"A Symphony of Nature and History" Germany by Kakapo2
Germany Travel Guide: 57,301 reviews and 168,739 photos
Finally I have started to build my Germany page - but it will take quite a while until I will have written about all my favourite places in Germany where I spent more than 40 years of my life before emigrating to the other end of the world to New Zealand.
Although I still feel at home, in the meantime I also feel a bit like a tourist when visiting. So I will also post some tips about intesting transportation and practical information I got aware of when planning trips back to Germany and travelling there. Things I did not know or consider as important when I still lived in Germany.
Just for a little introduction... I did not leave Germany for its lack of beauty. In fact I think Germany is an incredibly beautiful country, with a lot of hidden treasures, and I must admit that I miss its history and all those old castles and churches and medieval towns, as architectural history in NZ does not date further back than 1830 or so. My Kiwi husband found it quite amusing when I once did not know the answer to a question about an historic building in Germany and answered instead: "Anyway... this dates back to a time when the Maori still killed moa in New Zealand..." The moa, a giant bird, BTW is extinct since more than 400 years ;-)
In NZ they have just one castle (Larnach Castle), and the oldest buildings are as old as many not too exciting buildings in Germany. That is one major difference between the old and the new world. When I travel back to Germany I feel like in a romantic fairy-tale wonderland, a feeling I never have in NZ. But other things like the sparsely populated land and the incredible diversity of the landscapes make up this lack of history.
The strangest difference, however, is that you cannot move freely in New Zealand although only a little more than 4 million people live in an area of the size of the former West Germany. The reason for this craziness is that most of the country belongs to farmers who fence off the people, who do not allow you to walk to many beautiful mountains, and sometimes you get too much when you do not find an open farm track for jogging or walking in nature. In NZ you see people running on and along the roads everywhere, not to talk of the lack of cycling lanes. All this is much better in Germany, I can assure you. I have nearly given up cycling in NZ because it is so dangerous - not just because the car drivers are much worse. You can walk in Germany nearly everywhere. You see a nice castle or mountain top, and you get there with some very few exceptions. In NZ you end up in front of a fence all the time. If you hear someone swear in front of a fence in NZ it is probably me ;-)
Of course, I wanted to impress my then boyfriend and now husband with Germany's remote areas on his first visit, not that he would think we had no peaceful places. So I took him on a drive to the Franconian part of the Schwäbische Alb, towards the Ries around the fantastic enclosed town of Nördlingen, on the least used country roads you can imagine. This leads to the abbey of Neresheim and through tiny villages like Unterliezheim, and the fantastic Kesseltal (valley of a stream named Kessel), where old people sit in front of their houses and come to the gates when you pass on your bicycle, and they are too keen to help you and chat with you, just as friendly as in New Zealand.
When I had worked out routes for a cycling guide for the area between the rivers Jagst and Donau I had cycled there many times, and you could fearlessly cycle on the roads because there was nearly no traffic. So I was rather proud to show my Kiwi man such a hidden gem of Germany. But what did he say after a while: "Houses... You have houses everywhere!" LOL (Not that he had not enjoyed the trip. He even would prefer to live in Germany because of all the historic places and buildings ;-)
I must admit that of some cities in Germany I only know the football stadium or sports hall. But I have seen quite a lot of the country, and I could fill many gaps especially in the north when travelling with my husband who was (and still is) so keen to know as many places as possible.
Regions I know best are the Schwäbische Alb where I grew up (well, only in the foothills, to be precise), Bodensee (Lake Constance) where I spent many of my days off during the week and Munich where I studied.
I grew up in a village named Gingen/Fils, located between the towns of Geislingen/Steige and Göppingen, and on a bigger scale between Stuttgart and Ulm, on the main train route from Stuttgart to Munich. Geislingen is world-famous for WMF (Württembergische Metallwaren-Fabrik) which produces cutlery and cooking pots etc. Even the shops in NZ are full with their products. Göppingen is nationally known as the town of a first-division handball team named Frisch Auf. Apart from me, Jürgen Klinsmann, one of Germany's most famous football players and team-manager of the World Cup team 2006, grew up there; he lived in the neighbourhood. And Gingen's protestant church (Johanneskirche) has Germany's oldest inscription from the year 984. (As I told you, everything is a little older than in NZ... LOL)
The region is of much bigger historical significance as the Staufer Emperors resided there. One of my favourite walks leads over the three Kaiserberge (Emperors' Mountains) Hohenstaufen, Hohenrechberg and Stuifen. You find castles and ruins on nearly every second hill. Other famous castles in the wider region are Teck, Hohenneuffen and Hohenzollern, home of the last German emperor's relatives.
I lived in Munich for four years during my studies at university and the German Journalists School.
And finally I lived 23 years in Ulm, the city of the world's highest church spire, home of Einstein and a guy named "Schneider von Ulm", the Tailor of Ulm", who tried to fly over the Donau (river Danube) with a paraglider-like construction. So somehow he can be considered as the inventor of paragliding although his attempts ended with falling into the water. The Danube BTW in Ulm is the border between the states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. Ulm is in Baden-Württemberg, Neu-Ulm in Bavaria. I will tell you our Ulm jokes later when I compose my VT Ulm page ;-)
The symbol of Ulm is the sparrow - I have always loved it most as a delicious chocolate of Café Tröglen at Münsterplatz (Cathedral Square)... Now, when I see real sparrows in New Zealand - and there are more than plenty - they always remind me of Ulm. Sometimes watching them I say: "Ah, look - there are more guys from Ulm than just me..."
You never forget where you come from, and this has nothing to do with homesickness or so.
Right now (Update Oct. 2012: back again now from another of three more trips...) we have arrived back home in New Zealand after a month-long trip back home to Germany. We have been walking and - most times - cycling most mornings, along and up the foothills of the Schwäbische Alb, visited the ruins and renovated or reconstructed castles of the Staufer emperors and the Earls of Rechberg. And - thanks to a rail pass - we have explored the East, the big centres Dresden and Leipzig, and above all the capital Berlin which has totally delighted us, with its generous layout and reasonable prices, good value for money.
On the other hand we were disappointed of the rip-off mentality of beautiful Köln which we visited because of its spectacular cathedral.
We loved the lightness of the Italian-inspired three river city Passau which delighted me although I had been there many times in the past. The same with Ulm which is getting more and more beautiful, showing the perfect amalgamation of historic and modern, with the spectacular "Neue Mitte" (New Middle) as the outstanding new centre piece. We thoroughly enjoyed a visit to the new Mercedes-Benz-Museum in Stuttgart, home of the first cars. The most incredible place to visit for someone living in NEW Zealand is Trier, Germany's oldest city on the Mosel river, with Roman monuments from about the year 300. At this time the Maori could not even kill the moas yet as the Maori still lived somewhere else in the South Pacific.
We visited Bayerischer Wald (Bavarian Forest) which continues on the other side of the border with the Czech Republic as the Nature Park Bohemia. I nearly consider a visit to Marienbad (Marianske Lazne) in the Czech Republic as a near-German experience as this beautiful spa town would not be there without the Germans. And we had a look at castle Neidstein near Sulzbach-Rosenberg which was owned by Nicolas Cage for a while before restoration works forced him to sell again (Update Oct. 2012).
We also succeeded to visit Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest) on Obersalzberg near Berchtesgaden. And being so close, we visited the incredible Austrian Mozart town of Salzburg.
Give me some time, and I will report about all those places. You will also be surprised what the little places I mention have to offer. My hometown of Gingen with its historic church. Kuchen, the place next door, with its once futuristic workers quarter which even impressed the French emperor Napoleon at the World Expo in Paris. Geislingen with its five valleys, dotted with castles and home to the world-famous WMF. Göppingen, the home of the Staufer emperors. Of course, all those places are off the beaten path, situated between the bigger centres Stuttgart and Ulm, in lovely valleys surrounded by lovely hills which you can explore on foot and bicycle forever. Even if you have no time to visit, be impressed by the wealth of beauty and history even such small places have to offer.
Update Oct. 2012: Some places we visited on our recent trip were Bremen, Berlin, Frankfurt, Aachen, Lake Constance (Bodensee), Heilbronn and Tannheimer Tal (Austria) - beside Ulm and many nice places around Gingen/Fils.
- Pros:History, castles, freedom of walking and cycling everywhere
- Cons:Too many people
- In a nutshell:Despite many problems still a good place to live and travel
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