Year in Germany – Part III

*This is a blog post detailing a past trip. The post refers to my year abroad in Germany that I undertook between the summers of 2016 and 2017 (6 years ago at the time of writing). Therefore, details shall be a little foggy, but I have written the post for completeness. Ensuring my blog captures everywhere I have travelled.

Part III of my year in Germany series will conclude the blogs on this adventure. Having set the scene in Part I and then detailed some of the more local attractions and traditional events I attend during the year in Part II. This blog looks at the places I visited further afield. 

The most northern city I visited was Hamburg. It is a major port city which connects to the North Sea via the River Elbe. The city itself was practically annihilated during WWII when the allies bombed the city into the ground. Therefore most of what you see today has been rebuilt since the end of the war. Certainly, the best way to get around Hamburg is on foot and the main attractions are all fairly accessible from one another this way. I also recommend joining one of the many walking tours that operated throughout the city. As with most city trips, a walking tour with a knowledgeable guide is a great way to get to know the place, plus learn more about its rich history. One of the facts that sticks in my mind even today is the old headquarters of IG Farben. The company responsible for producing Zyklon B, the gas used during the holocaust. Is now a chocolate shop. While on foot you’ll no doubt notice just how many bridges you have to walk over or see. In fact, Hamburg holds the title for the city with the most bridges in Europe, almost 3500 of them, which far surpasses that of Amsterdam and Venice, which many people would put top. I highly recommend walking along the river Elbe from the city’s opera house, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg. There are loads of little places to stop for a drink or bite to eat overlooking the river with views of the Opera House in the distance. For those after something a bit more lively, Hamburg is also home to the famous Reeperbahn. The lively street is home to Hamburg’s nightlife and entertainment options. There are plenty of bars to take your fancy and also more exotic shall we say establishments for those after something a little more brazen. Basically, it’s also a red-light district. Obviously, I stayed away from those places, so can’t comment on the quality but the nightlife was very good. I was actually in Hamburg for one night on my own before my parents arrived to visit the following few days. I, therefore, signed up for a bar crawl around the Reeperbahn district and made a few mates for the night. I distinctly remember getting on well with the one Geordie lad called Michael. Thankfully the head wasn’t too sore the following morning when meeting the parents. No trip to Hamburg would be complete without a visit to Miniatur Wunderland. Spread across a few different floors and rooms, it is home to the largest model railway system in the world and has been voted the most popular tourist attraction in Germany. Not sure I’d go that far, but it certainly is very impressive. Every little detail has been thought of. From the changing of day to night every 15 minutes. To aeroplanes even taking off from the model airport. My dad was in heaven, but even my mum and I had to admit it was a pretty cool thing to see and they have done it very well. 

  • Hamburg Harbour with view of the Opera House
  • Waterways and Bridges of Hamburg in Germany at dusk
  • A family enjoy a drink outside at a Hamburg bar

As well as Hamburg I also visit Hannover in the north. Again I was here to meet a friend. Jan and I had been co-counsellors together during our time working at a summer camp in the USA. Jan is honestly the happiest and most joyful person you will ever meet. So having not seen him for a few years and having the chance to meet up we selected the most convenient place for the two of us to meet. To be honest I probably wouldn’t have ventured to Hannover otherwise as there wasn’t a massive amount to see or do here. But it was the company that made the trip so worthwhile. We spent a few days catching up and filling each other in on what we had been up to since camp. I do also remember walking around Herrenhausen Gardens, which is probably the top attraction in the city, along with things such as the zoo and a few museums. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a bad city by any stretch, just there numerous places you’d put on your list ahead of this one if you were taking a trip to Germany. Still, it served its purpose and catching up with Jan was great for the weekend. 

Two friends outside a grand building in Hannover
Jan & Me in Hannover

Another large city I visited for a weekend was Nuremberg. It is one steeped in history surrounding the second world war and it was for this reason I was so keen to visit. Although its history dates back much further than this. The old town itself is beautiful, with the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, a must-visit. It’s an Imposing, 11th-century castle complex with a royal palace and gardens, that offers sweeping views of the city. There are also serval museums to visit, such as the Deutsche Bahn Railroad Museum, the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, as well as many more for those inclined. Although I didn’t visit during this time the Nuremberg Christmas market is also meant to be one of the better ones in the whole of Germany, so paying a visit at this time would also be a wise choice. The main attraction though for anyone visiting Nuremberg has to be the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds as well as the Kongresshalle. It is here that Hitler carried out many of his vast party rallies, more famously known as the Nuremberg rallies. The museum exhibitions were really powerful and moving. And actually being at the site so synonymous with such a deep and dark history was very moving. I must give credit to the germans and this is evident across the country. Although the country is shrouded with this horrific recent history, they don’t try to bury their heads in the sand about it. They fully embrace that this was an awful period in their history and aim to document and detail the atrocities so that we can learn from them and ensure things like this aren’t repeated in the future. Whether this philosophy stands the test of time is yet to be seen. As those who survived the holocaust and Nazi occupation sadly pass away. With no living people able soon to recall these horrific events it’s vital such places remain to ensure we don’t repeat our mistakes of the past. I really enjoyed my weekend in Nuremberg even if I was caught in a torrential downpour on my way to the train station home. Resulting in having to change clothes in the station toilet before boarding my train back to Worms.  

  • Nuremberg Old Town at Dusk
  • Reflection of houses in Nuremberg on the River
  • Nazi Rallies at Nuremberg

The furthest south I ventured during my time in Germany was to Bodensee or Lake Constance. The shores of the lake are surrounded by 3 countries, Germany, Switzerland and Austria and is the 3rd biggest lake in central Europe. There are loads of places to stay which surround the lake itself but I elected to stay in the German town of Konstanz. Although I did literally walk on foot into Switzerland. The old town is traditional german and walking around the waterfront there is a hub of activity. One day I caught the train about an hour or so along the Rhine into Switzerland itself to Schaffhausen. A couple more short stops from here was the main purpose of my visit, that of Rhine Falls. It’s a great natural spectacle to witness, seeing as it’s the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The falls are over 150 m wide and 23 m high. There are several great viewing platforms dotted around that offer unique perspectives of the falls in all their glory. 

  • Lake Bodensee with vineyards in the foreground and boats in the harbour
  • Rhine Falls in Europe

Some of the final cities I explored were that of Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. Frankfurt was the closed major city to me. It sits on the River Main which gives rise to its nickname of Mainhattan. Due to the city having more tall buildings than any other in Germany. It is also the heart of the german finance industry with a stock exchange and lots of banking headquarters located here. It’s certainly worth heading up to Main Tower Platform observation deck as this offers sweeping views of the city. There are also high-end shopping districts, nightlife and plenty of restaurants to take your fancy. I even ended up at a bar, located on top of a car park. The top floor had been converted into a pool/bar lounge area and was a real suntrap on the sunny day I visited. The place was called Citybeach and also offered great views of the city and is a cool place to grab a cold one after exploring the city. Dusseldorf also sits on a River, this time that of the Rhine again. An ever-prominent feature throughout the western half of Germany. There’s lots to do along the river bank itself, with many restaurants and bars to relax in. It’s also a great place to stroll along to get those steps in for the day. Again there is an observation tower and viewing platform, creatively named Rheinturm or Rhine Tower, offering panoramic views. There is even a revolving restaurant at the top or a bar to grab a drink. Be sure to grab the local favourite Altbier, commonly shortened to ‘Alt’), a copper-coloured, malty, hoppy ale that has a dry and crisp finish. Try to avoid ordering a Kolsch if you can, the local drink of neighbouring Cologne. There’s a bit of a rivalry between the two and what beer is best haha.  

  • View of Dusseldorf and the Rhine River and Tower
  • View of Frankfurt CBD from afar at sunset

No year in Germany would be complete without a trip to the nation’s capital, Berlin. I actually spent my 21st birthday in Berlin with a few friends from home, Ollie and John. We were on a 2-week interrailing trip around Europe. Having come from Amsterdam and then moved onto Prague and Budapest over the next week. Berlin was an amazing place to celebrate. I don’t know anyone who has been to the city and not enjoyed themselves. It’s a very international city, while still having a distinct german charm. It also offers a huge mix of cultures here too. As with many big German cities, they are still rebuilding and developing after the end of WWII, so the city is constantly evolving even now. There is so much to see and do in the city, that even over a long weekend you’ll struggle to fit everything in. Again another excellent option to learn more about the city is a walking tour. This time we paid a little money instead of a free tour, but it was an excellent way to explore the city. We booked with a company called Original Berlin Walks and I highly recommend them. They offer a wide variety of different tours to suit anyone’s interests. We elected for the WWII and Third Reich Tour. It took us to a variety of different locations such as checkpoint charlie. As well as the location where Hitler’s supposed underground bunker once stood, the place in which he committed suicide as defeat in the war loomed. We even visited some of the grand buildings that were home to various war departments such as the Luftwaffe, german airforce. It really was a great way to see so many things and the tour guide was exceptionally knowledgeable. After the tour, we took a trip around the Topography of Terror museum. An incredibly moving group of exhibitions and I’m certain all of us shed a few tears while exploring the museum. Again the germans are doing a great job of trying to educate and ensure they learn from the mistake of the past, a tactic many other nations would benefit from. We explored several other museums during our time in Berlin, such as the German Spy Museum as well as the German Historical museum. There is an endless choice. You can even walk around outside museum island, to take in the architecture and bullet holes, that remain in the stonework, left over from the Russian’s advance and capture of the city in 1945. Another incredibly powerful and sombre landmark was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews, which is a large area composed of concrete blocks of varying sizes. Additionally, there is an equally powerful and moving exhibit underneath the memorial itself. Just around the corner from here is Brandeburg Gate, probably Berlin’s most famous landmark. It is a must-see and also marks the dividing point in the city to what was once East and West Germany and Berlin itself. From here it’s easy to venture and see the German parliament, the Reichstag. If you’re prepared enough you can even buy tickets to go inside and take a view out from the glass observation deck. Plus a walk through the surrounding city parkland is also nice. A trip to the East Side Gallery, the remains of the Berlin wall, now turned art exhibition is also a must. And Finally, for the best views over the city, take a trip up Berlin’s Fernsehturm or TV Tower. Just a word of advice, don’t do it on a hangover as you will feel very sick at the top and want to come down really quickly haha. 

  • Sun streaks through Brandenburg Gate Berlin
  • Berlin Museum Island
  • East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall

Aside from all the ample cultural things we got up to in Berlin, it was also my 21st and the nightlife scene in Berlin is one of the best in the world. There are numerous world-famous super and techno clubs, as well as a host of smaller establishments and bars. We chose to avoid some of the big super clubs as I had read they are notoriously hard to get into and we couldn’t be bothered waiting in line for that amount of time to potentially be turned away. The hostel we were staying in also had a massive bar so we spent a bit of time drinking here, as well as heading to various clubs in the surrounding areas. One story I have to tell is when Ollie John and myself had gone out for some food on my Birthday, before finding a Mexican cocktail bar to have a few drinks in. Here we were shown the European way to drink B52 shots (which are on fire), John almost setting the table alight when he blew into it for some reason. Upon leaving the building, I was offered a free shot as it was my birthday. Ollie and John proceeded to leave and waited for me outside. Having finished my shot and passed through the curtains that stopped a draft from coming through the door. I walked straight into the closed glass door, not thinking anything was there. It made an almighty bang and everyone in the bar turned to see what an idiot I had been. Having correctly opened the door and joined John and Ollie on the street, we then proceed to laugh in hysterical fits for the next 10 minutes or so. Anyhow my 21st in Berlin was certainly one to remember and I hope to return to this great city one day. 

That just about concludes this 3 part series on my amazing year in Germany, well the parts in Germany at least. I still have to detail my remaining travels in the other 9 countries I managed to visit. Although I can’t quite believe it was 5 years ago, pretty much to the day, I departed. I still have such great memories of the place and it will always be a highlight in my life. It’s also a country I know I shall return to one day. Getting the opportunity to live and sample a different culture and country, fully immersing myself in it was a wonderful experience. Living as the locals did and making friends with them too gave me a great understanding and appreciation for the country and its people. There truly is no better way to see another place than to spend some time living there, fully integrating into a new way of life.

  • A young adult in lab whites and safety googles
  • Group of adults in cowboy and robbers fancy dress

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