Speckled with dark and light, Germany is a country where the past is never forgotten as it bleeds into the present. The countries darkest time came during the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust, but before travelers hesitate to visit Germany, they should remember that the deeds of past generations cannot be blamed on the newer generations.
Germany has worked hard to preserve its history and the newer generations are working towards a better future.
Herzlich Willkommen – Welcome to Germany
Even with dark shadows in their history, Germany is still a delightful country and they have positively impacted the world too. With humanity’s heavyweights, Germany is also the birthplace of Albert Einstein, Beethoven, Bach, Karl Marx, and the Brothers Grimm. German cuisine has also left its stamp and staples amongst its gastronomy are the sausage, pretzel, beer, and wine. But what travelers may not expect to find is the overwhelming beauty of Germany’s landscapes, which have become the blueprint for famous fairy tales.
History and the present collide in Germany’s capital, Berlin, which is a bustle of boundless entertainment. For a city that was once divided in two, the reunion has only made it stronger. Left in the past are dark memories from Nazi domination, sections of the Berlin Wall, and bombed neighborhoods that have been rebuilt. But with the little reminders in their everyday life, the local people are a cheerful bunch who would like to ensure that the past cannot be repeated. Now, the city is a cultural hub and food lover’s paradise. You can bounce in the bars, peruse the beer gardens, or stroll the streets for a good time in this vibrant capital.
Culture and Language
While Germany’s most famous historic events occurred in the 20th century, the country has a surprising past that dates back thousands of years and have been influenced by other great cultures like the Germanic tribes, Franks, Hanseatic League, and Roman Empire. Perhaps most famously, Charlemagne expanded into Germany and claimed it as part of the Holy Roman Empire. While it may be unexpected, there are still Roman sites preserved in Germany.
But Germany’s ancient history is too long to cover in a few paragraphs and the more recognizable events have occurred within the last couple hundred years. Germany was part of both the World Wars with their participation in the second part caused the most devastation. The Holocaust is an unforgettable piece of history that was implemented by Hitler and Nazi Germany. Today, the consequences of the war are still very much present as countries around the world have monuments, museums, and preserved historic sites dedicated to World War II and its events.
However, World War II wasn’t the only even that divided the country and by 1961, Berlin found itself infamously divided between Communists and Fascists. The Berlin Wall remained intact until 1989 and acted as a physical and ideological barrier between East and West Germany. Thousands of East Germany risked or lost their lives attempting to escape to West Germany, but the wall remained. When the Cold War began to diminish, it was only then that the wall was torn down by bulldozers, cranes, pickaxes, and hammers. Now, the country and Berlin have one again united.
By remembering but leaving their history in the past, Germany has worked to become a positive influence around the globe. With their unique culture, Germany has become one of the world’s most respected nations. Now, the country seeks to be known for their positivity and generosity as they move into the future.
While most famous for their party lifestyle and mega celebration, Oktoberfest, Germany has also given the world Christmas traditions, famous composers, intelligent philosophers, and modern icons. Modern brands that have swept the globe, but hailed from Germany include Adidas, Audi, BMW, Hugo Boss, and Puma. German cuisine has also made itself famous for its love of meat, grain, beer, and wine.
Another part of German culture that gives German’s a sense of identity is their language. Standard German is the official language in Germany and is estimated that over 95% of the population speaks the language. However, English is also standard in Germany and is often the first foreign language that is introduced and taught in school. A fairly large portion of the population are bilingual, and they will be fluent to a degree in the English language.
Traveling is fun but it isn’t without its responsibilities. You will have to check and determine what documents you need to legally enter Germany and ensure that they are all valid. US citizens who are traveling to Germany for tourism are not required to obtain a tourist visa if they plan to stay for less than 90 days. But you will need to meet Germany’s other requirements to be granted entry. Other requirements include your passport, proof of funds, and a return ticket.
Your US passport needs to have a minimum of 3 months validity remaining, which should go beyond your date of departure from the Schengen Area. Germany is part of the Schengen Agreement, so if you are traveling throughout the area you need to be certain that your passport is valid for the entire duration of your trip and the 3 months beyond your departure date from the Schengen Area. Your passport also needs two blank pages for your entry stamps into Germany.
For your trip, you may also be requested to provide proof of sufficient funding and a return airline ticket. While this is not always requested, you need to have it prepared because you could be denied entry if you cannot provide what is requested by German Customs. Travelers are also asked to restrict their currency amount to $10,000 Euros or the equivalent in US dollars upon both entry and exit from Germany. Finally, there are no vaccination requirements, but the US Center for Disease and Control Prevention always recommends that you are up to date on all of your boosters before you depart for your trip.
Traveling is mostly fun, but one of the not so fun parts is ensuring that you can afford your trip. Your spending budget is important to map out because you want to have an estimate on how expensive your trip will be and leave room for some unexpected costs. But Germany is an affordable country, when compared to the rest of Europe and backpackers can stay on a tight budget while traveling through its borders. The key parts of your budget will cover the cost of airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
Going overseas is always expensive and your airfare to Germany will be no exception. The average cost of a seat on the plane from the United States to Germany is $1000 US dollars. For travelers who are on a tight budget, having a flexible range of travel dates can help you find better deals on airline ticket prices. Sometimes, you may even find the cost of a flight to be as low as $400-$500 US dollars.
But the price can also be affected by your season of travel and the timing of purchasing your ticket. Summer is the tourist high season and you’ll see more travelers heading to Germany between the months ranging from May to September and into the beginning of October. The end of the tourist season sees a huge surge in popularity because this is the time of Germany’s famous Oktoberfest festival. If you are planning on traveling to Germany and find a good deal on an airline ticket, you should not wait to make a reservation. The longer you wait to book your seat, the more expensive the ticket will be.
As thrilling as it is to finally book a ticket, you also need to get excited to make reservations for your accommodation. You don’t want to be completely homeless on your journey, so it is important to also plan where you’ll be staying each night of your trip. Hostels are the most budget friendly options for accommodation with prices ranging from $18-$35 US dollars per night.
But sharing space isn’t for everyone and if you would enjoy having more privacy, you should expect the nightly rate to go up. Hotels offer more privacy and will cost $70-$140 US dollars each night. This is also the same price range for an apartment booking through sites like Airbnb. If that still doesn’t suit your preferences and you want a luxury hotel, nightly rates start at $170 US dollars and increase from that price point.
If you’ve booked a hotel, then they will likely provide you with a free breakfast. But in case it isn’t included and for consideration towards your other daily meals, you need to know the cost of food. German cuisine is famous for their love affair with meat and tasting the local dishes is the best way to experience German culture.
Sausages are a staple part of German food and they can be cured, grilled, or smoked. With over 40 varieties of bratwurst, your taste buds will never tire of this German tradition. One famous dish that is also sausage based is currywurst. This mixes sausages with ketchup and curry powder. It is often served on a bread roll and is a tasty snack. Germany’s version of schnitzel is another favorite, which takes a breaded and fried pork and pairs it with potatoes and a sauce. Rouladen is another famous dish, more popular in the Rhine region, which combines the flavors of potatoes with beef, cabbages, and a red wine sauce. For dessert, you can try the country’s famous Black Forest cake, which is a decadent dish with cherries and chocolate.
For many travelers, tasting authentic German food is an important part of their trip, but it comes at a price. A budget meal will cost about $10 US dollars, but it may not have the exquisite taste you are seeking. Good restaurants are expensive, but they will provide you with delicious food and a great time. For a midrange meal price, you should plan to spend $35-$45 US dollars. The best eateries in Germany that are in the top range will be very expensive and a meal can cost $120 US dollars.
Germans also love drinking and many people are eager to taste their variety of local brews. Beers usually will cost $5-$6 US dollars for a pint, while other spirits can cost up to $10 US dollars. It will depend on what you are drinking, but if you wish to try a glass of good Riesling, you should expect to spend $10 US dollars or more.
While we’ve broken down the cost into sections, you may also be curious to know the average daily costs. For backpackers, you should be prepared to spend up to $140 US dollars for each day of your trip. A midrange budget will be more expensive and could cost up to $230 US dollars each day. Anything over $230 US dollars per day is often considered to be top end and a luxury vacation.
How to Get Around
The cost of transportation is another part of your budget that is important because most travelers are interested in seeing more than a single city on their trip. With so many places to explore, it is important to consider the cost of transportation because it can be quite expensive in Germany.
Domestic flights have become less popular in Germany due to their growing railway system. But the cost of some flights, which can be less than $100 US dollars and the speed of travel, makes planes the top choice for some travelers. Germany actually wants to eliminate domestic flights because they are not environmentally friendly, but it is a strongly debated topic because of the cost of trains.
Trains are another popular way to travel around Germany, but they can be very expensive. A high-speed train from Munich to Berlin often has a base price of $205 US dollars, which then increases based on the ticket you purchase. Slower trains are still rather expensive and cost $50-$80 US dollars for a ticket.
The most affordable way to travel long distances is to use an overnight bus. This means that you don’t have to worry about the cost of accommodation for a night and you are still making progress towards your destination. Most overnight buses will cost $18-$35 US dollars for a ticket.
If you are looking to travel around a city, the best option would be to use public transportation. Most city transportation systems have affordable prices and tickets will cost $4 US dollars or less per ride. Taxis and Uber are also popular in Germany and they will cost $7-$15 US dollars for short rides.
Finally, walking is the best way to get around because it is free and exciting. By getting out on the streets, you can experience the local lifestyle and enjoy the fresh air. In many cities, it is perfectly safe to walk, but you should still be cautious about venturing out alone or at night.
Top Places to Visit: Cities
Berlin and Munich tend to be Germany’s most recognized cities, but there are plenty of others to explore too. Here are the German cities that have become a favorite amongst tourists.
As the capital of Germany, Berlin finely balances between the past and present, as well as juggles its people and their diversity. Here, people from all over the world have come to call Berlin home, which has just added more diversity to its identity. The city also proudly boasts its treasures like the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Wall, and Bundestag parliament. With an energy that never dies, you can explore from day, well into the night and jump from different clubs and bars for great entertainment.
Located in the south, Munich is the capital of the German state of Bavaria. The city is famous for its old town and the Hofbräuhaus beer hall. It is also the center of Germany’s Oktoberfest celebration, which happens annually in the fall season. Also called the “Village of the World”, Munich has come to have a diverse identity and personality, which only makes it all the more loved.
Heidelberg was the center of German Romanticism and it isn’t hard to guess why once you begin to walk its cobblestone streets. The uniform red roofs of the buildings hug the Neckar river and they were once trodden upon by Mark Twain. With an idyllic landscape, the best way to see the area is to head up into the hills for a bird’s eye view of Heidelberg’s beauty.
Hamburg is most famous for having Roman roots, which were miraculously preserved throughout the trials of World War II. Now, the streets have helped blossom Germany’s creativity and many industries have moved in to expand their business. With stunning architecture, this city is a must see in Germany.
For those who are religious or just want to experience this historic tales of others, Cologne is most famous for housing the bones of the Three Kings who one traveled to the birthplace of Jesus to bestow their gifts. Here, it is rumored that the bones are held in the Cathedral, which sits along the Rhine. But ancient history also extends into the street as the ornate decorations on buildings and gold leafing will make your jaw drop. With impressive architecture, this city has been through the trenches and back as it was once bombed numerous times during World War II. Now, repaired and rebuilt, it has become a top destination in Germany.
Filled to the brim with the country’s treasure, Dresden beat all the other cities to the motherload. Here, the vast majority of German treasures are held and preserved. From the architecture to the gardens and river, Dresden is Germany’s most romantic getaway. The Cologne Cathedral or Kölner Dom is one of the city’s favorite and a Gothic masterpiece.
Points of Interest
While cities are often the most treasured, you may also want to balance out your trip by visiting a few points of interest. These points of interest will spoil you and showcase even more beauty within Germany’s borders.
The Black Forest
With dense greenery, the Black Forest is most famously known for being the inspiration and location behind many fairy tales written by the Brothers Grimm. Here, the beauty of the forest gave way not only for fascinating creatures but also cautionary tales for wandering children. Now, the forest is dotted with quaint villages and become a major attraction for a German road trip.
Bavaria’s King Ludwig II commissioned this castle and boy, did he have an incredible vision. This castle is often considered to be Germany’s most famous as it was one that went on to inspire the appearance of Disney’s castles. More specifically, this castle was the blueprint for the castle in Sleeping Beauty and it isn’t hard to guess why. Built above the valley, the castle has a great view of the landscape. Visitors flock to the nearby town of Füssen to visit the castle and it’s a good thing. King Ludwig II died before its completed, so now the rest of the world can enjoy its beauty in his honor.
With 40 different castles and 60 plus medieval towns, the Rhine Valley in Germany has become one of the go-to places for romance. With traveling options including a boat on the river or a car on the land, you can travel amongst and explore all the idyllic landscapes of this famous waterway.
Surrounded by towering rocks, the Harz Mountains are breathtaking but one of the lesser known tourist hotspots. The remote location has kept it quieter but makes for a great getaway from the busy city streets. You can walk along the lakeside or take a boat to popular places like the Pilgramage Chapel of St. Bartholomew for a little adventure. You may also enjoy the area if you love fairy tales because some of the Brother Grimm stories were based in these peaks.
Drawing in about 6 million visitors, Oktoberfest is the go-to celebration that occurs every year during the end of September and beginning days of October. The festival is a grand celebration and an important part of Bavarian culture, which has been celebrated since 1810.
Get Out and Go
While Germany’s influence has spread well beyond its borders, nothing can match first-hand experience. With everything bundled into one package, you can explore devastatingly beautiful landscapes, divulge in the local cuisine, and dance with the culture as you make your way from place to place. The long history of Germany only adds to its beauty and the influence of mankind on the land has led to the creation of one incredible destination.