I have visited Germany many times and wanted to show my family some of what I love and find fascinating about the country.
In planning our itinerary, I chose some places I’d been before and some that were new to me. We started in Munich, drove south through the Bavarian Alps as far as Schloss Neuschwanstein, before heading north for Dinkelsbühl, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Nuremberg and Dresden. Here’s my top ten (in no particular order):
Road trip through the Bavarian Alps – snow-covered mountains, lakes like mirrors, forests of firs – it’s the stuff of fairy tales (and so completely different to anything we see in Australia).
Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarkt) – we visited Christmas markets in small towns and the larger ones in Munich (directly below), Nuremberg and Dresden. All were magical but I think Dresden was my favourite. I adored the enormous real Christmas trees decorated simply with lights.
The Weihnachtsmuseum (Christmas Museum) in Rothenburg ob der Tauber is small but worth a visit – the museum has displays showing the history of many Christmas traditions, most importantly, the decoration of trees (Germany is credited with starting many Christmas traditions as early as the 16th century, including decorating trees).
Christmas Market snacks – they have the formula right at Christmas markets. Gluhwein, sausages, sweet treats, and all sized so that you can eat and wander. Our lunches and dinners were had as multiple courses, as we sampled German favourites and local delicacies.
The highlights: Flammlachs (salmon which is smoked over an open fire, and then served in a bread roll) in Munich; the best Bratwurst in Rothenburg odT; Kartoffelpuffer (potato cakes) with apple sauce (sounds odd, tastes delicious) in Nuremberg; pretty gingerbread; chocolate-covered strawberry and banana skewers in Dresden; and my favourite, Küsse (also known as Mohrenkopf), a chocolate and marshmallow treat.
Swimming at Müllersches Volksbad – one thing I really love is an international swimming experience. The Müllersches Volksbad might not look exciting from the outside but inside you’ll find an Art Nouveau masterpiece.
Tower views – Fitbit and quad muscles at the ready, we climbed a lot of stairs in Germany – church towers, bell towers, town-hall rooftops, fortress walls… I can’t resist a view. Highlights – St Peter’s Church in Munich and the view over Marienplatz (below) and the town walls of Dinkelsbühl and Rothenburg odT (below).
Jugendherberge – I know that many people wouldn’t think of staying in a youth hostel with their young family but in Germany it’s different. Not only do hostels cater for families but in Germany, most are in significant historic buildings, located in the centre of town.
In Dinkelsbühl the hostel is in a medieval half-timbered gabled corn storehouse – our stay on the top floor gave us views across the historic town (and put to rest my husband’s initial concerns about staying in a youth hostel – his hostelling days were in places that had more of a ‘party’ atmosphere!).
In Nuremberg, the hostel is located in the Kaiserstallung, the imperial stables of Nuremberg’s 500 year-old castle. Again our room was on the top floor, with spectacular views over the city, and a two-minute walk to the Christmas Market.
Beer Halls – they have to be done. We went mainstream (Hofbräuhaus) and local (the kids found the local beer halls a little raucous!). German beer, schnitzels, sausages, pretzels, potato salad, sauerkraut and Spätzle – need I say more?
Schloss Linderhof – my favourite thing about Schloss Linderhof? Discovering that Ludwig II was a migraine sufferer, shunned daylight and instead had 700 candles softly light his way. Next time I have a migraine, I’m calling in the candles.
Ludwig also had an amazing ‘reading nook’, and did thoughtful things such as send the curtain-maker 2000 roses because she finished his new (light-blocking) curtains quickly…
Nuremberg Cellar Tour – The cellars, cut into rock, have been used since the 1300s. In Nuremberg in 1629, the average annual consumption of beer was 500 litres for every man, woman and child, so as you can imagine, the cellars are extensive. The tour gives you a good overview of the history and politics of beer brewing in Germany as well as their importance as bunkers during the Wars – the clever construction of cellar pillars, which stand perfectly above each other on every level, ensured the cellars stood firm against the January, 2nd 1945 bombing of Nuremberg, protecting the city’s citizens.
Dresden – is it cheating to have a whole city as a highlight? It wasn’t just that our hotel rooms overlooked the Christmas market – as soon as I saw Dresden stretched out along the Elbe River, and learnt a little about the city’s history, I wanted longer there (this video clip shows lots of the city during and since WWII).
And a bookish postscript: it’s hard to go past a bookshop, especially one as inviting and cosy as Buchhandlung am Gasteig in Munich.