Germany has long shed its image as Europe’s most laced-up center. In place of tired stereotypes about Lederhosen, Würsten, Bismark and Pretzels, Germany is now more likely to be known for its beautiful countryside, friendly locals and unparalleled arts and music scene than it is for its stodgy traditional food. So while the rest of the world starts looking to Germany as a place to spend their hard-earned summer holidays, (or, in the case of Berlin, move to for three weeks and never leave) here’s a run down of what it is that makes Germany a culture hub (sorry, Italy), a place of world-beating natural beauty (es tut mir Leid, New Zealand) and culinary capital (Entschuldigung, France). Everyone else, try not to feel too bad.
Germany is home to a whopping 74 symphony orchestras and 55 opera houses (more than Britain and France combined). Drawing on a long tradition in classical music, from Bach to Wagner, Germany is home to some of the world’s finest musicians. The country can also draw international artists to its borders too. In 2016, internationally acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei, who is a resident in Germany, installed his latest exhibition, rings of life jackets, on the front of the Berlin Konzerthaus.
While Germany’s capital isn’t exactly famous for its beautiful scenery (Berlin has its own strengths), there is much to be admired in the rest of the country when it comes to natural beauty. In the south, the Alps dominate much of the landscape, while just an hour from Berlin in Brandenburg, there a thousands of natural lakes. Take that and add the Black Forest and there’s no doubting that Germany can hold its own against the best of the world’s natural scenery.
Admittedly, there are plenty of places in Germany where the karte will mostly offer pork and potatoes, but to dismiss German food culture as a vinegar-heavy cabbage fest would do a great injustice to the fine restaurants that call Germany home. From the opulently appointed Venetian Restaurant (in Aschau im Chiemgau) in Bavaria to some of Europe’s finest Vietnamese restaurants in the country’s East, there are plenty of excellent restaurants for the curious foodie in Germany.
Germany is an old country, and as such is home to some really spectacular castles. Aside from what increasingly looks like an ill-advised venture to resurrect the old palace in Berlin, Germany has a smattering of castles that are well in excess of 1,000 years old. As if that’s not enough to entertain the history buffs, there’s the Neuschwanstein Castle. The Neuschwanstein Castle is the most photographed building in Germany, and for good reason. The castle hides in the Bavarian Alps near the town of Fussen and was the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle.
There’s no denying that the German standard of living is excellent in global terms, but even compared with her European neighbors, Germany stands out. A combination of high wages, low costs of living, effective transport and low levels of governmental corruption contribute to making Germany one of the most livable countries in the world. Of course, it doesn’t hurt the Mutterland‘s cause that she is also home to great food, landscape and art too.
Of course, Oktoberfest is a world famous event (for those that have been living under a cultural reference rock their entire lives, it an annual 16 day beer festival held in Munich) but Germany has a host of other excellent festivals too. The Catholic parts of the country celebrate Karneval. This is several months of events that involve copious amounts of alcohol, street parties and fancy dress, as well as a bunch of days off work. Elsewhere, the Love Parade has returned for a celebration of love in all its forms and another street festival. In addition to the Love Parade, the country is home a host of annual gay pride marches too.
The European capital of cool. The lowest rent prices of any capital city in the developed world. Berghain… Berlin has had plenty of hype in the last 15 years. The fact is though that the Hauptstadt continues to beguile and entice visitors from across the world every year. Despite complaints from some corners that Berlin is over, the thousands of artists, musicians, writers and performers that flock here every year and stay beg to differ. More laid back than Paris, miles cheaper than London, younger by thousands of years than Rome, Berlin will remain the crown jewel in Germany’s crown for years to come.