Germany marries old and new as harmoniously as it does nature and city. Gothic architecture meets Bauhaus, while modern innovation has shaped the skyline of some of Germany’s biggest cities. At the same time, historical monuments from the world’s dark past, such as the Berlin wall and Checkpoint Charlie, linger. Its peaceful forested countryside welcomes visitors to partake in robust and delicious German food and drink, preferably set to some of the best classical music that Bach and Handel, among others, have to offer. If these varied landscapes and experiences were not enough to entice you, it also hosts a wide array of festivals and markets each year–including the world-famous Oktoberfest, Berlinale, and the Leipzig Christmas market–making it a destination that is not to be missed.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Germany has a centralised and impressively extensive rail network, the Deutsche Bahn, which links towns to the major cities.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, environment & weather
Germany 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 the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Germany is a federation of 16 states, roughly corresponding to regions with their own distinct and unique cultures. Renowned for its precision engineering, Germany is a major economic power with a very high standard of living.
Geographically, Germany stretches from the Alps, across the North European Plain to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The Alps peak at 2962 metres, while the the low-lying lands of northern Germany are traversed by some of Europe’s major rivers such as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe. There is great geographical diversity in Germany, which contributes to its appeal for travellers. Most of the country experiences a temperate climate, dominated by humid westerly winds. Think cool winters and warm summers, when temperatures can exceed 30 degrees celcius. The East experiences more contintental conditions, with longer dry periods common. Central and southern Germany range from oceanic to continental. Climate extremes are rare, but occasional spikes in temperature can occur. Be sure to check long range weather predictions prior to your departure – this will help guide your packing
World Heritage Sites
Germany is home to 42 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can view the official list of the sites here; https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/de.
It is well worth visiting every site, if you are able. But here’s a few highlights from the bunch:
- The twin-spired Cologne Cathedral,
- Germany’s most visited landmark, Classical Weimar, preserving one of Europe’s most influential historic cultural centres
- Berlin’s Modernism Housing Estates, which testify to the city’s innovative housing policies between 1910 to 1933
- Museum Island, a complex of five important museums, and a feat of urban planning and Enlightenment ideals.
Festivals & events
Germany is very passionate about its football (soccer), and every village has a club. Games are a major social event on weekends. Spas are also common throughout Germany, with sauna areas generally coed and nude. Germany boasts world class opera houses, and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is known as one of the world’s top 3. Perhaps unexpectedy, Shakespeare is adored in Germany, and you may be able to find a performance during your visit. As for festivals and events, Oktoberfest cannot be missed. It comprises 17 days of celebrating beer, and is held in Munich, Bavaria every year. It is a significant part of Bavarian culture. There is a strong carnival tradition in some parts of Southern Germany, with Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) the highlight of the German Karneval.
- The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape by Brian Ladd
- Berlin: Imagine a City by Rory MacLean
- Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGreg
- The Reader by Bernard Schlink
Eating & Drinking
There tends to be a standard formula to German cuisine: variations on meat, potatoes and gravy, accompanied by vegetables or salad. International influence has led to lighter offerings, but it is great fun discovering how tradition vies alongside the contemporary. ‘Schnellimbiss’ means ‘quick snack’, and is what you will see on the signs of German stalls and small shops that sell primarily sausage (Wurst) and fries (Pommes Frites). Sausages will include Bratwurst, which is usually a boiled pork sausage. A typical 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 Schnellimbisse. German bakeries give fast food restaurants a run for their money, and even butchers will often prepare a fresh sandwich for you – or sometimes even a meal.
Biergärtens beergardens) provide drinks and usually meals, though in some traditional beergardens in Bavaria, you are permitted to bring your own food. Brauhaus are small breweries that sell their products direct to the customer, and frequently offer Haxe” or “Schweinshaxe” (pig’s leg), a distinctively German specialty. Other traditional dishes include schnitzel and rinderroulade – the latter is thinly sliced beef wrapped around bacon and pickled cucumber. The meat is quick-fried and then left to cook slowly for an hour, and is traditionally served with red cabbage, potato dumplings and pan gravy.
Among regional dishes is Eierschecke, a cake made of eggs and cream similar to cheese cake, found in Saxony. Beware when ordering fish – if Edelfischplatte is offered, it may not be fresh. Best to consume fish from specialty seafood restaurants. A specialty of the East is “Soljanka” (originating from Ukraine, but probably the most common dish in the GDR), a sour soup containing vegetables and usually some kind of meat or sausages.
Health & Safety
While much of Germany is usually safe to travel around, it’s important to stay alert to anything unusual. Also, you will often see signs warning of pickpockets in areas popular with tourists, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. The standard voltage in Germany is 230V and 50Hz. Types C and F plugs are used here, both with two round pins – F also has earth clips on the side. The main plug is also referred to as a Schuko plug
Leipzig & Music
Germany has a single time zone (excluding its overseas territories), Greenwich mean time . The nation observes daylight saving time from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you make sure you tip an appropriate amount for services, as is the case throughout much of Europe. It’s customary to tip 10-15% of the bill at restaurants. It’s polite to round a bill up to the nearest whole figure or leave the change when buying drinks.
Internet access is easily accessible, and most hotels and many cafes will be able to offer it.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Germany. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible Travel Tips for Germany
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. While many Germans speak English, it is by no means universal, and it’s always appreciated if you attempt conversation in German before shifting to English.
- Carry a card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums & galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of pounds in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.