Europe

The Storybook named Germany

Visiting The Black Forest often feels like stepping in to the pages of a German fairytale | Photo credit: Francisco Antunes

Every hour spent walking, cycling, motoring or river cruising through the landscapes in this heart of Europe is a heady experience of an age-old folk-lore and culture.

At first glance, every German village looks like a place in a fairytale. Even in a big, modern city, the historic altstadt (old town) is at the heart with winding lanes, a cobblestoned central square and chalet-style municipal houses complete with windows of hanging geraniums.

Here, there, and everywhere you can stroll to the local beer garden or wine cellar to raise a glass with villagers and feast on a menu of wurst, potato salad and cheese. Or you can cycle to a park for a little inspiration by classical musicians and then window-shop for some finery like tableware, jewellery, clothing and luxury cars. You can also set your eyes on national treasures in galleries and museums and learn about the past and present.

So fascinating are the personal experiences in and around the German countryside that you would be wise to plan an itinerary and be sure not to rush. With several days at hand, you can choose not to travel along the Autobahn in favour of country roads. A must-see itinerary would include visiting the mythical Black Forest; the mineral spas at Baden Baden; the winding valley of the Mosel river with its swans and hilly vineyards (to many, the prettiest waterway in the world); plus a short or long cruise on the legendary river Rhine with stops for wining, dining, and shopping in medieval Rudesheim and Heidelberg.

Given the technological wonders of today’s cameras and computer software, you can visit Germany and create your own Fairytale storybook, and here are some magical, sometimes mystical and photogenic places to begin and end your ‘book’.

The Fairytale Road, one of the oldest scenic routes in Germany, stretches 600 kilometres from Hanau (near Frankfurt) through the Werra district and north to Bremen. This enchanting and sometimes spiritual trail links some 70 towns and villages associated with the Brothers Grimm, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and the Pied Piper.

Bavaria

Around almost every mountainside are castles that appear as if they must be from fairy tales. Bavaria is a storybook region which often is the image that many of us see in our minds eye as being representative of the German Alps. You will no doubt be travelling along the “Romantic Road”, an area between Würzburg and Füssen. This is where you will visit Neuschwanstein Castle and the close by Hohenschwangau Castle and other romantic-sounding towns such as Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Wurzburg and Augsburg. The blend of mountain vistas, meandering valleys, charming towns and villages and vibrant cities make Bavaria a part of Germany that warrants a chapter in your Storybook.

The Black Forest region, or Schwarzwald to give it its German name, is, without a doubt, one of Germany’s most popular destinations and certainly deserves a chapter in your book. Like Bavaria to the east, the Black Forest, has, arguably, the best food in Germany along with upscale resorts and spas featuring natural thermal pools. The locations of many of these spas are sites originally discovered by Roman soldiers and abandoned and lost for centuries. Freiburg is the capital of the Black Forest region and the Old Town is one of the most interesting and beautiful in Germany. And when you are here, be sure to try some Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte (the Black Forest Cherry Cake), as this delight is the most popular dessert in Germany.

Rhine River

Following the 1,320 kilometre Rhine River from its source in Switzerland to the river’s mouth in the North Sea, the most interesting section is, without doubt, the Rhine Valley between Mainz and Bonn. The Rhine Valley is well known to provide visitors and residents alike with an array of picturesque vistas of vineyard-covered mountainsides, and dozens of historical castles. This regional chapter of your Storybook can be sub-titled Enchanting (You can make up your own Chapter Title). So prepare to be inspired by the valley, the river and the legendary landscape.

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