Ask people where they want to go on their European holidays and if they’re not heading to the beaches of the Mediterranean they’ll most likely tell you about Paris, London, Barcelona or Venice. Some may head east to Prague, Krakow or Budapest. Yet despite being the most populous European country (excluding Russia) Germany hardly ever gets a mention.
It does appear that Germany is something of a forgotten country in terms of European tourism and while the main tourist spots in the country can get crowded it is still largely ignored by the millions of tourists visiting Europe each year. I also plead guilty: I spent a few days in Germany last month and this was my first trip there for 20 years. So why should Germany be worthy of a closer look when planning a European trip?
If you like exploring castles you’ll be spoilt for choice in Germany. There’s Neuschwanstein Castle, the most famous castle of all and the inspiration for Disney’s fairytale castles (it is to here that it seems every tourist in Germany heads). But venture along the Rhein and you’ll find many more splendid castles with far fewer visitors. And these are the best type of castles – ones where you can both scramble around the ruins and explore the interior, decorated to reflect life in the building’s heyday.
Then there are the medieval walled cities along the Romantic Road in Bavaria. We visited Nördlingen, a delightful city with the wall fully encircling its perimeter. The 3km walk along the full circumference of the wall would be heaving with tourists anywhere else, yet here on a Saturday in July we barely saw another tourist as we strolled around.
The Great Outdoors
It’s easy to imagine Germany as dominated by its major cities, yet the country probably offers some of the finest hiking and cycling in Europe. Whether we were walking in the Alpine hills above Neuschwanstein or along the Rheinsteig (a long distance trail that follows the Rhein through the winelands between Bonn and Wiesbaden), we found well-marked trails, welcoming rest stops and once again, very few fellow visitors.
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