Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany and is a major tourist destination, with endless places to discover. November 9, 2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a significant milestone, as “the Wall will have been down longer than the 28 years it stood” (Paul Sullivan on the Guardian).
Among its must-see sites is the 18th -Century Brandenburg Gate, modelled after the Propylaeum of the Acropolis in Athens, and commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II as an entrance to the boulevard Unter den Linden which led to the Prussian palace. Now hailed as a symbol of German reunification, Berlin’s remaining town gate has seen its share of historic events, from Napoleon’s army stealing the quadriga statue depicting the goddess of victory on top of the Gate, to West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl walking through it to meet East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow during the Gate’s reopening in 1989.
This gate is close to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, covering 19,000 square metres. The 2,711 concrete slabs of differing heights give a sense of unease and uncertainty and offer space for visitors to contemplate the senseless violence of the Holocaust. There is an underground information centre where visitors can find information on the victims, as well as photographs, diaries, and letters.
We list more Berlin sites in our article here.
About 185 km south-west of Berlin in the Saxon Lowlands, you will find what some people call the ‘new Berlin’: the city of Leipzig. With a population of about 600,000 people, it is Germany’s sixth most populous city but is fast becoming one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.
Leipzig has been nicknamed ‘Hypezig’ because of its lively art and music scene and its characterisation as a younger, hipper, less pretentious Berlin. Today, despite much of the city being destroyed toward the end of World War II, it is known for the pushing the edge of culture and being to creatives and tech companies powering innovative change. On top of this, it is a university town (the Leipzig University dates from 1409 and famous alumni include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) and there is no shortage of bars and cafes to explore.
As well as this, Leipzig has a rich history and many of its most important landmarks have been restored since the destruction of World War II. The legacy of Leipzig and its continuing importance as a cultural centre can be felt in many of these attractions, including old publishing houses and major libraries. While it is a relatively small city, there is enough to see in Leipzig to stay there for a few days and enjoy the atmosphere and beauty of this fascinating city. Read more in our article here
Millions of travellers head to Munich for the famous Oktoberfest.
The world’s biggest folk and beer festival was first held in 1810 in honour of the wedding between Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (later King Ludwig I, grandfather of Ludwig II) and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The festival is still held on the original meadow named after Ludwig’s bride—the Theresienwiese, or “Wiesn” for short.
Other cities in the world hold their own version of the Oktoberfest, but nothing beats the original festival in Munich, which welcomes more than six million visitors every year. The only beer served comes from Munich breweries, but there are also tents that serve wine and coffee. Those visiting with their families and children can check out the fairground attractions and live music performances.
Potsdam, near Berlin, is famous for the Sanssouci, often described as the Prussian Versailles. This ensemble of palaces and garden complexes was built under Frederick the Great (1712-1786) and expanded under Frederick William IV in the 19th century. The main focus of Sanssouci Park is the summer residence of Frederick the Great, Sanssouci Palace or Schloss Sanssouci.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sanssouci Park is undoubtedly one of most splendid places in Germany and has remained unscathed despite two World Wars. Today you can enjoy guided tours of Schloss Sanssouci, which sits atop a terraced hill overlooking the gardens, Orangeries, a small palace built to house guests, Neues Palais, the largest of the palaces built 22 years after the rococo Sanssouci Palace, and Schloss Charlottenhof, the smallest of the palaces and built in a neo-classical style. Read more in our article.
Oberammergau is located on the banks of the Ammer River at the foot of the Bavarian Alps in southern Germany. Oberammergau has been noted for its woodcarvings since the 12th century. The village is a popular tourist resort and its attractions include many ornately-painted houses and the early baroque church of St Peter and St Paul.
It is also the site of the once-a-decade Oberammergau Passion Play. In about the year 1600 the people of Oberammergau performed a passion play to give thanks for their village’s deliverance from the Black Death, and vowed to repeat its performances regularly in the years to come. The actual dates of those early performances are unknown, but we do know that the play was performed in 1634. This is usually given as the date of the first performance, but the records make it clear that it was already well known, so that we can be reasonably sure that its origins go back at least to early years of the century. The villagers have been faithful to their vow, and the play has been performed every decade as far as circumstances would permit, though the text has been rewritten and the manner of performance modified by guest directors: it is very much a ‘living’ organism, and by no means a lifeless archaeological oddity.
The Oberammergau Passion Play will be performed 102 times between 16 May 2020 and 4 October 2020. The play is held in the 4,500-seater Passionstheater in Oberammergau. The theatre is partly open air. All seats are under roof cover, however, so performances are not cancelled due to rain. You can read more here.