Germany – the good and the bad. What you need to know before you visit.
Germany – we are completely in love with you in some ways and in other ways we may ‘need to see other people’…
- Berlin was the most incredibly breathtaking, emotive and historic city. It is filled with epic sites which you just stand in awe of including the Brandenburg gate, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin Cathedral, the Berlin Wall and the Reichstag Building. There is so much to see that you could walk round the city for days. We went on a “free” Sandemans walking tour and our Portuguese guide Duarte was amazing. This was the perfect way to get our bearings of the city and to see where we wanted to explore further.
- The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe requires its own bullet point. Situated in the heart of Berlin, it consists of a 19,000 sqm site covered with 2,711 large concrete slabs arranged in a consistent (but eerily imperfect) grid-like pattern. The artist Peter Eisenman chose to keep his interpretation of his own work private, so encouraging visitors to make their own conclusions as to what he was trying to portray, or the emotion he intended to evoke. Some say it looks like gravestones, others that it reminds them of train carriages. The scope and sheer immense-ness of this structure might just leave you breathless (especially when you are standing, dwarfed, right in the middle of it). Since our visit to Berlin we have spent more time discussing this site than any other ‘must see’ location on our travels.
- Germany is Flat! Seriously, you can travel for hours on a train and never see a single hill. This makes it really easy to walk and/or bike around.
- Vegan food is everywhere and soooo delicious. We had heard that Berlin was the most vegan friendly city in the world and we weren’t disappointed even as we branched out to other cities too. We ate at some amazing spots including Goodies (Berlin), Soy (East Berlin), Daluma (East Berlin), Tasty Leaf (Nuremberg) and Max Prett (Munich). East Berlin in particular is a must visit if you are looking for some delicious vegan eats.
- Neuschwanstein Castle out of Munich is definitely worth the day trip. Not only is the castle beautiful (it inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s iconic Castle), the setting is exceptional. There are waterfalls and lakes which all seem to look like something out of a fairytale.
- The people are friendly and almost everyone speaks English which makes for a more comfortable environment as a tourist.
- Munich Park surfing – in the middle of a sprawling, landlocked city is a gigantic park, complete with its own river surfers. This might sound hard to believe but crazy locals spend hours in their favourite wetsuits surfing a 20m wide patch of river (one at a time). In typical German fashion, each surfer patiently waits their turn, no one surfs longer than about 20 seconds and order is maintained at all times. It is strangely hypnotic and ridiculous at the same time.
- Nuremberg – We visited Nuremberg simply to break up our trip from Berlin to Munich however, being the site of the Nazi rally grounds, the town provides an interesting and different perspective on the extent of Hitler’s craziness.
Not so good things:
- Everyone smokes everywhere. It is a common theme throughout the Country that German’s seem to take a Liberal ‘don’t mess with our personal rights’ attitude to some things, the most obvious being smoking. Advertisements for cigarettes are everywhere and the streets are littered with old butts, especially near train stations. Coming from New Zealand you notice the difference straight away.
- They don’t seem to believe in air con. Even though it reaches highs into the 30’s no where is air conditioned and this makes for a few restless nights and uncomfortable train rides.
- It is the small things that can make you miss home sometimes and in Germany we missed it for its orange man. Who would have thought a simple concept of warning people before the green man runs out when crossing the road would be so sorely missed.
- Convenience stores and supermarkets are few and far between. As travellers with limited luggage space, and a limited diet, small supermarkets are our life blood. We need easy access to snacks and water at all times to keep ‘hangry’ Annah from appearing too often.
- Im all for sparkling water in the right setting but Germany has an obsession with it. We made the mistake of buying it (unintentionally) on multiple occasions and waking up to warm, weird tasting sparkling water in the morning is not the ideal way to start your day.
- Our Munich walking tour was sadly disappointing however this had more to do with the guide and the group rather than the city itself. It is the risk you run with all tours but we recommend trying to not do a sunday afternoon tour to help avoid the crowds. Go in the morning on a weekday to beat the rush.
- Trains – where do we start! We had high hopes that Deutsche Bahn would whisk us round their Country in the height of comfort with fast, air-conditioned trains powered by German efficiency. Well don’t get your hopes up people because it simply isn’t like that. An 8 hour train ride from Amsterdam was where we first discovered their hatred of all things air-conditioning. This joy-filled ride included an unscheduled 2 hour stopover in some tiny border town we still don’t know the name of, with 200 passengers, none of whom knew what was going on, followed by a 6 hour bikram-yoga-style sauna ride into Berlin. So much for paying extra for reserved seats! Thankfully the buses where amazing and we totally recommend Flixbus and Postbus for getting around Europe. Heaps of leg room, with air conditioning and wifi available on most trips.
Tip: Book transport on GoEuro.com. You can compare the cost of going by bus, train or plane all on one site. So good!
Looking through this list again the bad points don’t seem so awful. So much of our travel experience is influenced by access to food and the quality of our sleep (read: hotel rooms). Sometimes you get lucky with your choice of accommodation, the weather and bus / train rides and everything combines to make for a positive experience. We are learning to take the good with the bad and realise that the challenging moments are often the most memorable ones.