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Germany might be landlocked, but it is nonetheless a country criss-crossed by large rivers ideally suited to boating holidays. A wealth of culture, castles, cities and scenery combine to make it one of Europe’s most attractive destinations. It’s hardly surprising that this was the landscape and culture that inspired the world’s first major travel writer, Patrick Leigh Fermor.

In whatever way you choose to explore Germany a good place to start is the university city of Passau in Lower Bavaria. It is also known as the Dreiflüssestadt (the city of three rivers) with the Danube being joined there by the river IIz and the Inn. Famous for its Baroque architecture, Passau’s true onion-domed gem is St Stephen’s Cathedral. It dates from 1688 and is particularly notable because it houses an organ that is the largest to be found outside the US. With its 17,774 pipes played from five manuals once heard the experience will not be quickly forgotten.

Passau’s Glasmuseum (glass museum) illustrates the area’s tradition of fine craftsmanship. With over 30,000 exhibits it showcases the best in European glassmaking from the 19th century through to art nouveau. For some reason the man chosen to open the museum in 1985 was the American, Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

Regensburg is the next recommended destination. It is located in southwest Bavaria and is a UNESCO heritage site rich in medieval and religious history. Here the Cathedral (also known as the Dom) is the epitome of German Gothic style and dominates the view from the river. A medieval stone bridge once used by the knight crusaders still stands today, along with the famous Golden Tower or Goldener Turm. Other attractions include a centuries-old pharmacy, the Adler-Apotheke and the city’s Botanical Garden.

Nuremberg is a very interesting city that is particularly famous for its Christkindlmarkt. Here you’ll find all the traditional Bavarian foods, from bratwurst sausages to lebkuchen gingerbread, as well as a wealth of traditional crafts and gifts at Christmas. October and December are popular times to visit due to the region’s Oktoberfest and holiday celebrations (great opportunities to try a huge variety of Bavaria’s world-famous beers). Notable tourist spots are Nuremberg’s castle and the house once occupied by the renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer.

Other regional highlights include Cologne at the northern end of the Danube, with its unique skyline resulting from heavy bombing in World War II and the subsequent rebuilding. Cologne flanks the river on both sides and has over 30 museums, many of them devoted to the history of the World Wars.

The Rhine Gorge – the river’s most beautiful section, has been a protected UNESCO heritage site since 2002. It has its own micro culture, unique species and spectacular geological formations (including the Lorelei rock). Take advantage of the cable car to the Ehrenbreitstein fortress where Prussians defended their territory from French invasion in the nineteenth century. The mountain position is perfect not just for defence but also for a view of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley sprawling below. The valley is dotted with medieval towns and villages along the riverbanks.

This section of the Rhine is famous for its winemaking and is at its best for tourism in late summer. Koblenz hosts an annual fireworks celebration as the harvest is brought in. This is known as Rhine in Flames and is a very popular spectacle with holidaymakers.

Germany’s third major river, the Elbe, runs from Berlin right through to Prague in the Czech Republic and also passes through the cities of Potsdam, Wittenberg, Meissen and Dresden. Most visitors initially make for Berlin, where the famous Berlin Wall fell in 1989 ending the Cold War between the USSR and the West. Visit the Checkpoint Charlie museum to see the site of the famous crossing point and find out more about life in Berlin throughout the post-war years. The Reichstag (home of the German government) and the Brandenburg Gate are both important imperial landmarks to see on your walkabout.

Wittenberg (130kms from Berlin) was the epicentre of the Protestant Reformation that shaped Germany’s history. Martin Luther, who nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the city’s Castle Church, also had a home in the city that is now open for public viewing.

Dresden, the capital of Saxony, is known as the “Florence of the Elbe.” Many visitors regard it as a highlight of their holiday. It offers rich cultural experiences from visits to the Palace or Opera House to concerts, craft fairs and local markets.

Germany may have an unfortunate history but the modern generation has formed a new culture and a stable political system. This is a fascinating and entertaining country to visit.

 

Cities in germany 

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