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Currency

Germany is part of the European Union and the Eurozone; as such it replaced German marks with the euro (symbol: €) in the year 2002. If you have marks remaining from previous trips, they can be exchanged indefinitely at certain banks: inquire first before you attempt to convert your marks.

Do not expect anybody to accept foreign currencies or to be willing to exchange currency. An exception are shops and restaurants at airports and also - more rarely - fast-food restaurants at major train stations. These will generally accept at least US dollars at a slightly worse exchange rate. If you wish to exchange money, you can do so at any bank, where you can also cash in your traveller's cheques. Currency exchanges, once a common sight, have all but disappeared since the introduction of the euro. Again, international airports and train stations are an exception to this rule.

German banks have agreed on a standard debit card called "Maestro card" (Formerly called "EC card") this is far more accepted as plastic payment methods than credit cards from American Express, VISA and others. Pay close attention that they support "Maestro card", because it's very common in German super markets to only accept "electronic-cash cards" (Every German "Maestro card" is a "electronic-cash card" too, but most of the foreign "Maestro card" aren't). Nevertheless, credit cards are often accepted, but to a lower extent than in other European countries or the United States. Hotels, bigger retailer, gas stations and nationwide companies accept credit cards. If you want to pay smaller amounts (<40 Euro) with credit card, it is best to check in advance if credit cards will be accepted. Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your credit card or your foreign debit card, but you'll need to know your card's PIN for that.

Tipping

Unlike in some other countries, service staff is always paid by the hour (albeit not always that well). A tip is a matter of politeness and shows your appreciation. If you didn't appreciate the service (e.g. bad, rude or ignoring service), reduce the tip accordingly or don't tip at all. It is customary to give a larger tip around Christmas time.

Since the introduction of the Euro, a tip (Trinkgeld, lit. "drink money") of about 5-10% is customary if you were satisfied with the service. Nonetheless, service charge is already included in an item's unit price so what you see is what you pay.

Tipping in Germany is usually done by mentioning the total while paying. So if eg. a waiter tells you the bill amounts to "€13.50", just state "15" and he will include a tip of €1.50.

Tipping in other situations (unless otherwise indicated):

  • Taxi driver: 5%-10% (at least €1)
  • Housekeeping: €1-2 per day
  • Carrying luggage: €1 per piece
  • Public toilet attendants: €0.30-0.50

Shopping

In common with most other Western European languages (but unlike English), in German a comma is used to indicate a decimal. For example, 2,99€ is two euros and 99 cents. The "€" symbol is not always used and may be placed both in front or after the price. A dot is used to "group" numbers, so "1.000" would be one thousand.

Retail prices are reasonable and slightly lower than in most northern European countries but the value added tax, V.A.T., "Umsatzsteuer" (official, but even politicians use this rather sparsely) or "Mehrwertsteuer" (most Germans use this word) has been increased to 19% from 2007 onwards and therefore prices will slightly rise; fuel, sparkling wine, spirits and tobacco are subject to even higher taxes. Some German brands of high end goods such as kitchen utensils, stationery, and hiking gear are considerably cheaper than abroad. V.A.T. is always included in an item's pricetag.

Many Germans rather look for prices than for quality when shopping for food. As a result, the competition between food discounters (which might be the cause of this very specific behaviour) is exceptionally fierce (WalMart had to retract from the German market because it failed at competing on price) and results in very low food prices compared to other European countries. The chains "Aldi" and "Lidl" are a special type of supermarket (don't call it "Supermarkt" - Germans call it "Diskont", "Discounter" or - colloquially - "Billigheimer"): Their range of products is limited to the absolute necessities of daily life (like vegetables, pasta, UHT-milk, eggs, convenience foods, toiletries etc.), sold in rather simple packaging for tightly calculated prices. While quality is generally surprisingly high (at least in comparison to price), do not expect delicatessen or local specialties when you go to shop there. Many Germans buy their daily needs there and go to the more "standard" supermarket (like the chains Rewe or Edeka) to get more special treats. Don't blame the personnel for being somewhat harsh: Although they are paid slightly better than usual, they have to cope with a military-like working atmosphere and a significantly higher workload than colleagues in standard supermarkets. Similar applies to clothes, while competition on this market is not that fierce and quality varies; cheap clothing of sufficient quality might be bought at C&A, but don't expect designer clothes. During end of season sales (SSV and WSV) you should also compare prices of conventional stores since they may be even cheaper than discounters then.

If you are looking for organic products, your best bet is to visit a "Bioladen" or "Biosupermarkt". (Bio- generally means organic.) There are also many farmers selling their products directly ("Hofladen"), most of them organized in the "Bioland" cooperative. They offer reasonable food at reasonable prices.

You can find local products (not necessarily organic) in most places at the farmer's market ("Wochenmarkt" or simply "Markt"), usually once or twice a week. While you should be aware that your chances on finding english-speaking sellers there may be somewhat reduced, it's nevertheless quite fun to shop there and mostly you will get fresh and good quality food for reasonable prices.

Most winemakers sell their products either directly or in "Winzergenossenschaften" (winemaker cooperatives). These wines are almost always superior to the ones produced by German wine brands. Quality signs are "VdP" ("Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter", symbolized by an eagle) and "Ecovin" (German organic winemaker cooperative). Wines made of the most typical German vine varieties are usually marked with "Classic".

German honey is also a good souvenir. But only "Echter Deutscher Honig" is a guarantee for reasonable quality.

Along the German coasts, smoked eel is quite a common delicacy and a typical souvenir.

Be prepared to bag your own groceries and goods as well as provide your own shopping bags for doing so. While most stores provide plastic as well as canvas shopping bags at the checkout, you are charged for them. The Germans think it is more environmentally-friendly to re-use bags rather than get a new one each time. It's a good reminder to also keep a euro coin handy for the buggys/shopping carts. They all require a euro to use the cart but you get it back once your shopping is done.

Opening hours

Due to a federal reform, opening hours are set by the states, therefore opening hours vary from state to state. Some states like Berlin, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein have no more strict opening hours from Monday to Saturday (however, you will rarely find 24 hours shops other than at petrol stations). Sunday is closed for shops everywhere in Germany. As a rule of thumb:

  • Supermarkets: 8 or 9am – 8pm
  • big supermarkets 8am - 10pm
  • Shopping centers and great department stores: 10am - 8pm
  • Department stores in small cities: 10am - 7pm
  • Small and middle shops: 9 or 10am – 6.30pm (in big cities sometimes to 8pm)
  • Petrol stations: in cities and along the "Autobahn" usually 24h a day
  • Restaurants: 11.30am – 11 or 12am(midnight), sometimes longer, many closed during afternoon

Small shops are often closed from 1 to 3 p.m. If necessary in many big cities you will find a few (sometimes more expensive) supermarkets with longer opening hours (often near the main station). Bakeries usually offer service on sunday mornings (business hours vary) as well. Also most petrol stations have a small shopping area.

In some parts of Germany (like Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf and the Ruhr area) there are cornershops called "Kiosk", "Trinkhalle" (drinking hall) or "Büdchen" (little hut) that offer newspapers, drinks and at least basic food supplies. These shops are often run by Arabian immigrants and are, depending on the area, open till late night.

Basic supplies can usually be bought around the clock at gas stations. Gas station owners work around opening hour restrictions by running 7-Eleven style mini marts on their gas station property. Be aware that prices are usually quite high. Another exception to this law are supermarkets located in touristy areas. Towns designated as a Kurort (health resort) are allowed to have their stores open all week during tourist season. Just ask a local for those well-kept secret stores.

Eat

German food sticks pretty much to its roots and a typical dish will consist of meat with some form of potatoes and gravy, accompanied by vegetables or salad. However, the modern German cuisine has been influenced by other European countries such as Italy and France and gets a bit lighter. Dishes show a great local diversity and it might be interesting to discover those. Since most bigger employers have a canteen for their employees, you will find fewer sandwich shops and takeaways than in the Anglo American world and therefore the eating out culture in Germany is dominated by the Gasthaus/Gasthof and Restaurants to have proper food. Putting places to eat in 6 categories gives you a hint about the budget/taste. Starting from the lower end, these are:

Imbiss

'Schnellimbiss' means quick snack, and is what you will see on the sign of German stalls and small shops that sell primarily sausage (Wurst) and fries (Pommes Frites). Sausages will include Bratwurst, which is fried and usually a boiled pork sausage. A very German variant is Currywurst: sausage chopped up and covered in spiced ketchup, dusted with curry powder. Beer and often harder liquor are available in most. 'Döner Kebab' is Turkish lamb or chicken stuffed into bread, similar to Greek Gyros and Arab Schawarma. Even though considered Turkish, it's actually a speciality which originated in Germany. According to its legend, it was invented by Turkish immigrants in West-Berlin during the 1970s. In fact, the 'Döner' is Germany's most beloved fast food. The sales numbers of 'Döner' exceed those of McDonald's and Burger King products by far.

Nevertheless, American fast food giants like McDonald's, Burger King and Pizza Hut are in most towns. Nordsee is a German seafood chain, they offer 'Rollmops' - soussed herrings - and many other fish and seafood snacks. However, many independent seafood snack-bars (most common along the German shores) offer slightly better and slightly cheaper seafood.

Bakeries and butchers

Germans have no tradition for sandwich shops, but you will find that bakeries / butchers sell quite nice take away food and are serious competition for the fast food chains. Even the smallest bakeries will sell many sorts of bread or rolls, most of them darker (for example, using wholemeal or more rye flour) than the white bread popular around the world and definitely worth a try. Even if they don't already have it prepared, almost all butchers will prepare a sandwich for you if you ask. Some butchers even prepare meals for you. This butcher 'imbiss' is mainly popular in southern Germany, and the quality and freshness of food is usually high.

Biergarten

Here you will get the obvious drink. In Bavaria it was possible to bring your own food; today you better try this only in Munich. Most places will cater simple meals. A very good place for beer and bavarian food is the Biergarten of "Kloster Andechs" close to the Ammersee (round 40km south of Munich).

Brauhaus

Microbreweries sell their products straight to the customer and sometimes you will find some nice food there as well.

Gasthof/Gasthaus

Probably 50% of all eating out places fall into this group. They are mainly family-run businesses that have been owned for generations, comparable to taverns. You can go there simply for a drink, or to try German food (often with a local flavor). Food quality differs significantly from place to place but the staff will usually give you an indication of the standard; regulations require restaurant owners to indicate certain possibly harmful ingredients (e.g. glutamates/MSG) by footnotes - a menu containing lots of such footnotes usually indicates low quality; if a cheap "Gasthaus" / restaurant is overcrowded with Germans or Asians, this indicates at least sufficient quality (unless the crowd is caused by an organized coach excursion).

Restaurant

Germany has a wide range of flavors (e.g. German, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Polish, Indian, Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, Turkish) and almost all styles of the world are represented.

Turkish cuisine in Germany ranges from simple "Döner" shops to mostly family-run restaurants offering a wide variation of usually very cheap (in relation to German price levels) Turkish home cooking.

You will rarely find restaurants catering for special needs within Germany (e.g. kosher restaurants are only common in cities with a notable Jewish population like Berlin), although most restaurants will prepare special meals or variants for you if they are neither relying on convenience foods only nor too fancy. Vegetarians are best served in Indian restaurants, but most restaurants have at least some vegetarian meals. For muslims it is recommended to stick to Turkish restaurants. At some Turkish or Arab food stalls vegetarians might find falafel and baba ganoush to suit their tastes. For not-so-strict Jews the halal Turkish food stalls are also the best option for meat dishes.

In most restaurants in Germany you can choose your own table. You can make reservations (recommended for larger groups and haute cuisine on Saturday nights) and these are marked by reservation cards ("Reserviert"). Only in few restaurants, usually the expensive and outstanding restaurants in larger cities will you be expected to make reservations and will be seated by the staff.

Restaurants in commercial areas often offer weekday lunch specials. These are cheap (starting at 5 Euro, sometimes including a beverage) options and a good way to sample local food. Specials tend to rotate on a daily or weekly basis, especially when fresh ingredients like fish are involved.

Table Manners

At a casual get-together and in average to good restaurants, your German host will expect the same behaviour from you as about everywhere in Continental Europe: Fork, Knife and Spoon are the tools of choice, use of your bare fingers should be kept to an absolute minimum, bodily sounds should be avoided. At very formal events and in high-end restaurants, a few deviations of German customs from western standards should be noted:

  • It is considered bad manners to eat with your elbows resting on the table. Keep only your wrists on the table.
  • Potatoes should not be cut with the knife but with the side of the fork
  • When moving the fork to your mouth, the curved end should point upwards (not downwards as in Great Britain)
  • When eating soup or other food from your spoon, hold it with the tip towards your mouth (not parallel to your lips as in, again, Great Britain). Spoons used to stir beverages, e.g. coffee, should not be put in the mouth at all.
  • If you have to leave the table, it is fine to put your napkin (which should have rested, folded once along the center, on your lap until then) on the table, to the left of your plate, in an elegant little pile -- unless it looks really dirty, in which case you might want to leave it on your chair.

Typical dishes

Rinderroulade mit Rotkraut und Knödeln: this dish is quite unique to Germany. Very thin sliced beef rolled around a piece of bacon and pickled cucumber until it looks like a mini barrel (5cm diameter) flavoured with tiny pieces of onion, German mustard, ground black pepper and salt. The meat is quick-fried and is then left to cook slowly for an hour, meanwhile red cabbage and potato dumplings are prepared and then the meat is removed from the frying pan and gravy is prepared in the frying pan. Knödel, Rotkraut and Rouladen are served together with the gravy in one dish.

Schnitzel mit Pommes frites: there are probably as many different variations of Schnitzel as there are restaurants in Germany. They have in common a thin slice of pork often covered in egg and bread crumbs that is fried for a short period of time and it is often served with fries (that's the Pommes frites part). Variations of this are usually served with different types of gravy: such as Zigeunerschnitzel, Zwiebelschnitzel, Holzfäller Schnitzel and Wiener Schnitzel (as the name suggests, an Austrian dish – the genuine article must be veal instead of pork, which is why most restaurants offer a Schnitzel Wiener Art, or Viennese-style schnitzel which is allowed to be pork). In the south you can often get Spätzle (pasta that Swabia is famous for) instead of fries with it. Spätzle are egg noodles typical of south Germany – most restaurants make them fresh. It is very common to find Schnitzel on the menu of a German restaurant, it might even be the most common dish in German restaurants.

Rehrücken mit Spätzle: Germany has maintained huge forests such as the famous Black Forest, Bayrischer Wald and Odenwald. In and around these areas you can enjoy the best game in Germany. Rehrücken means venison tenderloin and it is often served with freshly made noodles such as Spätzle and a very nice gravy based on a dry red wine.

Wurst “sausage”: there is no country in the world with a greater variety of sausages than Germany and it would take a while to mention them all. “Bratwurst“ is fried, other varieties such as the Bavarian “Weißwurst“ are boiled. Here is the shortlist version: “Rote” beef sausage, “Frankfurter Wurst” boiled pork sausage made in the Frankfurt style, “Pfälzer Bratwurst” sausage made in Palatine style , “Nürnberger Bratwurst” Nuremberg sausage – the smallest of all of them, but a serious contender for the best tasting German sausage, “große Bratwurst”, Landjäger, Thüringer Bratwurst, Currywurst, Weißwurst ... this could go on till tomorrow. If you spot a sausage on a menu this is often a good (and sometimes the only) choice. Often served with mashed potato, fries or potato salad.

Koenigsberger Klopse: Literally "meatballs from Koenigsberg", this is a typical dish in and around Berlin. The meatballs are made out of minced pork and are cooked and served in a white sauce with capers and rice or potatoes.

Matjesbrötchen: Soussed herring or "roll mops" in a bread roll, typical street snack.

Local specialities

Starting from the north of Germany going south you will find a tremendous variety of food and each region sticks to it origins. The coastal regions are fond of seafood and famous dishes include “Finkenwerder Scholle”, going south to the region of Cologne you will find Sauerbraten (a roast marinated in vinegar), if made really traditionally it's from horse meat.

Labskaus (although strictly speaking not a German invention) is a dish from the north and the opinions about this dish are divided, some love it, others hate it. It is a mash of potato, beetroot juice and cured meat decorated with rollmops and/or young herring and/or a fried egg and/or sour cucumber and/or beetroot slices on top. The north is also famous for its lamb dishes, the best type of lamb probably being "Rudenlamm" (lamb from Ruden, a small island in the Baltic Sea; only a few restaurants in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania serve this), the second best type being "Salzwiesenlamm" (salt meadow lamb). The Lueneburger Heide (Lueneburg Heath) is not only famous for its heath, but also for its Heidschnucken, a special breed of sheep. Be aware that a lot of restaurants import their lamb from New Zealand though because it is cheaper. Crabs and mussels are also quite common along the German coasts, especially in North Frisia.

A specialty of Hamburg is "Aalsuppe" which - despite the name (in this case "Aal" means "everything", not "eel") - originally contained almost everything - except eel (today many restaurants include eel within this soup, because the name led tourists into confusion). At the coast there's a variety of fish dishes. Beware: if a restaurant offers "Edelfischplatte", the fish may be not fresh and even (this is quite ironical) of poor quality. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that, for eating fish, you visit specialised (or quality) restaurants only. A fast-food style restaurant chain serving quality fish and other seefood at low prices all over Germany is "Nordsee".

Pfälzer Saumagen: known for a long time in Palatinate, but difficult to find outside of this area. The dish became well known to the general public in Germany as then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s favorite dish, especially when this was enjoyed by him and the Russian president Mikhail Gorbatchev on a State visit in Germany in Deidesheim. Pictures of the feast are shown in the restaurant “ Deidesheimer Hof” in Deidesheim. Literally this is pig stomach filled with a mash of potato and meat, cooked for 2-3 hours and then cut in thick slices often served with sauerkraut.

Swabia is famous for Spätzle (a kind of noodle), "Maultaschen" (noodles stuffed with spinach and mince meat, but lots of variations, even veggie ones, exist).

In Bavaria this may be Schweinshaxe mit Knödeln (pork's leg with knödel, a form of potato dumplings), "Leberkäs/Fleischkäse mit Kartoffelsalat" (kind of meat pie and potato salad), "Nürnberger Bratwurst" (probably smallest sausage in Germany), Weißwurst (white sausages) and "Obatzda" (a spicy mix of several milk products).

The south is also famous for its nice tarts such as the "Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte" (tart with lots of cream and spirit made from cherries).

A delicacy in Saxony is Eierschecke, a cake made of eggs and cream similar to cheese cake.

A specialty of the East is "Soljanka" (originating from Ukraina, but probably the most common dish in the GDR), a sour soup containing vegetables and usually some kind of meat.

Seasonal specialities

White “Spargel” (asparagus) floods the restaurants in April/June all over Germany and it is delicious especially in and around Baden-Baden and the small town of Schwetzingen ("The Spargel Capital"), near Heidelberg, in an area north and north-east of Hannover (Lower Saxon Asparagus Route"), as well as in the area southwest of Berlin, especially in the town Beelitz and along the Lower Rhine, especially "Walbecker Spargel" (Walbeck is a suburb of Geldern). Many vegetables can be found all around the year and the are often imported from far away. Whereas asparagus can be found only for 2 months from mid April to mid June and is best enjoyed freshly after harvest it stays nice for a couple of hours or till next day. The asparagus is treated very carefully and it is harvested before it ever is exposed to daylight and only then it remains white. When exposed to daylight it changes its color to a green and it might taste bitter. Therefore, white asparagus is considered to be better by most Germans.

The standard Spargel meal is the spargel stalks, hollandaise sauce, boiled potatoes, and some form of meat. The most common meat is ham, smoked preferred; however you will find it teamed with schnitzel (fried breaded pork), turkey, beef, or whatever is available in the kitchen.

White asparagus soup: one of the hundreds of different recipes that can be found with white asparagus is soup. Often it is made with cream and has some of the thinner asparagus pieces.

Lebkuchen: Germany has many nice Christmas biscuits and gingerbread. The best known are produced in and around Nuremberg.

Stollen is a kind of plaited bun during the Advent season and yuletide. Original Stollen is produced only in Dresden, Saxony, however you can buy Stollen everywhere in Germany (although Dresdner Stollen is reputed to be the best (and - due to the low salaries in Eastern Germany - comparatively cheap)).

Around St. Martin's day, roasted ducks and geese ("Martinsgans") are quite common in German restaurants, usually served with "Rotkraut" (red cabbage) and "Knödeln" (potato dumplings).

Miscellaneous

Germans are very fond of their bread, which they make in many variations. This is the food that Germans tend to miss most when away from home. Most people like their bread relatively dark and dense and scorn the soft loaves sold in other countries. Bakeries will rarely provide less than twenty different sorts of bread and it's worth trying a few of them. In fact, many Germans buy their lunch or small snacks in bakeries instead of takeaways or the like. Prices for a loaf of bread will range from 0.50 € to 4 €, depending on the size (real specialties might cost more).

Vegetarian

Most restaurants have one or two vegetarian dishes, but there aren't many places which are particularly aimed at vegetarian or vegan customers, except some places in big cities like Berlin. Vegetarian restaurant guides can be found at (german) or (VEBU restaurant list, the restaurants are not necessarily vegetarian in general). Be aware when ordering to ask whether the dish is suitable for vegetarians, as chicken stock and bacon cubes are a commonly "undeclared" ingredient on German menues.

However, there are usually organic food shops ("Bioladen", "Naturkostladen" or "Reformhaus") in every city, providing veg(etari)an bread, breadspreads, cheese, icecream, vegan cream topping, tofu and saitan. The diversity and quality of the products is great and you will find shop assistants that can answer special nutritional questions profoundly.

Allergy & Celiac Sufferers

When shopping for foods, the package labeling in Germany is generally reliable. All food products must be properly labeled including additives and preservatives. Be on the look out for "Weizen (=Wheat)", "mehl (=Flavour)" or "malt" and be extra cautious for foods with "stärke" (i.e. flavour enhancers) that may have gluten as ingredients.

  • Reformhaus - a 3.000 strong network of health food stores in Germany and Austria that has dedicated gluten-free sections stocked with pasta, breads and treats. Reformhaus stores are usually found in the lower level of shopping centres (i.e. PotsdamerArkaden, etc.)
  • DM Stores - the CWS/Shopper's Drug Mart equivalent in Germany has dedicated wheat and gluten free sections
  • Alnatura - natural foods store with a large dedicated gluten-free section

Glühwein

Visiting Germany in December? Then go and see one of the famous Christmas markets (the most famous taking place in Nuremberg, Dresden, Leipzig, Münster and Aachen) and this is the place where you find Glühwein (mulled wine), a spiced wine served very hot to comfort you in the cold of winter.

 

 

Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is the largest country in Central Europe. It is bordered to the north by Denmark, to the east by Poland and the Czech Republic, to the south by Austria and Switzerland, and to the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. The largest exporter nation in the world, outside of Russia, Germany is also home to the largest population in Europe. While the foreigner's conception of Germany is that it is a homogenous state like most of its neighbors, it is actually a federation of 16 states, each with a distinct and unique culture.

Regions

Germany is a federal republic consisting of 16 states (called "Bundesländer" or, shortened to, "Länder" in German). Grouped roughly by geography, these are:

North

  • Map of Germany5 Bremen
  • 6 Hamburg
  • 8 Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern)
  • 9 Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen)
  • 15 Schleswig-Holstein

West

  • 10 North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen)
  • 11 Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz)
  • 12 Saarland

Central

  • 7 Hesse (Hessen)
  • 16 Thuringia (Thüringen)

East

  • 3 Berlin
  • 4 Brandenburg
  • 13 Saxony (Sachsen)
  • 14 Saxony-Anhalt (Sachsen-Anhalt)

South

  • 1 Baden-Württemberg
  • 2 Bavaria (Bayern)

Cities

Germany has numerous cities of interest to tourists; these are the top nine travel destinations.

  • Brandenburg gate in Berlin.Berlin — the reunified and reinvigorated capital of Germany; known for its division during the Cold War — and the Berlin Wall. Today its a metropolis of diversity with elegant clubs and galleries and traditional restaurants. It is also a haven for shoppers.
  • Bremen - One of the most important cities in northern Germany, its old town will be of interest to travellers who want a slice of history.
  • Cologne (Köln) — Germany's fourth-largest city. Cologne was founded by the Romans and is 2000 years old with its huge cathedral, Romanesque churches, and archaeological sites. Cologne also well known for its carnival and its Christopher-Street-Day parade. Don't forget to try the local cuisine and of course the beer—called "Kölsch".
  • Hofbräuhaus in Munich.Dresden - World-famous for its Frauenkirche and historic center, the city offers more than the average traveller knows. Great festivals, all kinds of cultural entertainment, vibrant night life, and surrounded by beautiful natural vistas. Dresden hosts the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections) which is one of the world's most important museums and collections. The art collections consist of eleven museums, of which the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister and the Grünes Gewölbe are the best known. There is a reason it was once called 'Florence-on-the-Elb'.
  • Dusseldorf (Düsseldorf, Duesseldorf) — the capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia is famous as Germany's capital of fashion, offers a wide scale of fascinating new architecture. Right along the shores of river Rhine, the "Altstadt" and the "Medienhafen" are among the best places in Germany to enjoy a vibrant nightlife! Being one of the country's wealthiest cities, the atmosphere for the tourist is very pleasant. Germans call it "the only metropolis ending with -dorf (German for village)".
  • Frankfurt — Germany's leading financial center, transportation hub, seat of the European Central Bank (ECB), international trade fair center (Book Fair, Motor Show), hub of multicultural activity (30% Immigrants), and site of numerous world-class museums and theaters. It is also Germany's only city with enough skyscrapers to have a skyline.
  • Semperoper in Dresden.Hamburg — Germany's second-largest city, famous for its harbour as well as its liberal and tolerant culture. Don't miss the Reeperbahn with its night clubs and casinos. Hamburg is also popular for its many musicals.
  • Hannover - One of Germany's newer "tourist cities", having hosted various international events in recent times.
  • Munich (München) — Bavaria's beautiful capital city and Southern Germany's leading city. Third largest city in Germany, Munich is the site of the famous Oktoberfest and the gateway to the Alps.
  • Nuremberg (Nürnberg) — Second largest city in Bavaria, after WW2 over 90% of the old-town was destroyed. Today the old town is reconstructed, including the Gothic Kaiserburg Castle (Emperor's Castle of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation). You can also visit the Nazi party rally grounds, the Documentation Centre and Courtroom 600 - venue of the Nuremberg Trails.

Other popular tourist destinations

in Germany from north to south:

  • Spreewald

  • Ruhr area (Ruhrgebiet)

  • Eifel (Eifel)

  • Rhine Valley (MIttelrhein) between Bonn and Bingen

  • Upper Rhine Valley (Oberrheinische Tiefebene) between Bingen and Basel, Switzerland

    Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge)

  • Heidelberg

  • Franconian_Switzerland (Fränkische Schweiz)

  • Black Forest (Schwarzwald)

  • Lake Constance (Bodensee)

  • Allgäu

  • Bavarian Alps (Bayrische Alpen) (Berchtesgaden, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Mittenwald,

  • (Neuschwanstein castle) )

  • Bavarian Forest (Bayerischer Wald) (Bodenmais, Arnbruck)

  • Bad Reichenhall

Die Romantische Straße (The Romantic Road)

The Romantic Road is the most famous scenic route in Germany. It starts in Würzburg and ends in Füssen. Most important points to visit on the Romantic Street are the cities: Würzburg, Harburg, Donauwörth, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Landsberg am Lech and Augsburg. Most notable wider areas are: Taubertal, Nördlinger Ries and Lechrain.

For cyclists there's a special route available called "Radwanderweg Romantische Straße".

Nature

Due to its size and location in central Europe, Germany boasts a large variety of different landscapes. In general, the country's climate is mild and humid, a large part of the rural areas is covered by forests.

Seacoast

Germany's north has coasts to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The landscape, especially along the North Sea shore is very flat, the climate is rough with strong winds, lots of rain and mild, chilly temperatures. Due to the south-easterly winds that press water into the German Bight, tidal variations are exceptionally high, creating the "Wattenmeer": Vast areas of the seabed are uncovered twice a day, allowing one to walk from one of the numerous islands to another. The North Sea islands just off the coast are very picturesque, although mostly visited by the Germans themselves. Out in the German Bight lies the country's only off-shore island, Helgoland. Thanks to the strong winds, Wind-Surfing is possible all year round. Do not expect Hawaiian temperatures, though.

Forests

Germans are fanatic about their forests. While they are much smaller now than they used to be in medieval times, they are still huge compared to forests in other, especially western and southern European countries and only thinly populated. Among others, the Black Forest and the Bayrische Wald have been declared national heritage and will, over the course of the next centuries, slowly return into a wild state. Although Germans love to go for long walks and hikes in these dark and humid woods, there's space enough for everyone to get lost. If you take one of the smaller paths you may not meet another person for the rest of the day (this in a country of 230 people per square kilometer). Especially the more remote areas are of an almost mythical beauty. It is no wonder the brothers Grimm could collect all those fairytales among the dark canopies, and a large part of the German poetry circles around trees, fog and those lonely mountain tops. Even Goethe sent his Faust to the Brockenfor his most fantastic scene. Today, wild animals, although abound, are mostly very shy, so you might not get to see many. While a few wolves in Saxony and a bear in Bavaria have been sighted, their immigration from Eastern Europe caused quite a stir. In the course of events "Bruno" (the bear) was shot, and while the wolves are under heavy protection local hunters have been suspected of killing them illegally. The most dangerous animal in Germany's forests is by far the wild boar, especially sows leading young are nothing to joke about. Wild boar are used to humans, since they often plunder trash cans in villages and suburbs and their teeth can rip big wounds. If you see one, run.

Mountains

The centre half of Germany is a patchwork of the so-called "Mittelgebirge": Hilly rural areas where fields and forests intermix with larger cities. Many of these hillranges are tourist destinations. Most noteably are the Bayrische Wald (Bavarian Forest), the Black Forest, the Harz, the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) and Elbsandstone Mountains. In the extreme south, bordering Austria, Germany contains a small portion of the Alps, Central Europe's highest elevation, rising as high as 4000m (12,000 ft) above sea level, with the highest summit in Germany being the Zugspitze, at 2962m (9717 ft). While only a small part of the Alps lie in Germany, they are famous for their beauty and the unique Bavarian culture. A lot of people go there or further south into neighboring Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein for skiing in the winter and hiking and climbing in the summer.

Lake Constance

Lying along the country's south-western border with Switzerland and Austria, Lake Constance is Germany's largest fresh-water lake. The area around the Lake and up the lower Rhine valley has a very mild, amenable climate and fertile grounds, making it the country's most important area for wine and fruit growing.

Understand

Germany is the biggest country in Central Europe, it runs Europe’s biggest economy and has the largest population on the continent (excluding Russia). Even so it is much smaller in size compared with most of the other leading nations in the world. Germany is a federalist country with a highly decentralised structure and has several large urban cities. Therefore, the capital Berlin is not as dominant to the rest of the nation as say London is in the United Kingdom or Paris in France. Nevertheless, it has been touted as one of the world's most fashionable big cities since the early 90s.

The undisputed financial capital of Germany is Frankfurt and features an unusual skyline for Central Europe with its many high-rise buildings and an ever growing airport.

The historically decentralised structure lead to a regional stronghold of traditions. Germany's famous beer culture is centered around Southern Germany's biggest city (Munich), where beer is traditionally served in 1 liter mugs (not in Kneipen (pubs) and Restaurants); Munich is also the site of the annual Oktoberfest, Europe's most visited festival and the world's largest fair.

Germany's south-western regions are known for their wine growing areas (e.g. Rheinhessen and Palatinate). The biggest wine festival worldwide with over 600 000 visitors each year is held in Bad Duerkheim on the German Wine Route.

Cars are a symbol of national pride. Company's such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen (VW) are famous internationally for their quality, safety and style. This quality is matched by Germany's excellent network of roadways including the world famous Autobahn network, which has many sections without speed limits and lots of speed hungry drivers on it. Germany also features an extensive network of high speed trains - the InterCityExpress (ICE).

History

The roots of German history and culture date back to the Germanic tribes and after that to the Holy Roman Empire. Indeed, Germany as a single state had existed only untill 1806 and then again since 1871, when a large number of previously independent German kingdoms (created by Napoleon) united under Prussian leadership to form the German Empire (Deutsches Kaiserreich). This incarnation of Germany reached eastward all the way to modern day Klaipeda (Memel) in Lithuania and also encompassed today´s regions of Alsace-Lorraine (France), a small portion of eastern Belgium (Eupen-Malmédy), a small border region in southern Denmark and over 30% of contemporary Poland. The empire ended in 1918 when Emperor (Kaiser) Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate the throne after Germany's defeat in World War I (1914-1918). It was followed by the short-lived ill fated Weimar Republic, which tried in vain to completely establish a liberal, democratic regime. Because the young republic was plagued with massive economic problems, and disgrace for a humiliating defeat in the First World War, strong anti-democratic forces took advantage of the inherent organizational problems of the Weimar Constitution and the Nazis were able to seize power.

The year 1933 witnessed the rise to power of the nationalistic and racist National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) Party and its leader (Führer), Adolf Hitler. Under the Nazi dictatorship, democratic institutions were dismantled and a police state was installed. Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, homosexuals, handicapped people, socialists, communists and other groups not fitting into the Nazi ideology faced persecution, and ultimately murder in concentration camps. Hitler's militaristic ambitions to create a new German Empire in central and eastern Europe led to war, successively, with Poland, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States - despite initial dazzling successes, Germany was unable to withstand the attacks of the Allies and Soviets on two fronts in addition to a third front to the south in Italy.

By 1945 Germany was in ruins with most major cities bombed to the ground. Furthermore, losing 25% of its territory, east of the newly imposed Oder-Neisse frontier with Poland and the Soviet Union caused a major refugee crisis with well over 10 million Germans flooding westward into what remained of Germany following the end of the war and the Potsdam conference on the future of Germany. German provinces east of the rivers Oder and Neisse like Silesia and Pomerania were entirely cleared of its original population by the Soviets and Polish - most of it an area where there had not been any sizable Polish or even Russian minorities at all. Even more refugees came with the massive numbers of ethnic Germans expelled from their ancient eastern European homelands in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia.

After the devastating defeat in World War II (1939-1945), Berlin was divided into four sectors, controlled by the French, British, US and Soviet forces. The eastern half of Germany was governed by the Soviet Union which decided to hand over one part of its prey to Poland (Silesia, Pomerania and the southern part of East Prussia) and annex the northern part of East Prussia itself. With the beginning of the Cold War, the remaining central and western parts of the country were divided into an eastern part under Soviet control, and a western part which was controlled by the Western Allies. The western part was transformed into the Federal Republic of Germany, with Bonn as the capital. The Soviet-controlled zone became the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR). Berlin had a special status, with the eastern part featuring as the capital of the GDR. The western sectors of Berlin were de facto an exclave of the Federal Republic. On August 13, 1961 the Berlin Wall was erected as part of a heavily guarded frontier system, and hundreds of Germans trying to escape from the communist regime were killed here in the following years.

In the late 1960s a desire to confront the Nazi past came into being. Students' protests beginning in 1968 successfully clamoured for a new Germany. The society became much more liberal, and the totalitarian past was dealt with more unconcealed than ever before since the foundation of the Federal Republic in 1949. Post-war education had helped put Germany among countries in Europe with the least number of people subscribing to Nazi ideas. Willy Brandt became chancellor in 1969. He made an important contribution towards reconciliation between Germany and the communist states.

Germany was reunited in 1990, a year after the fall of the GDR's communist regime. The re-established eastern states joined the Federal Republic on the 3rd October 1990, a day which is since celebrated as the German National Holiday (Tag der Deutschen Einheit). Together with the reunification, the last post-war limitations to Germany's sovereignty were removed. The German parliament, the Bundestag, after controversial debate, finally agreed to comply with the eastern border of the former GDR, the so-called "Oder-Neisse-Line" thus shaping Germany the way it can be found on Europe´s map today.

Culture

Throughout the world, especially in the English-speaking countries, Germany and the Germans have earned themselves a reputation for being stiff, brusque and strict with rules, but also hard working and efficient. As with all such clichés, these is some truth to it. The German language is not as smooth as English, so even a friendly word can sound harsh to the English-speaker (not to mention the French, for that matter). More importantly, the German sense of "politeness" differs significantly from the Anglo-American concept of courteous remarks, small talk and political correctness. Germans highly value honesty, straight talking, being able to cope with criticism and generally not wasting other people's time. Consequently, business meetings (though not necessarily shorter than American ones) tend to lack the introductory chit-chat. On the other hand, there is also a strong desire to achieve mutual agreement and compromise which is unknown for Anglo-American people. As for the infamous efficiency: Germans are the world's leading recreationists (at an average of 30 days of paid leave per year, not counting public holidays), while maintaining one of the highest productivities on earth. A late-running train is considered a sign of the degradation of society.

Punctiality is seen not as a courtesy but as precondition for future relations. Most Germans arrive 5-10 minutes early and take this for granted from everyone. Arriving more than 5 minutes late to a meeting is seen as rude and will only be tolerated with unknowing strangers, unless you can give good reason in your defense. It is seen as a courtesy to call the other participants if you seem to run late. Regular delays are seen as defiance of the other participants.

Politics

Germany is a federal republic, consisting of 16 states ('Bundesländer'). The federal parliament ('Bundestag') is elected every four years in a fairly complicated system, involving direct and proportional representation. A party will be represented in Parliament if it can gather at least 5% of all votes or at least 3 directly won seats. The parliament elects the Chancellor ('Bundeskanzler', currently Angela Merkel) on its first session, who will serve as the head of government.

The formal head of state is the President ('Bundespräsident', currently Horst Köhler), who gets barely involved into day to day politics and has mainly ceremonial and representative duties. Nevertheless every law passed by the parliament has to be signed by the president. He can also suspend the parliament, but all executive power lies with the chancellor. The President of Germany is elected every 5 years by a specially convened national assembly, and is restricted to serving a maximum of two five year terms.

The 'Bundesländer' are represented at the federal level through the Federal Council ('Bundesrat'). Many federal laws have to be approved by the council. This can lead to a situation where Council and Parliament are blocking each other if they are dominated by different parties.

The two most powerful parties are the Christian Democratic Party ('Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU)') and the Social Democratic Party ('Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD)'). Due to the proportional voting system, smaller parties can also be represented in parliament.

Medium-sized parties of relative importance are the Christian Social Party ('Christlich Soziale Union (CSU)', most important party within Bavaria, a kind of CDU subsidiary), Liberals ('Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP)'), the Green party ('Bündnis 90/Die Grünen') and since summer 2005, the new Left Party ('Die Linke', most important party in the East), founded from the "PDS" and the Alternative for Work and Social justice (WASG). There have been some attempts by extreme right-wing parties (NPD - National Democratic Party / REP - Republicans) to get into parliament, but so far they have failed the 5% requirement (except in some State parliaments, currently Saxony and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania).

Get in

Generally, all non-EU nationals will need a passport for entry. The notable exception regards authorized members of the U.S. military, who only need to possess a copy of their duty orders and their ID card to be authorized entry. The passport requirement applies to spouses and dependents of military personnel.

Germany is a member of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement. European visa policy will be covered in the article about the EU. In brief, a visa to any other signatory state of the Schengen Agreement is valid in Germany too. No visa is required for citizens of other EU member states, and those of some selected nations with whom the European Union or Germany have special treaties. Inquire at your travel agent, call the local consulate or embassy of Germany or see the Entry Requirements of Germany's Federal Foreign Office .

As of May 2004 only the citizens of the following countries do not need a visa for entry into Germany. Note that citizens of these countries (except EU nationals) must not stay longer than three months in half a year and must not work in Germany: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela.

Persons eligible for visa-free entry are also eligible to obtain a residence permit (authorizing a stay of more than 90 days) upon arrival in Germany, but it may be best if the permit is obtained prior to entry. This process of obtaining the residence permit in the country is not practiced by any other EU country, however.

Keep in mind that the counter begins once you enter any country in the Schengen Area and is not reset by leaving Germany for another Schengen country, or vice-versa.

Also, there are no border controls between Germany and other Schengen Agreement nations, making travel less complicated.

There are a number of ways to get into Germany. From neighboring European countries, a drive with the car or a train ride are feasible; visitors from further away will probably be using air travel.

By plane

The most important airports are Frankfurt (IATA: FRA), Munich (IATA: MUC) and Düsseldorf (IATA: DUS). Berlin (IATA: SXF and IATA: TXL), Cologne (IATA: CGN) and Hamburg (IATA: HAM) have some relevance to international travellers as well.

Frankfurt is Germany's main hub and one of Europe's four major hubs, and the destination of most intercontinental flights. Munich is a secondary hub. Travellers can easily fly in from most places of the world and then connect with Germany's biggest and most respected airline Lufthansa [4] which is a member of the Star Alliance.

Some German airports are connected to the InterCityExpress and other rail lines. The others all feature some sort of connection to the nearest rail station as well as public transport to the central station of the respective cities. Passengers travelling from Frankfurt Airport have the option to check in their luggage in Cologne or Stuttgart train stations and connect to the airport by ICE.

Germany is one of Europe's budget airline capitals. There are budget flights to almost every city in Europe from Germany. Thus, a person seeking a budget flight, should first check with the nearest airport. Examples of budget airline hubs are Berlin Schönefeld and Dortmund for easyJet. Germanwings [5] and tuifly (formerly Hapag-Lloyd-Express and HapagFly), Air Berlin (icnluding DBA) and WizzAir offer budget flights from many assorted airports across Germany and Europe Ryanair flights from London to Berlin Schoenefeld, Altenburg (Leipzig), Lübeck (near to Hamburg), Weeze (near Duesseldorf) and from some other European destinations to Frankfurt/Hahn (Attention: Hahn is about 120km from Frankfurt without a railway station nearby!). Flying can be the cheapest way to get to Germany, especially if the flights are booked well in advance. A sample airfare on AirBerlin from Münster/Osnabrück to Vienna, Austria is €29 one-way including an onboard meal and all taxes, only if booked far in advance.

By train

Regular train services connect Germany with all neighbouring countries. Almost all neighbouring countries (especially Switzerland, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Austria) and even some non-neighbouring countries (e. g. Italy) are quite well connected with "EuroCity" trains. They are a little bit slower than the European high speed trains but reach nevertheless up to 200 km/h. They are a worthwhile way to travel - not only for budget travellers (although budget airlines might be cheaper) or landscape viewers (especially the Rhine valley lines).

There are also several European high speed trains to cross into or get out of Germany:

  • The Thalys brings you from Cologne (Köln) to Paris in approximately four hours and to Brussels in about two hours.
  • The ICE brings you at 330 km/h top speed from Frankfurt (3h 15), Cologne (2h 30) or Düsseldorf (2h 15) to Amsterdam. The train journey from Frankfurt to Paris using the ICE will take about four hours; going from Hamburg to Paris can take eight and a half hours. There is also an ICE line from Frankfurt to Brussels via Cologne.
  • Between Stuttgart and Milan (via Zurich) the Cisalpino offers several connections and is at the moment the only direct trans alpine train connection.

Standard rail fares are quite high and in 2005 Deutsche Bahn introduced discount return tickets. You must buy them three or seven days in advance (e. g. on-line and print your ticket at home). Further reductions are available for groups of two or more persons. These tickets are only valid on specific trains and times. From time to time there are further discount offers for single rides. The Bahncard (see Train Fares) is a discount card for the standard fare. If your travel starts or ends in Germany you are still eligible for a reduction on the whole journey!

Another option for cheap rail travel are the so-called Ländertickets and the Schöne-Wochenende-Ticket. The most well-known of these Ländertickets is the Bayern-Ticket. Ländertickets and the Schöne-Wochenende-Ticket allow unlimited travel on regional trains for the day and region of validity. Most Ländertickets are available in two versions: Single or Normal. Normal tickets are designed for a group of up to 5 people. Single tickets are cheaper, but they allow only one person to travel. The Schöne-Wochenende-Ticket is valid for all of Germany, the Ländertickets are usually only valid in the Land that they are sold in. (Bayern-Ticket is only valid in Bavaria, but Sachsen-Ticket is valid in Saxony, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt.) Schöne-Wochenende-Ticket can only be used on Saturday or Sunday from midnight to 2 am the next day, Ländertickets are valid during the week from 9 am on and on Saturdays and Sundays from midnight on. With Schöne-Wochenende-Ticket it is possible to travel in a group of 5 people from Amsterdam to Berlin for less than 14 EUR one-way per person when the normal train fare is 100 EUR. If you arrive at a train station early on a Saturday or Sunday, you might be invited to join a group travelling on Schöne-Wochenende-Ticket or look for fellow travellers yourself.

  • Deutsche Bahn is the major German railway corporation. Click on "Int. Guests" to see the site in several languages. If you plan to travel a lot by train, you should consider buying a "German rail pass", which might be cheaper to buy via travel-agencies outside of the country. It allows unlimited travels on the validity dates.

By Boat

Some international ferry services exist, notably to Scandinavia. An incomplete list of connections follows:

Scandinavia

  • From Rodby, Denmark to Puttgarden

  • From Gedser, Denmark to Rostock

  • From Trelleborg, Sweden to Rostock, Travemuende and Sassnitz

  • From Malmo, Sweden to Travemuende

  • From Gothenburg, Sweden to Kiel

  • From Oslo, Norway to Kiel

  • From Helsinki, Finland to Rostock and Travemuende

  • From Rømø, Denmark to List (Sylt)

Poland

  • From Świnoujście (passenger ferries only)
  • From Szczecin (passenger ferries only)

Russia

  • From Kaliningrad, Russia to Sassnitz and Lübeck
  • From Saint Petersburg, Russia to Kiel, Sassnitz and Lübeck

Baltic States

  • From Klaipeda, Lithuania to Kiel
  • From Liepaja, Latvia to Rostock
  • From Riga, Latvia to Lübeck

Switzerland

  • From Basel by Rhein-Schifffahrt down the Rhein river.

Drink

Legal drinking age is 18 for spirits (drinks containing distilled alcohol) and 16 for everything else (e.g. beer and wine).

Beer

For centuries, beer-making in Bavaria has been governed by the Reinheitsgebot (purity law) that was made national policy with the unification of Germany in 1871, which states that German beer may only be made from hops, malt, yeast and water. The Reinheitsgebot has come down with the European integration, but German breweries still have to stick to it since for them, national law applies.

Most notably is the fact that, compared to other countries, the domestic beer market is not dominated by one or a only a few big breweries. Even though there are some big players, the regional diversity is enormous, as there exist over 1200 breweries, and most of them are rather small and serve only local markets . Usually bars and restaurants therefore serve the local variants of beer, that often differ from town to town. When sitting in a German Kneipe, the local beer is always a (if not the only) choice to consider.

Specialities include Weizenbier (or Weissbier in Bavaria), a refreshing wheat beer which is popular in the south, Alt, a kind of dark ale that is especially popular in and around Dusseldorf, and Kölsch, a special beer brewed in Cologne. "Pils", the german name for pilsner is a light-gold colored beer that is extremely popular in Germany. There are also seasonal beers, which are only made at different times of the year (such as Bockbier in winter and Maibock in May, both containing a greater quantity of alcohol, sometimes double that of a normal Vollbier). Beer is usually served in 200 or 300ml glasses (in the northern part) or 500ml in the South. In Biergartens in Bavaria, 500ml is a small beer ("Halbe") and a litre is normal ("Maß"). Except for Irish pubs, pints or pitchers are unusual. For Germans, a lot of foam is both a sign of freshness and quality; thus, beer is always served with a lot of head. (All glasses have volume marks for the critical souls.) Additionally, Germans are not afraid anymore to mix their pure beer with other drinks (elderly Germans still may disagree to this). Beer is commonly mixed with Lemonade (usually 1:1) and called "Radler" (cyclist) (or "Alsterwasser"/"Alster" (after the river in Hamburg) in the north); "Cocktails" of Pilsener/Altbier and soft drinks like Fanta, Coke and so on are also very common but seem to have a different name in every town.

Pubs are open in Germany until 2 in the morning or later. Food is generally available until midnight. Germans typically go out after 8pm (popular places already fill up at 6pm).

Wine

Germans are just as passionate about their wines as they are about their beer. The similarities don't stop here, both products are often produced by small companies and the best wines are consumed locally and only the remaining ones are exported. The production of wine has a 2000 year old history in Germany as learned from the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier, but of course this was a roman settlement at this time. Sunshine is the limiting factor for the production of wines in Germany and therefore the wine production is limited to the south. White wine plays a main role in the wine production, but some areas produce red wines (Ahr, Baden Württemberg). White wines are produced from Riesling, Kerner and Müller-Thurgau grapes (there are a lot more, but to name them all would be too much), and produce generally fresh and fruity wines. German wines can be rich in acid and are quite refreshing. It is generally accepted that Riesling grapes produce the best German wines, but they demand a lot of sunshine and they grow best in very exposed areas such the Mosel, Rheingau, Bergstrasse, Kaiserstuhl and Pfalz.

The best way to learn about wines is go to the place where they are grown and taste them on the spot. This is called "Weinprobe" and is generally free of charge though in touristic areas you have to pay a small fee. Good wines usually go together with good food and therefore it is well worth it to visit some of those places.

Another nice opportunity to get a taste of local wine is the so-called Straußenwirtschaft or Besenwirtschaft. These are little "pubs" or gardens where a wine-producer sells his own wine, normally with little meals such as sandwiches or cheese and ham. Normally, they are only open in summer and autumn, and not longer than 4 months a year (due to legal regulations). As they are sometimes located in the vineyards or in some backstreets, they are not always easy to find, so you best ask a local for the next (or best) Straußenwirtschaft he knows.

Wine producing areas are:

Ahr Ahr is the paradise of German red wines. Half of the production is dedicated to red wines and it is densely populated with “Gaststätten” and “Strausswirten”. A saying goes: Who visited the Ahr and remembers that he was there, hasn’t actually been there.

Baden With approx. 15,500 hectare of wine yards and a production of 1 mn hectolitre Baden is Germany’s third biggest wine growing area. It's the most southern German wine growing area and is Germany’s only member of the European Wine Category B together with the famous French areas Alsace, Champagne and Loire. Baden is more than 400 km long and is split into nine regional groups: Tauberfranken, Badische Bergstraße, Kraichgau, Ortenau, Breisgau, Kaiserstuhl, Tuniberg, Markgräflerland and Bodensee. The Kaiserstuhl and the Markgräflerland are the most famous areas for wine from Baden. One of the largest wine cooperatives is the Badischer Winzerkeller in Breisach (English site).

Franken: Franconia is in the northern part of Bavaria and you can find there very nice wines. Some wines produced in Franconia are sold in a special bottle called "Bocksbeutel".

Hessische Bergstrasse: located on the slopes of the Rhine valley it is a quiet small wine producing area and wines are usually consumed within the area in and around Heppenheim.

Mosel-Saar-Ruwer: the steepest vineyards in Germany can be seen when driving in the Mosel valley from Koblenz to Trier.

Pfalz: biggest wine producing area in Germany. Has some excellent wines to taste and a lot of nice villages embedded in vineyards. Tasting wine in Deidesheim is a good idea and several prime producer of German wine are all located on the main road. Want to see the biggest wine barrel in the world then go to Bad Dürkheim.

Rheingau: is the smallest wine producing area, but it produces the highest rated Riesling wines in Germany. Visit Wiesbaden and make a trip on the Rhine to Rüdesheim.

Rheinhessen too is especially famous for its Riesling.

Sachsen: One of the smallest wine regions in Germany, nestled along the Elbe River near Dresden and Meissen.

Württemberg As it was mentioned before, here the rule, that the wine production is consumed by the locals, strictly applies. The wine consumption is twice as high as in the rest of Germany, regardless of whether it's red or the white wine. The specialty of the region is the red wine called Trollinger and it can be quite nice by German standards.

Saale-Unstrut: located in the state Saxonia-Anhalt at the banks of the rivers Saale and Unstrut it is most northern wine area in Europe.

Coffee

Germans drink lots of coffee. Currently, the port of Hamburg is the world's busiest place for coffee trading. Coffee is always freshly made from ground coffee or beans - no instant. However, persons coming from countries with a great coffee tradition might find the coffee that is served in normal restaurants a bit boring. A German specialty, originating from North Frisia but nowadays also common in East Frisia, is "Pharisäer", a mixture of coffee and a spirit, usually rum, with a thick cream top. A variation of this is "Tote Tante" (dead aunt, with coffee replaced by hot chocolate).

Over the past few years, American coffee house chain Starbucks has expanded into Germany, but mostly you will encounter "Cafés" which usually offer a large selection of cakes to go along with the coffee.

Spirits

“Kirschwasser” literally means cherry water; it certainly tastes of cherry but on the other hand it is not regular drinking water. There is a long lasting tradition in making spirits in Baden, and “Kirschwasser” is probably the flagship product and it might encourage you to taste other specialities such as Himbeergeist (from raspberry), Schlehenfeer (flavored with sloe berries), Williamchrist (pear) and Apfelkorn (apple).

“Enzian” Bavarians like their beer as well their Enzian. A spirit high in alcohol that is best as a digestive after a hefty meal.

"Korn", made of grain, is probably the most common spirit in Germany. Its main production centre (Berentzen ) lies in Haselünne, where tours and tastings can be arranged in the distilleries. The town is located near the river Ems in northwest Germany; for rail service to Haselünne (very limited) see Eisenbahnfreunde Hasetal ].

In North Frisia, "Köm" (caraway spirit), either pure or mixed with tea ("Teepunsch", tea punch), is very popular.

"Eiergrog" is a hot mixture of egg liquor and rum.

Tea

Tea is also very popular, and a large choice is readily available. Especially the region of East Frisia has a long tea tradition, and is probably the only place in Germany where tea is more popular than coffee. According to the East Frisian tea ceremony, it is black tea served in a flat porcelaine cup, with special rock sugar (Kluntje) put in the cup before pouring in the tea, and cream to be added afterwards, but not to be stirred.

Cider

Undisputed capital of "Apfelwein" cider in Germany is Frankfurt. Locals love their cider and it is very popular around here. There are even special bars ("Apfelweinkneipe") that will only serve "Apfelwein" and some gastronomic specialities. Cider is often served in a special jug called "Bembel". The taste is slightly different from Ciders in other countries and tends to be quite refreshing. In autumn when apples are turned into cider you might find "Frischer Most" or "Süßer" signposted at some places. That is the first product in the chain of "Apfelwein" production; one glass of it is nice, but after two or three glasses you will have a problem unless you enjoy spending lots of time on the toilet. In the Saarland and surrounding regions "Apfelwein" is called "Viez". It varies here from "Suesser Viez" (sweet), to "Viez Fein-Herb" (medium sweet) to "Alter Saerkower" (sour). The Viez capital of that region is Merzig. During winter it is also quite common to drink hot cider (along with some cloves and sugar). It is considered an efficent measure against an upcoming cold.

 

 
             
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