Have you ever heard anyone say that Germany was a bucket list destination for them? I haven’t. This is very strange, but until this August, I thought that it might be because Germany was not a particularly exciting country (Yes, I actually thought that!!). However, one of my closest friends lives there, and a visit was long overdue. So, I decided that I would bite the bullet and go to Germany, spending a few days in Leipzig, and then maybe another few days in Neuschwanstein.
Following this naive plan, I dutifully purchased my Rick Steve’s Germany guidebook, which is always my first step when I plan a European trip (sometimes, I just buy his books to fantasize) 😛 And then I started doing my research. Now, if you know me at all, you know that I have an obsessive personality. So, the more I read about Germany, the more I wanted to visit other parts of Germany. Eventually, I spent about 18 days in Germany and I was loath to leave when I finally did. It is, honest to God, one of the most underrated destinations in the world!
Do you want to know why I think all travelers should find their way to Germany?
1. The storybook landscapes of the Rhine & Mosel valley
The Grimm brothers, who wrote many of the fairy tales that we all grew up reading, did a lot of their research in the Rhine valley. Here, you will find sleepy little villages with their fairy tale cottages, a glistening river with towns on either bank, hilltops capped by robber baron castles, grasslands where flowers dance merrily and little birds that you could swear want to talk to you. You will be transported to the time you were a wide-eyed child, listening to stories about elves and dwarves, where you could be a princess or a knight or maybe a speaking cat. I have been everything in my imagination by the way. 😊
Do you remember the feeling of wide-eyed wonderment you had as a child almost constantly? Everything was new and fresh and delightful.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ The green of the grass looked like what you saw in your story book. Butterflies were possibly magical fairy creatures from another land. From the taste of mango to an afternoon spent playing hopscotch, every moment from childhood seems mellow, delightful and almost… Perpetual. As though those fifteen years spent as a child are somehow longer than the next fifteen years.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ Have you ever wondered why childhood indeed seems like halcyon days? Somehow as if that phase of your life is in full color, while your looking at the rest of your life through a sepia filter? ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ I think it has to do with the way we experience life. We need to make a conscious effort to be in the moment and to retain the delight we used to feel as children at the smallest of things, from sweet corn soup to going to watch a movie. 😀 We also need to do more things that surprise us and blow our socks off. .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ This photo was taken from atop Burg Rheinfels in the Rhine valley. Why am I in this little known part of Germany, you ask? Because this is where the Grimm brothers came to do all the research for their fairy tales. So now, I'm experiencing the land that inspired those fairy tales I loved as a child. 😍 There is no better place to recapture the magic of childhood than the Rhine land. 😍
2. The Bavarian Alps and its Sleeping beauty castle
Once upon a time, There lived a little prince. Ludwig was his name, And he lived in a castle Whose name was High Swan Land. Time went by, and the prince grew up. But he remained a boy at heart, Who hated the mysteries and intrigue That defined the royal court. And so he hid in the home of his boyhood; Amidst pristine lakes and alpine meadows Gallivanting with wolfhounds, gliding with Serene swans. Dreaming all the while of a bigger castle, A castle of magic, a castle of wizardry. A castle of puffy clouds and chocolate turrets Lit by sunbeams, brightened by flowers. And then he brought this castle to life In brick and stone, on top of a rugged Hill. New Swan land he called it – Neuschwanstein. It would inspire generations – storytellers and cynics alike Would sing the praises of Neuschwanstein. But alas! Ludwig died before it was ever complete In debt and heart broken. Never to know the glory his dream would achieve. And this is the tragedy of many lofty dreams; The dreamer never knows the legacy he builds. And yet he dreams on, and yet he aspires, So that others in years to come, will be inspired, And will dare to dream. This my darlings, is the history of Neuschwanstein. Mad King Ludwig is legendary today, but in his time, many people thought he was an irresponsible airhead, chasing after castles while his empire floundered. To me, all this history simply adds to the mystery of this beautiful hill top castle. No trip to Bavaria is complete without a visit to Neuschwanstein.
Bavaria – The name spells magic to me, now that I have been there and seen what it has to offer. Where do I begin? There are romantic drives through medieval towns that have been preserved in much of their original glory, leading you to believe that you have somehow stumbled into a time warp. It has the castle that inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle (Neuschwanstein), with a history evocative enough to inspire its own ballads.
The German Alps surprises you with its quiet majesty, unparalleled beauty and surprisingly non-touristy little hill-side villages. It also has one of Germany’s top cities, Munich, with a historic core bustling with palaces and churches, the amazing BMW museum and the futuristic Welt. All of this coupled with the characteristic German efficiency, timeliness and non-intrusive helpfulness.
3. The Autobahn
Yes, that is a reason all by itself! I mean, where else in the world would you find such incredible highways, free to use, with large regions that actually do not have a speed limit? I’ll tell you where, nowhere! To top this, even the highway is dotted with fields of ripening wheat, sunflowers turned towards the lazily shining sun, bales of hay turned golden by the light and busily working windmills (Germany has the greatest commitment to using renewable resources that I have seen in all of Europe). Trust me, driving in Germany is an experience in itself.
4. Germany’s commitment to accepting its past
Why is this a reason to visit, you ask? Because, it is a truly educational experience. Most countries try to blot out the ugly parts of their past. Not Germany. With extensive effort having been made to say it like it is, the entire country is speckled with memorials and concentration camps turned into museums. There is a dignified acceptance of a terrible past and a steadfast commitment to raise a future generation that understands this weight and will do everything they can to prevent history from repeating. School children are taken on field trips to these places. Seeing crying children who cannot grasp the enormity of the horror is a common sight in this country.
Where else in the world, I ask you. I wish the rest of the world would learn from this! We all ask the same question when an atrocity happens. “How?” We all repeat the same mantra – “Never again!” But are we truly taking steps to consciously cultivate people with the right values? I doubt it. And for that, I truly salute the current German government.
5. The Beer and the Sausages
The culinary culture of a country is always a reason for me to visit a country. When it comes to Germany, it is all about the beer and the sausages. 😊 I am no beer drinker, mind you! And yet, I fell prey to the charms one Paulaner Dunkel beer. It has a richness of flavor that I have never seen in any beer, anywhere else in the world. Don’t take my word for it though. Try all the beers that Germany has to offer and tell me which one is your favorite.
I am a vegetarian, but the husband had a field time sampling the innumerable varieties of sausages. They differ in seasoning, meat, how they are cooked (fried, grilled, steamed etc.), how they are served (with bread, with sauerkraut) and so on. The local Biergarten culture is delightful, and one of the top reasons to visit Germany.
So, that is it! If you don’t mind the cold, plan to visit Germany this December and prepare to be astounded by its Christmas markets.
If not, plan a visit next summer. Posts on how to plan this trip, things to do and an itinerary will be up soon!7