Europe, but it is still relatively costly. As in most European countries accommodation and transport will set you back the most. A midrange budget will still set you back at least £100 – £150 GBP a day depending on where you stay and how much you travel, eat out and drink. It is possible for budget travellers to travel on roughly £50 – £100 GBP a day if they budget well.
When to go.
Any time is a good time to visit Germany, but in general the best times to visit are the shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn. If you want to go skiing in the alps, the ski season runs from late November to March.
No visit to Germany is complete without a visit to its capital. Berlin is synonymous with recent historical events, and those who have an interest in recent history will find a lot to hold there interest here, but there is also an eclectic underbelly of a vibrant music and arts scene and great nightlife.
Germany’s second city, Cologne is constantly underestimated and passed over by many visitors. This is a huge mistake. Cologne is by far one of the premier city attractions in Germany with a lot of history and culture of its own, an amazing Cathedral and plenty to see and do.
With a history dating back to at least the Roman era, this ancient town has a lot of ruins and ancient structures to keep armchair archaeologists happy, but this picturesque town is well worth the time it takes to get here simply to take in the beautiful architecture and stroll around the surrounding countryside and vineyards.
Imagine a fairy tale castle, complete with tall spires and turrets, then surround that with the grand backdrop of the black forest, and you have Schloss Neuschwanstein (Disney modelled their castle on it!). Absolutely unmissable.
Go hiking or cycling in the black forest.
The black forest is a stunning stretch of vast forest that runs across the French/German border and is popular with hikers and cyclists for the easy, plentiful and picturesque trails and the myriad of quaint, medieval and historical towns and villages that are perfect for exploring.
Remember your history.
No visit to Germany can fail to conjure up images of the recent past, but it seems that you can actually start mentioning the war now, as increasingly German’s are less and less sensitive about the subject and more open to seeing it in a historical context as generations move on. Places such as Colditz and any one of the many museums dedicated to Nazi history are poignant reminders to a very dark chapter in our history. It is well worth penning in at least a little time to explore some of the locations or museums.