Exploring the New Berlin
Anyone who lived through the fear of the Cold War can't help but shudder at the memory of the Berlin Wall. Since reunification, civic planners, with almost manic enthusiasm, have demolished large sections of what once stood as a scar across the face of a defeated nation. The architectural changes and urban developments that constantly update the cityscape around Berlin's Friedrichstrasse and Potsdamer Platz can be confusing. But regardless of which renewal program is churning up rubble at the time of your visit, a pilgrimage through what used to be the most bitterly contested urban turf in Europe can't help but provoke powerful emotions.
Spending a Midsummer's Night in a Biergarten
When the temperature rises, head for the unpretentious cheer of the nearest Biergarten (everybody in Germany seems to have a favorite, so we're not even going to try to name the "best"). These watering holes, which often feature trellises, climbing vines, Chinese lanterns, and arbors, offer low-cost fun on soft summer nights. You can order platters of hearty food with your beer or bring your own picnic.
Cruising the Elbe, the Danube, and the Rhine
This trio of rivers, along with their tributaries, dominated German commerce for hundreds of years. Today, an armada of tugboats, barges, and cruise ships still plies the muddy waters beside riverbanks lined with the historic majesty (and sometimes the industrial might) of central Europe. Cruises begin and end at large cities of historic interest and last anywhere from 6 hours to 7 days.
Boating on the Königssee
A "King's Lake" must surely be the best, and the natural beauty surrounding this body of cold, dark water doesn't disappoint. The quiet boat ride using electric motors will allow you to hear the echoes off the forest-covered mountainsides, as you discover baroque chapels and isolated hamlets along the shore. It might just make a Romantic poet out of you.
Hiking in the Bavarian Alps
If you're heeding the call to climb every mountain, then the Bavarian Alps are the place to be in summer. Germany's excellent network of trails, guides, and huts will allow you to discover the wealth of wildlife and stunning scenery. Two of the countless highlights include the 1,240m (4,070-ft.) Eckbauer south of Partenkirchen, and the southeastern "ear lobe" of Berchtesgaden National Park.
Ascending the Zugspitze
If the gentle inclines of the Harz Mountains or the Thuringian forests aren't dramatic enough for you, ride the cable car from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to the top of Germany's tallest mountain, 2,960m (9,700 ft.) above sea level. The view from the top is suitably panoramic, and you'll find an appealing aura of German-ness that comes from the many climbers and trekkers who fan out across the hiking trails.
Experiencing a German Spa
In Germany, the question isn't whether to visit a spa, but rather which spa to visit. Each resort has its virtues and historical associations, and can supply a list of the health benefits associated with its awful-tasting waters. Regardless of your choice, you'll emerge from your treatment with a more relaxed attitude and a greater appreciation of German efficiency and sensuality. The most famous spas are in Baden-Baden.
Motoring along the Neckar
The Neckar River meanders through about 80km (50 miles) of some of Germany's most famous vineyards. But the real appeal of the winding road along the water is the medieval castles scattered along the way. Highlights en route include Heidelberg, Neckarsteinach, Hirschhorn, Eberbach, Zwingenberg, and Burg Hornberg. Don't forget to stop en route for samplings of the local wines.
Spending Harvest Time in the German Vineyards
Springtime in Germany brings the promise of bounty to the legendary vineyards of the Rhine and Mosel valleys, but the autumn harvest is truly the time to visit. Between late August and mid-October, the banks of the rivers turn gold and russet, and armies of workers gather buckets of grapes from rows of carefully pruned vines. Most of the medieval villages and historic castles scattered between Koblenz and Trier are associated with estates where you can sample the wines.
Touring the Fairy-Tale Road (Märchenstrasse)
This is one of the newer marketing ideas of the German tourist authorities, but considering its appeal, you'll wonder why they didn't think of it earlier. From the town of Hanau (a 30-min. drive northeast of Frankfurt), the route zigzags northward along the Weser River for about 600km (370 miles), through some of Germany's most evocative folkloric architecture, ending in Bremen. Scores of well-marked detours pepper the way. Required reading for the trip is a collection of the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and the Nibelungen legends. Don't overlook the psychological implications of Goldilocks, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Pied Piper of Hameln.
Lounging on the Island of Sylt
Don't expect a lush or verdant island -- the climate is temperamental, the setting is savage, the winds blow cold from the north even in summer, and the grasses that manage to survive in the sandy dunes are as weathered and sturdy as the soldiers in a Prussian regiment. Why is it wonderful? Here, the no-nonsense residents of north Germany can preen, flutter, and show off to each other, far from the strictures of their workplaces and the hardworking grind of their everyday lives.
Travel page content provided by Zagat © 2013, Google.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.