by Bob Brooke
The first impression most visitors have of Germany is how up-to-date most of the country is. Streams of vehicles fill its autobahns while the concrete and glass towers of Frankfurt, the country's financial and economic center, show off its economic wealth and success. But beneath the surface of chrome and glitter lies the underlying strata of a long history, filled with wars and chaos, the most devastating being World War II.
Otto von Bismark, unified a score of small kingdoms and independent states in 1871. In 1945, Nazis sought to make themselves masters of all Europe, plunging the country into its deepest abyss. After the war, the Allies divided Germany into three parts — one quarter annexed by Russia, another turned in a communist state under Russian control, and yet another a federation of 10 free states under a federal government in Bonn. Today, Berlin, the once-proud capital of the German Reich, is once again the seat of government of a unified nation.
The German people, themselves, come from widely varied cultural backgrounds. Traveling around the countryside, it's easy to distinguish the differences between Westphalians, Lower Saxonians, Bavarians, and Rhinelanders. The perception that Germany is a nation of happy, laughing beer drinkers running around in lederhosen, wearing feather-topped hunting caps is far from reality. Instead, it's one of a hardworking, tradition-minded people who have emerged as leaders in today's Europe.
Natural scenery draws many travelers to this fabled land. The north offers low-lying plains of moorland, heath and flat farmland, the central portion is hilly and the south more mountainous and forested as it rises towards the Alps. All the great rivers of Europe — the Rhine, the Ems, the Weser, the Elbe, and the Danube — begin here. The dark pines of the Black Forest and the white-capped Bavarian Alps are popular with hikers of all ages. And for wine lovers, nothing beats the fragrance of a new harvest in the wine towns of the Mosel Valley.
Although many of Germany's medieval treasures disappeared during the War, a good deal remains and much has been rebuilt in the old style, so successfully that it's hard for visitors to tell the old from the reconstructed. Cow bells still ring in Bavarian mountain pastures. Lonely castles perch atop crags along the Rhine River. Magnificent Gothic cathedrals, like the one in Cologne, reduced to rubble during the War, soar like phoenixes. Along the Romantic Road, Medieval monasteries and walled towns, such as Heidelberg and Rothenburg, each filled with half-timbered buildings untouched by Allied bombs, remind visitors of Germany's rich historical legacy.
No matter whether you drive its byways, cruise its rivers, or train its efficient railroad, you'll find lots to see and do in Germany.
Germany ResourcesBerlinale - (Berlin International Film Festival) is one of the world's leading film festivals
German Festivals - from Berlinale to Oktoberfest, 2camels has over 100 German festivals covered