Yes it has a coastline, and it isn’t just the port of Hamburg either. The Baltic Islands are another world of sand dunes, traditional resort architecture and cycling trails, Rügen being the largest, with 10km of chalky cliffs and ancient beech forests just part of the beauty of Jasmund NP. Or the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site, where floating sea grasses, dunes and wetlands are bursting with birdlife.
They don’t roll off the tongue, but there are some truly great ones here, all with superb infrastructures to hike, cycle, horse ride, swim, sail… you name it, Germans love the outdoors, so you got it. Bavarian Forest NP boasts bison and wild horses. Eifel NP is pure volcanic virtuosity. Lower Saxon Wadden Sea NP on the North Sea is a wetland and bird watching wonder of coastal wilderness.
Way ahead in terms of catering for travellers with special needs, Germany is breaking barriers. The German Tourist Board website has ‘Barrier Free Tourism’ on the homepage, and many regions are becoming specialists in catering for all needs. Deutsche Bahn, the national rail network, has a dedicated mobility hotline, and activities from hiking to biking, kayaking to ziplining are adapting and connecting.
Not top of the list for family holidays? Think again. Trains are great value, with children under 15 often travelling for free. Family friendly cycling routes abound, such as round the castles of Muensterland or Lake Constance, as do accommodation and companies to transport bags. The food is superb, forest holidays are the business, and being outdoorsy as a family is second nature here. It’s just like joining a lovely club.
Yes, they have a reputation for being organised. But this is to the hiker’s benefit on the country’s superb network of waymarked ways. From the ancient and iconic Rennsteig, the towering Rheinsteig that follows the Rhine from an exquisitely elevated position, to the 120km King Ludwig Trail in Bavaria. The term ‘wanderlust’ comes from Germany. In terms of waymarked ways, you gotta lust it.
So often overlooked by peak seekers or piste posers, the Bavarian Alps are iIndependent, inviting and innovative in terms of small, rural ecotourism. This is hikers’ heaven in spring, summer and autumn, and cross country skiing or snowshoeing sublimity in winter. Throw in a romantic Christmas market for festive perfection.
It’s chocolate box, it’s cheesy, it’s charming and it’s circumnavigable by bike. In the foothills of the Alps, this turquoise treat of a lake is blissfully beautiful. Discover the main town of Konstanz , swimming beaches, Seewein (Lake Wine) vineyards, or architectural delights like Meersburg Castle. Indulge in obligatory ‘kaffee und kuchen’ and then do it all again the next day. One of the world’s most sublime circuits.
Already the most famous of European Christmas markets, which are indeed glorious, don’t forget that Germany is also gorgeous in the snow. Go snowshoeing along 24,000km of trails in the Black Forest or many more in the Bavarian Alps. Or come in January or February to enjoy winter walking along the Rennsteig Trail or in the Bavarian Forest National Park, far from the madding ski crowds of other countries.
Germany is about so much more than lederhosen and beer festivals, Christmas markets and city breaks. And Germans are also so much more than their serious stereotypes. Wanderlust is in the genes, green and sustainable development is too. They care about their landscapes, culture and communities – and it shows. In their well managed national trails, local markets and low carbon transport systems.
‘Don’t mention the war’ is not only an insensitive cliché, it is shortsighted. Apart from the fact that Roman, medieval, Prussian and many other historical influences can be seen throughout Germany, so can its steps towards truth and reconciliation. Camps such as Bergen Belsen and Dachau are open to the public. And Berlin’s Jewish Museum is painfully poignant, as is its Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Beer is everywhere but with 13 wine regions, six of them in Rhineland-Palatinate, fine wines are omnipresent and there’s nearly always a vineyard nearby with a vintner’s history to be told. Ahr Valley, Baden, Franconia and the Saxonian wineyards, as well as just about everywhere along the Rhine or the Mosel, are a sommelier’s seventh heaven. Seek out wine trails to hike or bike along, or just enjoy raising a glass.
German trains and the network are just superb. The national rail company Deutsche Bahn is second to none, and really good value. Regional networks offer great deals such as the Konus Card giving free travel to visitors on Black Forest holidays. Or the Rhineland-Palatinate ticket, just €24 per day for unlimited travel, but up to four other people travelling with you only pay €5 and children under 15 go free.