Germany is a Western European country with a landscape of forests, rivers, mountain ranges and North Sea beaches. It has over 2 millennia of history. Berlin, its capital, is home to art and nightlife scenes, the Brandenburg Gate and many sites relating to WWII. Munich is known for its Oktoberfest and beer halls, including the 16th-century Hofbräuhaus. Frankfurt, with its skyscrapers, houses the European Central Bank.
History, culture, and natural beauty perhaps best describe the essence of vacationing in Germany. With its historic cities and small towns, along with an abundance of forests and mountains, visitors are spoiled for choice. Those wanting to sightsee or experience the arts should head to the metropolitan areas, while those looking to engage in recreational activities should visit places such as the Bavarian Alps, the Black Forest, or the Mosel Valley. Lovely old cathedrals and grand palaces are everywhere, and in the smaller towns and villages, many centuries-old traditions continue. At the cultural heart of Germany is the capitol Berlin, home to many fine museums and galleries, while nature lovers will find a world of possibilities in Germany's great outdoors.
There are WAYYYY too many cool things to see in Germany to list so here are a few I found interesting.
1. Modeled on the Acropolis in Athens and built for King Frederick William II in 1791, the monumental sandstone Brandenburg Gate in Berlin's Mitte district was the city's first Neoclassical structure. Measuring an impressive 26-meters in height - including the spectacular four-horse chariot perched atop - its six huge columns on each side of the structure form five impressive passages: four were used by regular traffic, while the center was reserved for the royal carriages. Huge Doric columns also decorate the two buildings at each side of the Gate, once used by toll-collectors and guards. Undoubtedly Berlin's most iconic structure, it was also once part of the infamous Berlin Wall and for a few decades was symbolic of the division of Berlin into East and West.
2. The old town of Füssen, between the Ammergau and Allgäu Alps, a popular alpine resort and winter sports center, is a good base from which to explore nearby Neuschwanstein Castle, one of Europe's most famous royal castles. From 1869-86, King Ludwig II of Bavaria built this many-towered and battlement-covered fantasy fortress - the inspiration for Walt Disney's famous theme park castles. A variety of tour options are offered, including guided tours of the sumptuous interior taking in the Throne Room, the Singers' Hall, and some of the country's most spectacular views.
3. The Rhine is Europe's most important waterway, and it’s most beautiful. With a total length of 1,320 kilometers, this magnificent river stretches from Switzerland through Germany all the way to the Netherlands. While there are many places in Germany to enjoy this majestic river, the lovely Upper Middle Rhine Valley section is probably the best place to see it. Here, this often-dramatic 65-kilometer stretch of river boasts more than 40 castles and some 60 picturesque medieval towns all just waiting to be explored either by river cruise or by car. Bingen, where the river cuts through a deep gorge before entering the Bacharach valley, is a good place to start .
4. Part of the Wetterstein mountain range, the Zugspitze massif straddles the frontier between Germany and Austria and is surrounded by steep valleys. The eastern summit, at 2,962 meters, is crowned by a gilded cross and can be reached by the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn, a cog railway, or by cable car. Another great way to enjoy this area of outstanding natural beauty is aboard the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn, a railway that runs to the Zugspitzkamm station at 2,805 meters. From here, the journey can be continued via a cable car to Zugspitz-Westgipfel Station at 2,950 meters with its excellent panoramic restaurant. A highlight of the journey is the chance to walk through an 800-meter-long tunnel, complete with viewing windows, to the Schneefernerhaus station at the top of the Bavarian cog railroad, from where you can ascend the eastern summit with its viewing platforms.
What about traditional medicines found in Germany?
The Germans have used herbal medicines as cures for a range of ailments down the ages. Herbs were easily available and generally safe for quick recovery from minor ailments. Herbal medicine was first practiced in cloisters and monasteries in Germany.
Chamomile infusions for colds and fennel tea for stomach aches were among the many herbal medications that survived generations. Willow Bark was used to cure fever because it contained acetyl salcyclic acid which is used in the aspirin we know today as an effective pain reliever. Hildegaard a Benedictine nun was famous for her herbal preparations for curing illness. She lived in Bingen from 1089 to 1179. Monasteries and cloisters were known to have large herbal gardens and monks and nuns formulated treatments by combining the effects of herbs. Herbal medicine was regarded as the best form of medication for children. Germany has over 3500 registered herbal medications even today.
Herbal medicine has a long tradition of using plant seeds, flowers, leaves, bark and roots and its dominance in medicine cabinets throughout Germany, in addition to the advances in clinical research in proving its value in the treatment and prevention of disease, began some time ago to attract the attention of major European pharmaceutical companies. The use of ‘herbs’ in this case also covers what are commonly known as ‘weeds’ to those who have gardens in which they would rather that they did not grow.
Regular herbal medicine and plant remedy courses, taking the form of walking through meadows and woods or up hills and mountain sides, and before noon because this is the optimum herb harvesting time, are well attended and regularly run for those who want to find out more about nature’s plants and herbs, be given tips on what can or can not be used, and learn the lotions and potions which can aid or perhaps cure a problem.
In keeping with a country which believes as far as possible in a Green way of life, there are also many experts who dispense eagerly followed wisdom and advice on the age-old medicinal recipes for every month and each season’s herbs and plants. Including a famous Bavarian Kraeuterfee, Herb Fairy, now an active mid eighty year old and an inspiring and youthful advertisement for her way of thinking. Her recipes are followed faithfully and cover everything from various nettle mixtures, including juices to combat stress, anemia and tiredness, red onion juice with honey and schnapps for building up immunity, apple vinegar poultices for tired, swollen legs, to nettle, dandelion and wild garlic paste which, when added to salad sauce or cream cheese, chases away all traces of spring tiredness or anemia.
There are many popular and well-used natural medicine alternatives to the pillbox or medicine bottle, including the centuries old cure for almost everything, homemade chicken soup made with herbs and vegetables. Or the instant and permanent relief that comes when fruit schnapps, or vodka, is dabbed onto a burn first cooled in cold water. A complementary alternative remedy for headaches is a few drops of peppermint oil gently rubbed into the forehead, temples and back of jaw, any excess allowed to seep into the skin giving an immediate cooling feeling, followed after about 30 minutes by relief from the headache.
Of course although in former years garlic traditionally offered protection from vampires, now amongst other things it is a popular natural health remedy to give relief from bronchitis and clear sinuses, by way of a tea made from three crushed garlic cloves simmered in water for 20 minutes together with chopped parsley leaves, which can then be sipped without fear of leaving a tell tale odor.
Despite its increasing popularity, natural medicine and the use of herbs will not be replacing conventional medicine in Germany. However it will continue to run in combination as modern science has made it possible to prove that, for many ailments, herbs and methods handed down from generation to generation and quoted for centuries in German ‘folklore’, including Horse Chestnut for varicose vein treatment, Chili Pepper for pain relief, Valerian for insomnia as well as the healing power of water, make viable and effective treatments while causing less side effects, and are more relevant today than ever before.
Should I bring VentMask filters if I visit Germany? In many cities, air pollution from fine dust particles and nitrogen dioxide exceeds the maximum threshold levels, according to a new report from the Environment Ministry. [Secret Word:VOLKSWAGON] Residents of Stuttgart are currently exposed to the highest pollution levels in the Federal Republic, a report published by the German Environment Ministry showed.
Fine dust particles pose another serious problem. Here, the maximum is 40 µg up to a particle size of ten micrometres per cubic metre of air. Stuttgart exceeded this limit on 91 days in 2013. After Stuttgart, Reutlingen follows in second place, followed by Markgröningen, Tübingen, Gelsenkirchen, Hagen and Leipzig.
So pack up some VentMask filters for your hotel, and get out there and visit this wonderful country!
Safe and healthy travels! -TheVentMaskTeam